Tag Archives: methodist

Finding Piece

A few weeks ago I published known in the unknown, a blog post where I reflected on how I was feeling as I journey through the uncertainty and unknowns surrounding my Reception into Full Connexion and Ordination within the Methodist Church which was due to take place at the end of June.

Emerging from Turmoil

It is fair to say I was feeling in turmoil when I wrote known in the unknown, but I can say that the process of becoming vulnerable and sharing that turmoil was helpful for me in beginning to find healing and new direction.

It also led to receiving an outpouring of messages of care, prayer and encouragement which have all been greatly appreciated and affirming over these last few weeks. I Through them I have also felt the love and affirmation of God. It has been a helpful reminder that God has called me to this vocation, and despite the changes, delays and uncertainties, God’s call remains steadfast.  

While much that would have happened is on hold, and many uncertainties about the implications of that remain, I will be Received into Full Connexion with the Methodist Church on Saturday 27th June, 6pm. All can watch through the Conference website. My ordination will come, but the date and arrangements are yet to be determined.

I still have some disappointment that things will not be as they were expected to be, and a struggle with the uncertain of waiting that this brings. Yet through prayer and reflection I’m coming to a point where I can find ways to make sense of and journey with this struggle in a positive way.

What follows is no theological treatise or doctrinal exposition, but some personal reflections, thoughts and feelings which take me right back to the early days of my candidating for presbyteral ministry and through which I have recently felt God speaking to me and encouraging me to keep journeying through the unknown.

Remembering: My Connexional Jigsaw

As part of the process of offering myself as a candidate for ministry I had to deliver a creative presentation entitled ‘picturing the Methodist Connexion in the 21st Century’. My task was to creatively reflect on and respond to a recently published paper which explored questions of what it means to be a Methodist Connexion in the 21st Century. As part of my creative presentation I created this illustration of a body out of multiple jigsaws.

Connexional Jigsaw, created January 2016

The body is not an unusual metaphor for explaining Christian community. Different parts of one whole, various functions by different parts that enable the body to work and move and grow.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:4-5, 11-13

Looking back at the notes I made at the time, for me the Methodist connexion was an expression of inter-connectedness; mutual-belonging; a joining together of the whole people of God despite contradictory convictions; an expression of what it meant to be church.

In my connexional jigsaw, I intentionally used no edge pieces – my attempt to illustrate a body that is in-complete, reaching out for new connections and possibilities, a shape is not permanently defined.

I also left pieces missing, and mismatched puzzles that do not fully connect. I wanted to demonstrate the body as imperfect and broken, yet open. The Methodist Connexion, as with any Christian community, lives in a world of brokenness. Despite our deepest desires and greatest intentions, people have been hurt, abused, and rejected by people acting in the name of Methodism. People do not always feel they belong.

Yet I wanted to illustrate a hope that the body that is the Methodist connexion can be a church where there is an awareness of our broken fallibility and our missing pieces. I wanted to hold out hope that we can be an open space where those who feel they don’t belong could belong.

This exploration of connexionalism early in my formational journey has been foundational to my continued journey through the following years.

Journeying: Learning to be a puzzle piece

Honestly, candidating, moving to Birmingham and starting formational training at Queens petrified me. I was full of anxiety, worried what others would think of me or if I would fit in. Much of that is rooted in my struggles with my own identity, belonging and purpose in my teen and young adult life, but that’s for another time!

Cut a long story short, despite our different journeys, opinions, backgrounds, denominations, personal circumstances (and everything else!), it is with this beautifully quirky, diverse and God-loving group of people I can call my cohort, friends and ‘Queens family’ that I came to learn I am a piece that belonged in the jigsaw, called to be who God made me to be.

On our last day at college Methodist leaves spent a day reflecting together and were asked to bring an ‘object’ with us to use as part of our reflections. For me it was this puzzle piece. It had appeared in the girls bedroom from we-don’t-know-where a few days before, and I just had this sense of needing to take it.  

Among the things I jotted in my journal that day, I noted how jigsaws require all the pieces, that each individual piece matters and without each individual piece in place, the puzzle is incomplete. By the nature of their design, the picture of a puzzle lacks detail when a piece is not in place.  

A Piece with a Purpose

It hadn’t been in my mind when I chose it as my object, but as I reflected I remembered my creative presentation and looking around the room came to realise how this group of people were each pieces in the vast connexional jigsaw. This moment was perhaps the first time I felt I experienced a glimpse of what it would one day mean to be Received into Full Connexion, coming to belong to an order of ministry made of up diversely gifted and opinionated (!), God-centred people, called and equipped by God in a particular way to serve God’s people.

That day a little piece of card that I could easily how thrown away, was given new purpose. It now hangs on my wall to remind me of my formational journey, my Queens family, my being a unique part of a bigger whole, my belonging to God’s church, and growing into my vocation as a minister within God’s universal church.  

A Piece Connected to Others

Reminded of both my own personal call, and the way I am connected to others has helped me to hold my personal disappointment in perspective with the wider world.

My disappointment is not isolated and unique. From the postponed weddings; funerals held differently to ‘normal’; birthday parties held on zoom; inability to purchase eggs, flour or loo roll (!); trivial or deeply difficult – all of society is bearing disappointments, uncertainties and changes to our way of life.

Held in perspective, I’m coming to see my disappointment as part of my being connected to others, my bearing the worldwide impact of coronavirus, my sharing in the communal suffering of our groaning world.  My participation in the necessary change and the emergence into the ‘new normal’ we all have to begin to adjust to.

I’m also coming to see this experience as part of the burden of responsibility that goes with saying yes to serving God. I realise now that I too am represented by the missing pieces and mispatched jigsaws through which I sought to illustrated the broken body of Christ living in a broken world. And I too can still belong.

Opportunity Discovered

And through that disappointment, I’m finding opportunity. Much of my disappointment comes from the fact that the things in which I had held symbolism and meaning are having to change. But, if I choose to, I can find new-meaning in new places despite the delay and uncertain waiting.

While the unknown is difficult, subverts tradition (which granted can be good or bad!) and is in some ways un-nerving, I’m also coming to feel excited again by the prospect of discovering God through the unexpected in what is yet to come.

This opportunity to discover and rediscover for myself is now starting to feel like an unexpected gift. A time to be brave, not clinging to the past but reaching for the future, as part of the body that is ready to change and transform for such a time as this.

A gift, a piece, and peace  

Despite COVID being a catalyst for things to be different, change does not have to detract from truth. I’ve been reminded these last weeks that no matter what happens in this broken and uncertain world, I am still called & equipped by God. I am still a unique piece of the puzzle that is God’s kingdom, and God’s kingdom would have a hole in without me. Despite appearances and the implications of long-term social distancing, by God’s design, I am and always will be connected to others.

So this single puzzle piece will be hung on my office wall’s for the rest of my life – wherever God’s call takes me.

Reminding me of the gift that has been my journey with God so far.
Reminding me of my being part of the bigger whole made up of every other piece, seen or unseen, certain or uncertain, belonging or not-belonging.
Reminding me that God is unchanging, steadfast and true, despite the chaos and turmoil that I fear surrounding me.

There’s still disappointment, but there’s also excitement at new opportunity, and that’s why this piece is helping me find peace despite the uncertainty as I prepare to continue the journey of being part of God’s jigsaw, to be Received into Full Connexion and, one day, be Ordained.

Living in Loss: Ruth 1

As part of Bible Month 2020 we are unpacking the short story of Ruth, a story of finding hope and finding home in the midst of vulnerability and loss. Find out more here.

We’ve been enjoying the start of the growing season the last couple weeks, radishes, cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries are just beginning to ripen too…

The story of Ruth starts very differently, Ruth 1 opens with a famine. A loss of fruitfulness of the land in Bethlehem. So to survive Elimelech takes his wife, Naomi and their sons Mahlon and Chilion to another country Moab.

While in Moab, Elimelech dies, and Mahlon and Chilion marry women from Moab – Orpah and Ruth. Mahlon and Chilion also died, which leads Naomi as a foreigner in Moab, with two daughters in law, and no men to look after them in their patriarchal society. The security of family and hope was no longer stable.

The land lost its productivity, women lose their husbands, their well-being, their independence.

Naomi must have been at a low, struggling for hope, residing in a foreign land, amidst the layers of loss she’s experienced. Struggling to find hope.

Reflect: I wonder if you can relate to Naomi’s struggle?

Living in a coronavirus world, we’ve experienced loss in new and intensified ways. Loss of life, physical contact with others, freedom to spend time with friends and family, perhaps lost the ability to work or go to school. We’ve lost independence and certainty.  It can be hard to hold onto hope.

What does Naomi do? Well, she doesn’t give up. She doesn’t resign herself to be beaten. She doesn’t settle for the idea that she has to simply live with loss without a hope for the future. In struggle with loss, life can go on.

Naomi hears there’s food in Bethlehem, so she sets out for home. Ruth and Orpah are set to go with her, committed to their mother-in-law.

Naomi says to them, ‘go back to your mother, may God look after you there’. Initially they say no, we’ll stay with you, but Naomi insists, and in the end Orpah with weeping and heartache says farewell and heads on her way.

But Ruth holds onto her Mother-in-law:

“do not make me leave you,
where you go I will go,
where you stay I will stay,
your people will be my people,
your God will be my God.”

Ruth 1:16

Seeing Ruth’s determination, Naomi says no more.

We know little about the story of Ruth or Orpah up to this point, but just as Naomi experienced loss and was vulnerable, so were they.

Both lost their husbands, both would have had anxieties about their future security, stability and survival. Both make sacrifices on their journey for survival.

Orpah’s sacrifice is to let go of her new family and go back to her past.  

Ruth’s sacrifice is to hold on, to not go back to her past family, to travel with Naomi and become a foreigner herself, just as Naomi had been.

I wonder if in Naomi, Ruth saw in Naomi’s Israelite faith a glimmer of hope, hope that things could be different for her, by risking vulnerability to make that hope her own.

For all 3 widows, living in loss meant taking action, making choices and sacrifices, living in a way that helped them see possibilities of hope.

Today, we can have faith in God, who is stable and certain to be with us, love us and forgive us. The hope we have in God turns the uncertainties of our present into possibility for the future.

Opportunties for new, deeper, stronger relationships to bloom and grow. Opportunities to learn, be changed, challenged, transformed.

Despite our struggle in the chaos of uncertainty – the opening of this story shows us that in the midst of vulnerability and loss, hope always has the last word. God has the last word.

Despite our living in loss, life can go on, grow and flourish.

And as we unpack the story further we’ll discover more about how hope is kindled, finding hope and home in the midst of vulnerability and loss.

I pray you know the hope of God in your living today.


Downloadable Version

Join the Conversation

How does Ruth 1 speak to you?
What is on your heart today?

You can share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Known in the unknown

Lots of you are asking me what’s happening about my ordination. The truth is there is a lot of detail yet to come, but instead of having this conversation multiple times (because to be honest I’m finding it really hard and painful to talk about right now…), I’m trying to put into words where plans as they stand are, and how I’m feeling about it (because putting things down on paper is sometimes a healing process for me).

Part of me wants to just bottle it up and say as little as I can, but the other half of me knows that in the last 18 months it is through being vulnerable as a church leader that God has taught me much, and ministered to others much too. So here I am being vulnerable and honest, and trying to make sense of things in the middle of a lot of unknowns. These are my reflections of where my head is at now. Tomorrow may be a different story.

I started my blog about 4 years ago when I was starting to train for Methodist ministry, having been accepted for formational training and beginning to pack up life in Cornwall and head to Birmingham with Louise a toddler and a few week old baby in tow.

In my first post I reflected on the certainty that nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

4 years on, those words have been a strength in the uncertainty of living in lockdown. That nothing can ever separate me from God’s love, despite the growing feelings of separation and distance from church family, colleagues, and friends.

2020 was to be my year of Reception into Full Connexion and Ordination. While there’s been lots of times of discernment and testing along the way – committees, reports, assignments and reflection – June 2020 has for all that time been the time and place it was all to culminate as I attend the Methodist Conference, formally enter into covenant relationship with the Methodist Church, and become an ordained presbyter. Coronavirus has thrown all that into the air, and it is not fully clear where all the various aspects and details will land.

I’m feeling a bit thrown in the air too. Minsitry is both energising and draining right now, but it is hugely different to the ‘norm’ formational training prepared me for. Most days there are many moments of not knowing what I’m doing, where I’m going, or even who I am. The one deeply valuable thing that has got me through is that formational training at Queens didn’t train me to do a job, but help form me into someone equipped to respond to the diversity of varied contexts. Now more than ever those are skills that have been required!

Much of what was known has changed around us and for me I’m daily dealing with the questions of What ministry should look like in lockdown.

  • What is my role as a church leader now?
  • How do I help congregations stay connected when we can’t physically be together?
  • How do I respond to pastoral need when all I know of that need is based on what I hear from people – when I can’t ‘see’ non-verbal communication, when I don’t see people’s reactions to things, when I don’t get the off-the-cuff feedback during and after worship, meetings and events?
  • How do I comfort the grieving and hurting when I can’t hug them, hold their hand or physically be with them?
  • What is the future going to look like?
  • What is my purpose right now?

Alongside that cacophony of questions, I’m grappling with about role, purpose, and identity, I’m also dealing the implications of the changes to what was meant to happen in June 2020. This simple exacerbates the struggle, and today I’m struggling with it all. Not sure who I am or what I’m becoming. While the formational training I’ve undertaken was preparing me to first be a probationer then a presbyter –now I’m temporarily going to become something in between the two, in a way that’s still not quite clear to me.

So, what is going to happen? Here’s a run down of where things currently stand. I want to say from the outset how much I appreciate the grace, love, and patience of those who are making these decisions and caring for us at this time. I know they feel the pain and struggle too and would love things to be able to be ask they had already been planned to be. I should also say this comes from my perspective as a presbyteral ordinand, for my diaconal colleagues the process has other nuances that I’ve not yet fully understood either!

Testimony Service

A testimony service is usually held within the Methodist District in which ordinand’s are stationed prior to Reception into Full Connexion and Ordination. This has been postponed, to happen when a physical gathering is possible.

Part of the service will include my sharing testimony to pursuing God’s call to this vocation, and right now with all the questions around identity and purpose circulating in my head, I’m not quite sure how I’d even attempt to put into words where my head and heart are right now. For me postponing seems to me to be the right step.

While disappointed in one sense, I’m ok with this, as I’d much rather have opportunity to physically gather with friends and colleagues in my District, circuit, and churches.

Retreat

Prior to Reception into Full Connexion and ordination (which usually happening on the Sunday of Methodist Conference – see below), ordinand’s attend a retreat. This won’t happen as planned – we can’t meet together. However, the retreat team are going to be supporting us at a distance in the next few weeks, and a retreat will be arranged for us prior to ordination.

What is most panful about this is that as we prepare for Reception into Full Connexion, I won’t be able to share that preparation time with colleagues who’ve become friends over the last 4 years. Word cannot describe just how much I’ve come to love and value their love, care, companionship, humour, grace, wisdom, friendship and more. They have come to be demonstration of the Methodist connexion, diverse and different, yet wise, loving and gracious people of God.

Reception into Full Connexion (RiFC) and Ordination

Usually both happen on the Sunday Methodist conference meets, with RiFC happening in the morning and Ordination the afternoon. This year RiFC will happen, though differently to initially planned, but ordinations are postponed.

One of the challenges I, fellow ordinand’s and the wider Methodist church are facing right now is that these two aspects of the process by which ordinand’s are received into presbyteral ministry usually happen on the same day, and are intricately connected to one another. One is dependent on the other, and Methodism simply copes with the anomaly of the reality one has to happen before the other, but as they usually happen with a few hours of each other, it isn’t typically much of an issue.

But for me, this is going to be different, and unpicking what the distinction between the two will mean for me and my cohort is currently not entirely clear.

The most helpful definition I have found so far in making sense of this is in Methodism’s Deed of Union which states:

Those whom the Methodist Church recognises as called of God and therefore receives into its ministry as presbyters or deacons shall be ordained by the imposition of hands as expressive of the Church’s recognition of the minister’s personal call.

Deed of Union, Clause 4, para 6, Constitutional Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church, Vol 2 (2019) p.213.

To me, this holds the two events together, with RiFC being the receiving of ministers who have been tested and formed, into relationship with the Methodist Church. Then Ordination being a public declaration of the church’s recognition of personal calling with the laying on of hands. Ordination is not into the Methodist Church, but “the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. [Ordination Service, Methodist Worship Book, p298.]

However, it probably needs saying that my (admittedly limited!) reading of this and other related documents does not entirely match with what we are being told will be the case. We’ve been told we only become presbyters once both aspects have been completed.

Unsurprisingly, CPD does not cater for global pandemic within its procedures, and so interpretation and application are varying. This is a source of frustration and uncertainty for all right now. I’m trying to be patient and gracious, but it is painful too.

Reception into Full Connexion

RiFC is going to take place via video link, as part of what will be the Online Methodist Conference 2020. The details are yet to be finalised about how this will work, but there will be ability for all to join via an online stream.

In normal times, as I understand it the formal purpose of RiFC is a simple one, the conference must be presented with the candidates to be received. This includes ordinand’s as well as those who may be transferring from other denominations or from the world church, some of which may already be ordained. Conference then votes to receive them and ordained those not yet ordained.

But RiFC is ‘normally’ a much bigger occasion as part of the conference, and for several years has been part of its Sunday worship. During my two years of training, after encouragement from our tutors, I attended this service and found it moving, uplifting and knew the tangible presence of God. I’ve been looking forward to when it would be my service of RiFC ever since.

As part of RiFC candidates stand with one another before conference, conference being the fullest and most representative way that Methodist’s physically gather. Representative of Methodism’s emphasis and praxis of mutual conferring. Representative of the Methodist church in all its colour and diversity, and well as the wider national and global church with representatives from other churches and overseas also there. As part of RiFC the whole of conference would stand before us to signal its receiving us into Full Connexion and affirmation of God’s calling.

For me personally, the loss of what RiFC would have been is probably the thing I feel most pained about. I will be sat in my house, not physically at conference. I will not be standing shoulder to shoulder with those I have journeyed with for 4+ years, travelling with each other in some of our highest and lowest moments.

Nor will I be able to witness for myself the standing affirmation of conference, as representative of the body of Christ. (at least, I hope not, because watching a load of video feeds would lead to seeing a lot of people’s crotches! #MethodistCrotchGate)

Perhaps in part because there’s a lot of detail yet to come, it’s hard for me to get my head around how I feel about what is not and subsequently what is going to happen. It is a source of anxiety, uncertainty and disappointment at the moment and I’m not really sure how to look forward to something I was so looking forward to when I no longer know how it will look or feel. Many ministers have told me how special RiFC was for them. For the rest of my ministry I will not share that experience with my colleagues.

Ordination

Ordination, by nature of the laying on of hands if nothing else, needs to be a physical occasion, so is postponed until it is safe and logistically possible to happen, but is envisaged to happened at some point in the next 12 months. For now, I must wait in the now and not yet. And while I know postponement is the right thing to do, it is still hard when so much has been building towards what is now not going to be as it was to be.

Where does this leave me?

There is still much to make sense of, but for now we have been told that after RiFC we will continue to be ordinand’s until the time that ordination happens. Up to now the term ‘ordinand’ has not existed in any formal way within Methodism, used to refer to those who have completed probation and are heading towards RiFC and Ordination. For us being an ordinand will continue beyond RiFC, so we will be a bit of a temporary anomaly.

In practice, while RiFC will be a confirmation of the decisions oversight bodies have already made, a marker that we have completed training and will be ordained, we’ll in many senses still be seen as probationers in terms of oversight and ministry, though not entirely – hence feeling a bit like we’ll be between probationer and presbyter.

In practical terms it will make little difference to how local ministry looks for me. But personally it feels like RiFC will be a bit of a non-event, confirming that which has already been confirmed; continuing that which is already the case – being an ordinand; completing the business of conference that must be completed – perhaps without the same sense of worship, celebration and physical gathering as part of the Methodist, national and global church; pointing towards ordination which will at an as yet un-known time happen. For the meantime I’m left feeling I’m in limbo, not sure who I am.

Known in the unknown

So that is where I am. Today at least. Tomorrow may be different. Lots of un-knowns. Not sure what will happen. Not entirely sure how I feel. Not really able to talk about it without tears (as my Circuit Leadership Team discovered today who responded with love and care as best as zoom could offer!).

But despite all the logistics, practicalities, emotions, and uncertainties, I am trying to hold on as tightly as I can to where I began earlier, the truth that nothing can separate me from God’s love. God’s call on my life has not changed, even though much around me has.

And I know that friends up and down the connexion are praying for me, and my fellow ordinand’s. I know that God’s love is personified in those prayers and messages of encouragement and affirmation. Today it’s hard. I know that God’s love has not waned, that God knows me, my heart and today’s pain. That even in the pain of the un-known, I am know by God.

Sunday Reflections: Breaking Bread

This week, in a slightly longer than ‘normal (!) vlog, I look at Luke 24 (the Road to Emmaus) and reflect on how our plate and cup are empty, waiting to be filled because as Methodist in Britain we are not practicing communion while we are physically distancing and unable to gather as worshipping community.

The text below the video is roughly the same as what’s in the video, but at the bottom of the blog post there’s an extra video, a downloadable version of the blog post for printing, and of course, opportunity for you to join your thoughts to the conversation!

In Luke’s gospel, after Jesus resurrection, we find the story of Cleopas and his travelling companion on the Emmaus road. I shared a reflection on the passage in last week’s Sunday reflections.

Cleopas and his companion are filled with grief and uncertainty after Jesus’ death and then a stranger joins them on their journey. And they hadn’t any clue who this stranger was.

“As they came near the village to which they were going, [the stranger] walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”

Luke 24:28-31

What I have found striking reading this over the last week is that it is in the breaking and sharing of bread that the true identity of Jesus is realised. As they sit together, in fellowship with one another, learning and discerning and questioning, eating and drinking, the bread is broken and Jesus is seen for who he is.

Breaking of bread is one of the many titles in Christian tradition we use for communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s supper. This week the Emmaus story has set me thinking about communion.

This is my home communion set. It was given to me by my placement church while I was training, a multi-cultural congregation in a deprived and diverse suburb of Birmingham. This reminds me of where I’ve come from, and how I’m part of the national and global church.

I use this set to take communion to people who are housebound. So it reminds me both of the local churches which I serve, but also of the homes to which I have visited and shared communion.

This set reminds me that the presence of God is everywhere; global, national, local and in our homes.

Communion is something may be important to our spirituality as individuals and as worshipping communities.[1] It is a meal we share, through which we remember Jesus sharing a meal with his friends before his arrest and crucifixion. We take bread and wine, symbols of the body and blood of Christ, we bless them, break them and share them as we remember Christ and experience him present with us now.[2] Where we are embraced by the unconditional love and unending grace of God, offered through Christ, made present by God’s Spirit.

But for the moment, the plate and cup are empty. We’re not sharing communion together. We are distanced from one another, unable to physically gather and share as a worshipping community.

At the moment, some churches have been practicing communion online, but as British Methodists, we are not. In 2018 our Methodist Conference considered virtual communion, albeit considered under very different circumstances to that which we find ourselves in today. Conference voted against the practice, and while given current circumstances I suspect the conversation and decision might go differently, for now we follow those decisions, leaving plate and cup empty, waiting for the day they can be filled again.

For me, I want to be honest with you, I’ve come to a point where I’m ok with that. It’s painful, not being able to share communion with those I know dearly wish to receive it.  It’s painful not the able to gather at the table to share as a worshipping community.

Some of you may share my feeling ok, but I expect that for some of you, not receiving communion has been, or is continuing to be difficult right now. I want you to know I understand something of that struggle. But I also want to share with you a little bit about why, for me, I’ve come to  a place where I feel ok for the moment, that the glasses and plate are empty and waiting, as I patiently wait for the time they can be filled again.

And in sharing, I hope that it may help you too.

Filled

At the beginning of this year, many Methodists prayed the covenant prayer, as a sign and renewing of our continuing commitment to living in relationship with God, knowing that God continues to be unconditionally committed to us by his love and grace.

Within the covenant prayer we say the words: ‘let me be full, let me be empty,’[3]

I’ve found reflecting on those words in light of not receiving communion during this time helpful. The covenant prayer contrasts various ways of living, employed or laid aside, having all things or nothing, being full or being empty.

But whether employed or laid aside, having all things or nothing, full or empty, are all included as part of our living in relationship with God. There is never an absence of God.

For me, these words remind me that whether I have received communion or not, all of life is saturated in God, God is still present and part of my life and being. So I’ve felt God helping Me to this time, not as a case of communion being taken away from me, but a time where I consciously abstain, as part of my being emptied for God.

Yet, at the same time, I also see the empty plate and cup being just as presence filled by God’s Spirit as when they are filled with bread and wine.

Inclusion and exclusion

For me, another reason that I feel ok that we leave plate and cup empty is that, if did communion online, what about those who are offline? Who do not have internet access?

before lockdown, when communion was celebrated in our buildings there was inclusive intent within our liturgy and practice, and those that were housebound had the options of home or extended communion.

But today, those who would be excluded from online communion have no other way of receiving.

As part of communion we often share the peace, sometimes preluded by the words:

‘In the one Spirit we were all baptised into one body.
Let us therefore keep the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace.’[4]

For me, if I was able to share communion with some of you, I wonder if I would then risk breaking that unity of Spirit and bond of peace, through depriving and excluding some, from what I was offering to others.  

To bring us back to Emmaus, in that resurrection story, as Cleopas and his companion offered hospitality to a stranger, it was in the distribution, the breaking and sharing, Jesus was made known.[5]

This Emmaus encounter is not communion as we may have come to practice it. Here is a simple meal and a household who share hospitality with a stranger. In that act of sharing what they had, their guest shares with them everything he is.

We can only gather as households right now, but I can assure you that even though plate and cup are empty, Jesus is present with us, not a stranger but a friend, longing to be a guest at our tables.

It may not be how we’re used to it through communion, we still patiently wait for a time that we can once again physically gather together to worship and break bread together, but even while cup and plate are empty, if we allow our eyes to be opened to it;

God’s Spirit, the very presence of God, continues to bind us together; though distanced, we are united – one in Spirit.

God’s unconditional love and unending grace
are overflowing for us as much now as they always have.

And whether we feel full or empty,
Christ in his fullness is forever with us.

May the peace of the Risen Christ be with you.

Rev Dan

Peace be with you

A video montage of over 100 people signing Peace be with you, put together by some friends based in Manchester. Look carefully and you may find 1 or 2 familiar little faces!


References

[1] See Share this Feast, Reflecting on Holy Communion, (Methodist Publishing, 2018), p6
[2] See Share this Feast, Reflecting on Holy Communion, (Methodist Publishing, 2018), p4
[3] Part of the Covenant Prayer, Methodist Worship Book, p290
[4] Example of the Introduction to the peace, Methodist Worship Book, p189.
[5] I must give some credit to a friend who sowed this seed in their blog post earlier this week – https://dbobstoner.com/jesus-on-a-boriswalk/


Join the conversation

if you’ve got thoughts or something to share after reading and reflecting on my thoughts, you can comment below and share them with us all – I’d love to hear from you.


Downloadable Version

God of all: Unity in difference

Adapted from the transcript & notes of a Sermon first preached by Rev Dan Balsdon at Bognor Regis Methodist Church on 20th October 2019.
The Readings were Jeremiah 31:27-34 & Luke 18:1-8

Please forgive any typo’s I missed!


As a probationer presbyter, the Church requires me to undertake ongoing study.
At the moment, I’m preparing for a study week with fellow probationers in November which will centre around reflecting on our first year of ministry and thinking about what the Christian gospel looks and feels like in the places I serve.

Continue reading God of all: Unity in difference

Tackling the tough stuff…

Soon after I arrived in Circuit, one of the churches under my care asked if we could start a bible study/fellowship group, because it was something they longed for but hadn’t had for some time.

I willingly obliged, encouraged by their enthusiasm for study and fellowship and I confess slightly indulgently – because I always enjoy conversation about faith, scripture and God.

Continue reading Tackling the tough stuff…