Monthly newsletter

“Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved”  (Matthew 9: 17)

Dear Friends,

It is lovely to be able to write to you once more via our newsletter,  and thank you Valerie and Simon for producing this so that we can all remain in contact with one another  during ‘lockdown’. How quickly that word “lockdown’ has become part of our everyday vocabulary!  It has certainly been a strange time for us all. I have really enjoyed chatting to people on the phone and discovering how you have been filling your time, and heartening to discover how much you have kept in touch with each other.  Now that the restrictions are easing somewhat, we are (perhaps with some trepidation)  venturing out a little more, and wondering what this new world we are entering will look like. I say ‘new world’ because it seems clear that things will not revert to the way they were before Covid-19. Perhaps the old wine needs to be poured into new wineskins?

This time of withdrawing and restraint might have led you to reflect on the things that really matter to you. You might have begun new habits that you want to continue.  Perhaps you have sensed that God has been refining certain areas of your life.  A question I would like you all to ask yourselves is “How has the lockdown impacted my walk with the Lord?”.

I know that many of you have worshipped via the TV, or online, watching the services produced by the circuit or elsewhere. You might have taken the opportunity to participate in online worship from a tradition other than Methodism or the United Reformed Church. What has been positive, and what has really made you think?  What has warmed your heart? 

Has your prayer life changed in any way? Is there something you have read that has made an impact on you?

I also invite you to consider what you have missed the most about church.  And is there anything you have been relieved to stop doing?  Are there things we were doing before lockdown that should not be restarted? Are there any things that we did in the past that we won’t miss?   Are there things we have started during lockdown that we should continue? Are there new things that God is calling us to start?  

These are important questions that I hope Cartway will be addressing in the next few months as you move into the next phase of yourchurch life.

I do not believe that God has sent this virus or this pandemic to his people. It is part of creation, a by-product of processes that are in themselvesgood, such as the interaction between humans and animals, but has warped into something truly harmful.  During this time I have found comfort in reading the book of Job and the ways in which he wrestled with the question of suffering.

But I do firmly believe that God is teaching us valuable lessons as we deal with this virus. We are appreciating the natural world more,  andthere is a sense in which nature has breathed a sigh of relief as we reduce our carbon emissions and live life at a slower pace. We have discovered new areas of community service and sacrifice, particularly in our wonderful NHS and care workers,  and all the other systems of business and government that are working hard to support us.

We are starting to focus, perhaps, on what is really important.   I think this is true in our personal lives, and I think it is true in the life of the church.   Our faith is precious to us; it shapes our lives, our thinking, our behaviour and our relationships.  What are the new wineskins that God is calling us to make?  How can we take the valuable lessons we have learned during this pandemic and use them to further the mission of the church?

 

 

These are big questions!   During my sabbatical that ‘morphed’  somehow into lockdown,   I have been reflecting on the privilege of being your minister for the past five years. (I will say more on that in my final letter to you next month.)   In my opinion you embody what it means to be church in the community, and I know from conversations I have had with people in the townthat the strength and warmth of the fellowship, and the welcome you give to those who make contact with Cartway, recognized and appreciated.  This is precious old wine, full of flavour and maturity. What might be the new wineskins that, with God’s help, you might make to preserve it for future generations?

 

Yours, in Christ,

 

Kate