Christmas and a New Year come upon us and I would like to take this opportunity to use the most secular of terms and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I also offer this pastoral letter as an update of where we currently are as a Circuit.
We begin, in this last week, with the parting to be with the Lord of two wonderful Christian people; Ruth Bigley from Shaftesbury and Ron Williams of Gwehelog. Two stalwarts of their churches, the circuits and the communities to which they both belonged. Please pray for their families and for the people of Shaftesbury and Gwehelog.
As a former Psychiatric Nurse, I struggle with the term “Section”. Therefore, I am going to use the word Hub instead.
Rev Ruth Lownsbrough has been stationed in the Dorset South and West Circuit. We thank God for this match and our prayers are with Ruth and Richard as they continue their precious ministry with us, and for their future as God calls them to new fields.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure a successor to Ruth. Our match in stationing did not feel this was the right appointment for him and we didn’t get a match in station matching two.
This is not the end of the process and we will not know, for certain, whether we will be matched until around March 2020. As a Circuit Leadership Team [CLT] we are praying into possible solutions for oversight and church growth in the Monmouth Hub that includes Monmouth, Trellech, Gwehelog and the joint Churches of Broad Oak and Llancloudy.
Be assured that there will be an ordained minister with pastoral oversight of all these chapels and we will draw the people of the Monmouth Hub to listen together to discover God’s purpose for us in this Hub. Station Matching 3 takes place on January 13th/14th and if a match isn’t made at this time, we will convene a meeting for late January to discuss possibilities. The we, being myself as Superintendent and representatives from the CLT.
We rejoice that Rev Preben Andersen and Margaret have identified possible places to retire too. There are, currently, two possibilities over the water in the South Bristol area. Our prayers are with Preben and Margaret as they prepare for a new phase of life and ministry.
We are grateful to Revs Joe Rooney and Lin Healey who have offered to give some paid time to the Circuit ensuring pastoral oversight for Caldicot and Rogiet Methodist Churches. They will be formally in place from September 2020 and the hope is to appoint a lay worker to focus on specific ministry in that part of the Circuit. There will be a meeting arranged between members of the CLT and the Stewards of Caldicot and Rogiet early in 2020, and my hope is that we can then have an open meeting for the Churches with some ideas to share about where God is calling the Church to in the Caldicot area, now and into the future as we also consider stationing from 2021.
Earlswood[s] and Penycaemawr Hub:
As a Circuit we envisaged having a Presbyter, based in Monmouth, to have oversight of all aspects of our rural ministry. Not having this leaves us with some praying and thinking to do. There will be an ordained minister who will have pastoral oversight for Valley, Hope and Peny, and, as a CLT, we hope to meet with these Chapels to discern who the right person for this will be. This will be after January 13th/14th date mentioned above.
In the meantime, can I, on behalf of us all as a Circuit, thank Preben for his continued and conscientious care of the Caldicot and Rural Hubs, especially at this time as he helps Chepstow too.
Preben, alongside Rev Keith Town, the Stewards and many at Chepstow, have stepped up to the plate at this time of need. Rev Rachel Frank’s mother had cancer return in a virulent way in November and the right place for Rachel to be was at her mother’s side. The prognosis is not good, and Rachel is supporting her mum and family through this time of terminal care. Our prayers reach out across the Atlantic Ocean and we thank God that the family are together at this difficult time. Rachel was due to be in the ‘States’ after Christmas and she will, God willing, return to us and be blessing us all with her ministry from the middle of January 2020.
Chepstow, praise God, is an active Church with many outreach projects, and at Christmas, they have many kinds of Church Services. All these Services have been ‘covered’ and our prayers for Chepstow is for this Beacon of Light for Christ to not only continue to shine for Jesus but grow ever brighter.
Tim Crahart has started as our Mission Developer. He has made a positive start and the people of Cross Keys, Dan y Graig and St. David’s have taken Tim to their heart already. We have started the process of converting the Ty Sign Manse into a Mission Resource Centre and I thank Martin Lougher for his professional help in this. May 2020 be a time of growth and rich blessing with this focussed ministry.
Rev Les Jones has returned from the first part of his Sabbatical and is gearing up for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in April with this Circuit. This, I am sure, will be a real blessing and will, hopefully, see the returnees fired up for the Lord!
We thank God that Mike Lavis and Shirley Medhurst, both of St. Julian’s, have become fully accredited Local Preachers and they have a Service of Accreditation at St. Julian’s Methodist Church on Sunday February 2nd at 6.30 PM where the invited Preacher is the wonderful Rev Chris Cory, a former Newport man.
I hope this letter is informative. Church is going through a transitional time. Transforming Mission, by David Bosch, is a book that speaks of different epochs for the Mission of God and how that Mission has shifted into new paradigms at different times over the past 2000 years. We are living through the next of these paradigm shifts where ‘old’ certainties melt away and ‘new’ comfort is elusive. There are fewer people training for the ministry, there is the disappearance of hymn singing in society and the Lord’s Prayer becomes less known. This is a paradigm that started in, Britain, in 1662 with the Book of Common Prayer and cemented a century later with the Methodist movement. The Methodist Church has served God and the people of Britain well.
Bosch’s prescription is the same as it has been through each of the paradigm shifts; focus on the cross of Christ who offers forgiveness; gather together in prayer and worship; seek more of the Holy Spirit; and let God be God as we are drawn into the new expression of praise prepared for the whole earth. Or, as we have explored; let us offer Radical Hospitality; Passionate Worship; Intentional faith development and be prepared to walk with God in Risk taking mission and service.
Let us trust in the God of all grace revealed to us in Jesus Christ and let us be encouraged that God is at work in the world. The Church grows at its fastest rate ever, and in the life of this Circuit I have been so encouraged by seeing so many new faces in the Churches I have care for, and the willingness of these Churches to try ‘new’ things and to welcome all into the praise of God; the Incarnate God who comes as Emmanuel; God with us and so, Merry Christmas.