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Ministers’ Letter

FROM ISRAEL TO RWANDA

… a memory …

As I write, I’m also scrolling through photographs I took during a pilgrimage to Israel at Easter some years ago, and scrolling into photographs I took while I travelled to Rwanda just ten weeks later: something of an anniversary of those journeys made at this time in that year.

Scrolling through the photographs has always been easier than sorting through some of the overwhelming impressions and feelings that remain as I remember Israel.  I don’t feel as though I was following in the footsteps of Jesus … as some pilgrims did … but I left the country feeling both the reality and the necessity of Jesus coming to live amongst people: offering us release from our debilitating confidence in who we think God means us to be and what we think God means us to do … embracing our humanity … inviting us to live with him through every costly choice that challenges our ways of being and doing things … with vulnerability and compassion.

Struggling with the entrenched nature of the opposing forces in Israel, probably because it intensified my personal memories of working to touch the effects of Apartheid on people and helping them to encounter each other beyond segregation, I had looked forward to traveling to Rwanda.

I had no doubt that I would be profoundly affected by the genocide memorial sites, the sites of reconciliation ministries and meeting survivors in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.  Yet I felt that there in the sadness I would find more hope because the stories of the survivors of the 1994 genocide are horrific but what makes them unique and hopeful is the ability those survivors have to forgive and love those who killed their loved ones” (Claude Nikondeha – Amahoro Africa).  People who had no apparent reason to trust people anymore were taking Jesus at his word, living with him through costly choices.

Between those pilgrimages, though, I was undertaking the more modest journey that we all make through each day … always pilgrims … wondering whether we aren’t sometimes so immersed in the intricate mechanics of knowing and doing church that the lifestyle of encountering people and becoming different … more like Jesus … eludes us … perhaps because we aren’t looking for the image of God-who-reveals in one another … and in other surprising people … who take Jesus at his word, living with him through costly choices … perhaps because we don’t feel it’s also our job to be the image of God-who-reveals  for one another … and for other surprising people?

This year we’re all pilgrims in an unfamiliar place … perhaps with questions we’re not even able to articulate yet.

I pray that God will bless your pilgrimage with people and places and curiosity.

Revd Nadine Wilkinson

 

The building is closed, but the Church is still open.

Last Sunday, most of the people in the country might have gathered in front of TV to watch Prime Minister’s address, expecting something new in terms of restrictions on lockdown. Perhaps, it was wrong to expect much as the situation hadn’t changed a lot and death toll was still high. However, as a human being, I cannot deny that I was one of those who were looking forward to hearing some easement on lockdown measures, even though I was fully aware of its risks. Anyway, we all are experiencing a very strange life, with minimum contact or strictly no contact. Some people may appreciate this time for their spiritual growth. Others, for the unusually long family time. Yet, most of us, I think, may find it difficult as we see no definite exit yet. Is this a new way of disciplining ourselves in the 21st century? I am not sure. But, while we are grumbling about the measures imposed on us and struggling to stay at home on a beautiful day, we need to be aware that the real world is unbelievably suffering, and hundreds of people are dying every day. And we shouldn’t forget that some frontline workers are facing the extreme stress and dangers. What are we to do, then?

You may have forgotten what we celebrated on Easter about a month ago, as it was quite different from what we usually do. But, Easter stories continue and actually will be completed through Ascension, which will be remembered next Thursday (21st May) and then we will be celebrating one of the exciting events in the Church history, that is, Pentecost (31st May). It is exciting, not only because the disciples experienced the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit, but also, and more importantly, with the help of that power, they started to form a new faith community, so called, the ‘Church’. But, here, we need to look back and see why Jesus had to stay with them forty more days before his ascension. One of the reasons would be that they needed to be reminded of the meaning and reality of resurrection, which means they needed an extra lesson for forty days, if you like. Having witnessed his resurrection again and again, they were able to commit themselves to a new faith community. As for this matter of building up a new community, the first few chapters of the Acts give us some brief pictures of their lives. What seems clear is that they were a ‘learning community, a praying community, and a sharing community’.  They met every day for learning the Scripture, for praying together, and for breaking bread together. And, moreover, what strikes me is the way of their sharing. In Acts 2. 44, it says, “they had everything in common, …. and gave to anyone as he had need”. It seems that their sharing and generosity were so radical and so practical that we couldn’t even imitate, particularly at this present restriction. But, what we should notice here is that they didn’t shy away from being a community, the church, despite the hostile circumstances.

We, as the Church, are facing a new challenge, as we are asked not to congregate, which seems quite opposite to the principle of our faith. But, what we need to remember is that Church is not just about congregating but more about communicating, sharing, and supporting each other in any circumstance. As we are going through this unprecedented pandemic crisis, I am sure we can find a new way of being ‘CHURCH’ as we try to meet the needs of others in our community.

Every blessing,

Rev. SC Choi.

 

Thoughts for the Week by

Bennie Harms

Normal? What is ‘Normal’?

What seemed like ‘another lifetime’ ago, I wrote about the prospect of having to face yet another general election! Well, THAT election passed as did all the joys of political debates and broadcasts; what seemed like endless rounds of accusations and counter-accusations (both real and fake) made by members of one party against another. We wondered if life would ever get back to being normal?

What is normal, you may well ask? Since THAT election, life (and the world) has been turned on its head – all because of ‘the dreaded VIRUS and LOCKDOWN!’ There’s no going back now is there? Not life as we knew it when we were children, or life as we knew it just 20 years or even just 10 years ago let alone 7 weeks ago!! I wrote these words for an article published in our churches magazines in December 2019 -What are the criteria for determining normal? Surely the evolving nature of life in our country, communities, cultures and even churches continually challenges what can be described and considered as being normal. Correct, and since ‘Lockdown and Social Distancing’ became a way of life nearly 7 weeks ago you can be sure that ‘normal or being normal’ will most certainly have evolved into something far different than anyone of us can imagine at this point in life.

So …. What will the ‘NEW NORMAL be?

Sixteen years ago, I completed training as a Teacher / Trainer of The Change Cycle ™ Course. It was an intensive period of study concluding with a final exam. The Change Cycle™ is a training programme designed to help individuals and organisations to deal resourcefully, pragmatically and effectively with ‘change’. In each stage of change we experience thoughts, feelings and behaviour associated with that change which either help or hinder our acceptance of and movement towards the change we’re facing.

As we approach the end (maybe) of ‘Lockdown’ – with its tumultuous, terrifying, taunting experiences and face the frightfully, staggering, exciting possibilities of shaping the New Normal let us ……..

1. Look Back to the past – to what it was or wasn’t; to what we may have been encouraged to do or discouraged from doing; at our fears (both real and imagined); as well as our successes and failures;

2. Look Forward to the Future – have our dreams and aspirations changed; what are our doubts and expectations; where or what will the greatest change come from or be?

3. Look Now at the Present – take stock of the feelings, thoughts and behaviours that challenge us now; what has worked for or marred this present experience; has it been real and simply imagined and might it make or break the future; where are we now; what has changed from where we’ve come from and where do we hope / desire / desperately want to be or go in the future?

Scripture promises us that God will never leave us, is always the same and will never let us face that which we cannot handle. With these promises in mind I trust that as we look at what the ‘NEW NORMAL’ will be, we will come to the end of this experience praising God for what he has done and taught us.

“Now, to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or can imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3 vs 20,21)

God bless you,

Bennie Harms

Lay Pastor of Addington & Shirley Methodist Churches