Thoughts for the new church year

It is one of the quirks of Methodism that when it gets to 1st September we start wishing each other ‘happy new year’.  This is not some attempt to get ahead of ourselves (like those people who delight in telling you how many days it is until Christmas), but rather the marking of the start of a new church year.  I got to spend part of the first day of the new church year cuddling a lovely 5-day old baby!  What a wonderful way of reflecting on new starts and the possibilities for the future. 

When we start a new chapter in our lives, it’s inevitable we also look back.  I look back and see that four years have passed since I moved here as a very inexperienced minister not knowing what I was doing.  I’m not sure if I’ve worked it out yet; but I do know that despite the challenges, those four years have been ones of growth for me, and years where I’ve had the privilege of getting to know and be supported by many wonderful, faithful people.  When the apostle Paul writes with affection and thanksgiving to the churches he has been in fellowship with, I know how he feels.  The fellowship I have grown to know in Raunds is big-hearted and caring.  I encourage you to continue to be grounded in prayer and seek to love and serve God – it seems to me that this is a good recipe for fruitfulness, and I encourage you to keep to the purpose of worship and service in your community.

Looking forward, there are a few key things happening this year for the church and our wider Circuit.  As a Circuit we’re going to be looking at the book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase.  This will be through some themed preaching (the first group of services will be in October, then next in spring 2016), through bible studies and other discussions and activities.  Schnase takes characteristics which I hope all churches would recognise, and adds ‘strong adjectives’ to intensify them:

  • RADICAL hospitality
  • PASSIONATE worship
  • INTENTIONAL faith-development
  • RISK-TAKING mission and service
  • EXTRAVAGANT generosity

 

I wonder how the addition of the ‘strong adjectives’ makes you feel about these characteristics?

We hope that using this book will help us as individuals, churches and Circuit to focus our thoughts on our mission and purpose for this time and place.  I encourage you to get involved with these conversations, prayers and study; perhaps you don’t normally come to a study group, but might commit to coming to the sessions around this subject – keep an eye on the notices for more information over the next few months.

Here in Raunds, our life of worship and fellowship continues.  We have a number of our own activities and events: Sunday worship, Sunday school, Bible Study, Wesley Guild, monthly Sunday lunches, and supporting worship in local nursing homes to name a few.  In the town we also support different things such as the local foodbank and community café – and there’s a plan for us to set up an additional drop-in coffee morning.  All of these activities, as well as the day-to-day running of the church, happen because of people offering their time, gifts and talents.  I thank these people – you know who you are – and ask all to show their support through encouragement, care, and considering what time, gifts and talents you might offer?  We’re always pleased to have people to offer; for the more people to share the tasks, the lighter the load.  Perhaps you could offer to help with a current activity or tasks… or perhaps you have a twinkle in your eye for a new activity.  Pray about it… and talk to someone about it!  God does nudge us to all sorts of things.

Alongside these activities, our buildings also host many groups for children and young people: Guides, Brownies, Scouts, Stay and Play, and the local Children’s Centre.  Whilst we may not be immediately ‘hands-on’ with these, perhaps we can ask ourselves the question of how we can better support them and show our care?  Over the next few months, it’d be good for us to have a serious conversation about work which we could do to make the building and graveyard more accessible to the whole community.

I end with prayer: my prayers for you and myself.  My prayer is for the fellowship in Raunds and beyond to continue to grow in strength, courage and faithfulness.  Support and encourage each other through prayer; offer all that you do to God in prayer; seek guidance in prayer.  The good works already seen have been a result of prayer – God has done and will do wonderful things.

I have heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers. I ask the glorious Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you his Spirit. The Spirit will make you wise and let you understand what it means to know God. My prayer is that light will flood your hearts and that you will understand the hope that was given to you when God chose you. Then you will discover the glorious blessings that will be yours together with all of God’s people. (Ephesians 1: 15 – 18)

Yours in Christ,

Rev Liz

September 2015


Faith Reflections
Webpage icon Easter Sermon
Webpage icon Reflection for Holy Week - the extravagance of death
Webpage icon Jesus the refugee
Webpage icon Loaves and Fishes
Webpage icon Reflection for Advent