I'm sure that you will agree with me that we thank Rev. Howard for his weekly reflections — this is his last one as Acting Superintendent, Rev. Tim Boocock takes over the reigns as from today. We do thank John for all his thoughts and support during what has been a very strange 6 months; 6 months of very strange events that I'm sure he didn't anticipate when he agreed to the role!
Archbishop Oscar Romero once wrote:
It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith
No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
That is what we are about. We plant a seed that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realising that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers not master builders.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is the last of my weekly reflections. I write it on 31st August, the last day of my acting Superintendency. I look back over the last six months and it is difficult to believe how things have changed. When I agreed to take on this task, last autumn, we had never heard of Covid 19 — indeed most probably is hadn't even existed. When I began the role, on first March "lockdown" was a possibility — some time in the future. We had no real idea what it would mean. Soon we closed all the churches. Every time we ventured outside it felt as if we were doing something potentially dangerous. Months went past and we began careful and tentative steps towards reopening of our buildings and adopting new ways of acting: — social distancing, face masks, no hand shakes, hand washing and cleansing every time you enter or leave a building.
By God's grace we are here at the beginning of a new Methodist Year. Tim Boocock, Graham Cutler and Brian Hutton have arrived in the Circuit, we have, sadly had to say goodbye to Bill, Solomon and Bev, and close two of our churches, however now we look ahead with a rising confidence. We stand on the threshold of new possibilities, the success of the media service, the effectiveness of the pastoral care during lockdown, the use of open air services during the summer, have all illustrated that doing things in new ways can be as fruitful as the old. As Romero comments: 'We are a part of a succession, playing a part in a movement so much bigger than ourselves'. Our task is about the Kingdom of God, and we each have a part to play in it. What can we do for God at this time — as churches who have learned from the past and trust in God for the future?
I for my part am very grateful for all who have helped and supported me over the last six months. I look forward to fellowship with the Circuit in the future, but for September and October plan to be away. During October I plan to walk the 268 miles of the Pennine Way — sponsored in support of Action for Children — I hope that many of you will sponsor me! (Details later!!).
As I take my leave I am reminded of one of the great Methodist Hymns:
We'll Praise him for all that is past
And Trust him for all that's to come.
Singing the Faith 67
So be it.