As September begins, I am once more aware of all the newness this month brings. A new school year for those in education, new pupils for those who teach, together with new ways of living places for those going to university etc. All this alongside our continued search for new ways of working as workplaces look to balance face to face working alongside remote access. New wardrobes are also being prepared for this new season of Autumn (although over the last few days I have regretted putting away all the summer items) and a new season of church life is being experienced, with meetings and activities returning to our diaries as together we begin to discern how we can best serve God and live out the calling of the Methodist Church in worship and mission.
September also marks the start of the new Methodist Connexional Year, with a number of Presbyters and Deacons all being stationed to new circuits and districts, this is not to forget those who are embarking on a new chapter as they consider what newness brings as they ‘sit down’ from ministerial duties. Our new President, the Rev’d Sonia Hicks, and Vice-President, Barbara Easton, bring with them our new connexional prayer theme ‘A Place for All.’
So, my Minister’s Monthly Musing is this: What new places might God be calling us to as we seek to offer God’s welcome to all in our communities?
Church Places? As we gradually find ourselves moving back to familiar spaces and offering more of our church activities and events, such as coffee mornings, lunch events, house groups can we be alert and ready to find the new? This might mean finding a new seat when in a group or perhaps a new person to talk with rather than with those who we already know within the space and call friends? I realise that as a child of the army I have probably been the ’new girl’ more times than most, but hopefully we can all recall how it felt on the first day of something new, looking in on spaces that seemed to have no room for us, and how we searched for a friendly smile to say “Welcome, are you new? Come with me and let me show you around.”
Work Places? For some of the more introverted personalities work can be a good space to begin to share our faith, as we already have some knowledge (hopefully) about those we are working alongside. I for one recognise how some of these places are competitive and stressful environments. Could God be calling you in that moment to offer a much-needed space for pastoral care, a listening ear, a word of encouragement or maybe you can offer a different way of being and behaving when challenged by either corporate imposition or the social ‘norms’ of a workplace.
Shopping Places? How many of us (or is it only me) attempt to talk and listen to those we meet whilst carrying a basket or when standing orderly in a queue. However, we might not need to use words in making our trolleys a more welcome space for God. In 2007 Methodism asked its people to “prayerfully consider the way in which their own purchasing and consumption, patterns and expectations contribute to unfairness and injustice in the domestic market.” By being informed of various social and political issues and taking action by perhaps placing more environmentally friendly and fairly traded items in our shopping baskets, we can offer God’s welcome to all who are being chased by the desire of a lower bottom line, often the most vulnerable and poorest people in our world.
Leisure Places? Past Vice-President, and now Principal at The Queen’s Foundation, in Birmingham, Clive Marsh has written many books and articles examining how theological issues and interests’ surface in culture, and how the ways in which the arts and culture do their work prove of interest to theology. Could God be inviting you and me to think deeper about how our faith is lived out in the realities of everyday sights, sounds and social spaces that we spend our time in. How might the gospel message from Sunday be echoed in the art that we visit, the books we read, the TV programmes that we watch and how can these and the many more events we take part in help to start conversations when invited to share our faith perspectives with others.
Home Places? Many of us will have probably got to know our home spaces better than ever over the last 18 months so this might not feel like a new place, but what if you can look to find a space that you can keep as a regular prayer spot, somewhere in which you can ponder and pour out your prayers to God? If you are remaining mostly online, or if you find leaving your home difficult then spaces such as Zoom, Teams, Google Meets etc will continue to offer you the spaces to pray and connect with others. As a circuit we have a number of groups that meet in this way and if you want details of the new Nene Valley Natters which will begin meeting from Wednesday 15th 10.30 till 12 on Zoom, please do get in touch with me. This is not to forget the many house fellowship groups that are seeking to meet in person once more, and again if you are interested in joining or beginning one, please do get in touch.
All Places? In each and every space that we each daily inhabit my hope is that we will have courage to affirm our belief that “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John1:3) and that in doing so we will each, and in our own way, reveal the kingdom and welcoming nature of God in our midst. I do truly believe that there is no separation of ‘sacred’ from ‘secular’ spaces. In all that we do, in whoever we meet and wherever we are, God the Spirit is already there; as Tim Hughes invites us to sing (and as Methodist’s how could we not) “
God in my living,
there in my breathing,
God in my waking,
God in my sleeping.
God in my resting,
there in my working,
God in my thinking,
God in my speaking.
Be my everything…”
With blessings to you all