One of the things I love about my life as a Presbyter in the Methodist Church is its unpredictability. However much you try to be proactive and plan ahead, there's always something that crops up to take you by surprise and demands that you react in the moment.
One of the things that really frustrates me about my life as a Presbyter in the Methodist
Church is its unpredictability. However much you try to be proactive and
plan ahead, there's always something that crops up to take you by
surprise and demands that you react in the moment.
I've just come though 'one of those weekends' - a long weekend, really, because it all started on Thursday evening. Some background: I have responsibility for one church in Sheffield, but two congregations - we brought the two together under common governance and trusteeship in September 2010, and a large part of my work focus over the last 15 months or so has been on forging stronger links between these two Christian communities. In the past we have socialised and eaten together (always popular) and studied and shared fellowship together. Last Thursday saw the start of a short (4 weeks) course on faith-sharing - a course produced by the Methodist Church called 'Talking of God'. What frustrated, no, saddened me about was the numbers that turned out, particularly the numbers from one of the congregations (not the one where the meeting was held). Like the Great Banquet, there were many valid reasons for not being there, but after I'd put in so much work preparing for the evening I was a little disheartened.
Then there was Saturday morning. For the last few years one of the congregations has shared in an 'away day', where we can worship together, think, talk and pray about the state of and future direction of the church. This year I'd planned for it to be an opportunity for both congregations to share together - to talk about how we can better be one church on two sites. But again, the attendance from one congregation was minimal, and attendance overall was very disappointing (half those there disappeared at lunchtime too). Again the plans I'd made had to be shelved, and the productivity of the day was severely reduced. There was opportunity for us to pray together, which was positive and helpful, but I have to say that I came home thinking 'Why do I bother?'
On Sunday morning I was planned to lead worship with the congregation that had been conspicuous by their absence over the weekend. We presented JMA awards early on to those who had raised almost £600 for the World Church and Mission in Britain, and as the culmination of worship we shared Communion together. I'd decided to not use a set liturgy this week, but to pray ex tempore, and I have to say that it was one of the most moving Communions I've shared in for a while. God was so clearly present with us as we prayed and shared together, and a number of people commented after the service about how moving they had found it.
I'm glad sometimes that God continues to surprise us, and to meet us in our deepest need, in our frustrations, and in simple things like Bread and Wine.