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Minister's Letter

Dear friends,

A group of us have just returned from a week on Iona. Those of us who had been before were soon exclaiming over some of the changes that have taken place in recent years – the eco pods and a terrace of social housing that had sprung up, the increase in traffic along the road through the village and out to the remoter parts of the island, a security code on the gate to the Abbey and the wearing of wristbands to distinguish those staying in the Abbey from other visitors, a change of evening service time from 9pm to 7.30pm… Some of these were welcome, others jarred – we wanted the island and the Abbey to be as we remembered it from previous visits! – but most made sense when they were explained.

We all find change difficult, and would prefer things to stay the same – familiar, safe and comfortable – but we know deep down that they never can, and probably never should – that way, all too easily, stagnation lies. God’s people are always being called to move on, to take risks, to look outwards – not necessarily for their own sake, but for the sake of others who need to know God’s love.

There have been a lot of changes in church life over the past 50 years – not all of them bad! In this circuit, it feels as though we are currently in the midst of so many changes it is hard to keep up with them, but they are not changes for change’s sake. As David Bintliff leaves to take up his appointment as a probationer presbyter in the Chester and Delamere Forest Circuit, we are looking to recruit not a Fresh Expressions Worker but a Families and Children’s Worker to work particularly with Sunday JAM and Little Fishes. When I retire next summer, we are hoping to appoint a deacon instead of a presbyter in the Marple section, to help and encourage the churches to engage better with their communities. The community café (now called The Seed), based at Marple, is developing organically to meet needs and, alongside that, the redevelopment of the church premises is being explored, to make them better fit for purpose, not just for now but into the future. Jubilee is considering its future, in conjunction with Marple Bridge U.R.C., and Marple Methodist, and in Marple the Methodist Church and Marple U.R.C., are working more closely together…

We cannot as yet see what the Church of the future will look like, but we can be pretty certain it will not look like it does today. That is neither negative nor positive, but simply a recognition that the old ways are no longer working. Every generation has to face changes in society: we can decry them and look back to how things used to be, or we can embrace them and look to see how and where God is working through them. God never has and never will leave Godself without witnesses, but we have to be ready to move with the wind of God’s Spirit and not get stuck in the old ways, or the Spirit may well move on without us.

None of us finds this easy, so above all, let us love one another. Encouragement, forbearance, an open mind and heart, and a willingness to look beyond our personal preferences – these can do so much. At the beginning of a new Connexional year, let’s pray for an openness to God’s Spirit as we seek the way ahead, and strength to act on what we discover.

Yours in Christ,

Margaret

 
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