Crownhill Methodist Church welcomes everyone into our Fellowship. We aim, through our worship, Bible study, and prayer to grow closer to God and to bring others into a true relationship with Him. We seek to offer God's love made known in Jesus Christ. We are determined to show this love in action in our daily lives and fellowship, by reaching out into the community and recognising and responding to the needs of the wider world.
Happy New Year! Oh, and Merry Christmas! As I write this on New Year’s Day, I am very conscious that it is still Christmas.
We have 12 days of Christmas because the God coming into the world is too big a miracle, too profound a mystery to be celebrated and reflected on just one day a year. Emmanuel, God is with us.
As we embark on the adventure that is to be 2024 it is so good to know that God is with us. And as Paul points out in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
This is a great comfort, because 2024 promises to be a year of great challenge but also great opportunity. Most of you will be aware by now that Rev. Andy has not been able to return to us as superintendent of the Circuit, and our prayers are very much with Andy and Ruth as they seek God’s direction for them going forward.
This does mean the circuit is not only without a formal superintendent but also one minister down, which as you can imagine has added to the work load of the remaining four ministers. Rev. Darren and Rev. Amanda have shared the Acting Superintendent for the last three months, and Rev. Al and I have been asked to step in for the next three months while we wait for District to work out a more long-term solution.
In the months ahead, more than ever before, we (and I) will be most grateful for your continued prayer and support. We will also need your understanding and forbearance! It has always been impossible for me to be everywhere I would like to be in my role as the minister of three churches, and in the last three months that has become even more impossible. During this time of crisis, we have had to step up the number of Circuit Meetings and Circuit Executive meetings, and in between the ministers have had to meet to prepare for those meetings. In addition there has been a special Financial Task Group which I was asked to convene, and more recently I have been convening the Oreston Project Task Group. The four ministers have had to look at the plan and make provisions to cover between us the four churches that Andy served. In addition to all these extra duties, Rev. Al and I are as of today jointly Acting Superintendents, a role neither of us relish or would have asked for in a thousand years. So please do pray for us, and please understand - and forgive - when there come times when you feel your minister is not where he should be as your minister! I am afraid that is inevitably going to happen in the next few months.
Having said all that, I do want to say even more loudly and clearly: We are living in exiting times of great opportunity. Paul also said: “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). I sincerely believe that the crisis we currently face in this Methodist Circuit is also great opportunity for God to “break us, melt us, mould us” (as the song goes).
It has become clear that we cannot sustainably continue as we are. Five ministers cannot effectively serve 17 churches, let alone four ministers! That’s 17 church councils, 17 property committees, 17 stewards meetings, 17 treasurers, 17 safeguarding officers…
For a long time this circuit has been wrestling with the question “How can we do this better? How can we better serve the Kingdom of God? Can we allow God to break down the current shape and resold us? What would that look like?
These are tough questions, and they are not new questions. They have been asked before. But never before have they been so desperately, glaringly urgent as they are right now. To put the problem as bluntly as possible, at the risk of over simplification, it is this: To really make the most of ministry in any one church, and to work towards Kingdom growth, our circuit has way too few ministers for the number of congregations. Ideally you would have one minister serving one congregation; but realistically, under the current model and with the financial resources available, our circuit has been running at a loss funding five ministers, and unless there is some drastic change, it is estimated that the circuit can only sustainably fund three ministers.
So what would a circuit look like that was both financially sustainable and more effective in God’s mission for us?
There will be three very important Vision Days in the next few months, and I urge you all not only to pray (as we most certainly must) but as many as possible to attend and to share in the crucial work of prayerfully discerning God’s will for the way ahead.
These Vision days will run from 10am to 2pm as follows:
20 January at Woodford Methodist
10 February at Ivybridge Methodist
16 March at Sherwell United
I would like to end with the following encouragement: As much as the start of this year is in the midst of turmoil for our circuit, it is important to remember that so many of the greatest and most wondrous acts of God have come in times of crisis: Out of chaos and nothingness, God created the universe and breathed life; Out of slavery in Egypt God forged a covenant people; In the midst of the tyranny of Roman rule over Judah, God comes into the world in a stable; After a Roman execution on a cross God brings resurrection life into the world and the disciples of Jesus spread the gospel to every corner of the world.
The year of our Lord 2024 promises to be “interesting times” indeed. God is at work. Praise the Lord!
God’s Shalom to you all,