June Message from Rachel

To the people of Chepstow and beyond:

There is no doubt in my mind that many of you reading this are weary. I know it because I am weary myself. We are now several months into ‘lockdown’, and I know that how we are all feeling now is very different to how we felt when the announcements about ‘social distancing’ first came. Nearly all of us are grieving the loss of something or someone, and being unable to hug those we love the most during these times can take its toll.

We are also seeing a lot of division and tension in these times, including those regarding when the ‘lockdown’ should or shouldn’t be lifted. While I have my own views on these matters, as we all do, I think that what is most important is that we continue to love and show compassion for one another and recognise that a lot of what we are feeling right now is rooted in fear: fear of this virus, fear of losing a loved one or our own lives, fear of not being able to financially recover, fear of what continued isolation will do to our mental health.

Remembering this when we encounter those who disagree with us will help us all to empathise and find middle ground. The other thing that is incredibly important in the middle of all of this is to remember that we are the Church. The Church is not the building in which we meet; it is us, the body of Christ. No matter how long it takes for us to be able to meet in person again, or how long it takes to feel like anything is back to ‘normal’, we can still be the Church in this world, making justice and love for neighbour our top priorities.

We must keep hold of the hope we have and know that we are together through all of this, even if we can’t gather in one place. But even more, God is with us, too.

Blessings,
Rev. Rachel

June Letter from Gordon

Dearest folk of the Newport and Lower Wye Methodist Circuit.

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus. Grace and peace be with you all.

June arrives after the sunniest May on record. Hope your gardens look lovely and your homes sparkling as we have needed to stay in them. It has now been twelve Sundays since our last opportunity to be worshipping God together in our church buildings. We have guidance about the safest way to open once the go ahead is given, and, as a Circuit Leadership Team, we have been working hard on many differing aspects of Church life. This letter is an update of where we are.

Worship

We have tried to keep us all connected in sending out, electronically, a daily worship sheet, and by post a Sunday worship sheet. A thank you to all who continue to contribute to this venture. Different Churches in the Circuit have also provided on-line and paper worship, as well as blogs, prayers, insights, and stories.

Chepstow have a weekly on-line Service you can access through their website, and regular prayerful blogs. St. Julian’s have a weekly Service you can take part in on a Sunday through You-Tube. Monmouth have a weekly Service on-line as does Trinity. All of these are accessible on the internet, and please feel free to check these out. There are also many others from around the whole world you can find in this on-line universe.

When collective worship is available there are several things we will need to consider:

Church /Chapel safety: We have guidelines on how to make our worship spaces as safe as possible and these general guidelines will be sent to every Church/Chapel to follow through, as well as possible local knowledge that maybe required.

People safety: We recognise that there will be worries about resumption and that there may be other considerations such as we are not allowed to sing. In light of this we will be keeping, initially, any worship events as local as possible. Ministers, Local Preachers, Worship Leaders, and Stewards will be in their own Churches/Chapels, as much as possible to minimise risk. We will be working with Churches/Chapels to find solutions where this is more difficult.

The consequence of this is No Plan again for this summer quarter. We await guidelines as we look ahead to the beginning of a new connexional year beginning in September.

This also means that we will not be able to gather together to say thank you and farewell to Preben and Margaret Andersen nor to Ruth and Richard Lownsbrough. What we will be doing, however, is an on-line tribute as a Circuit and I will be co-ordinating this. I will be speaking to some people but if you would like to say something and be involved in stories, prayers, thoughts for any of these fine folk please do get in touch with me using any of the media in this letterhead. We plan to invite Preben and Margaret, Ruth, and Richard back to the Circuit next Spring where we can say a heartfelt thank you and show our appreciation to them with appropriate gifts.

We are to be blessed with the arrival of Revd. Bethany Willers, with her husband Joel. They will be coming to Monmouth for September. Bethany is a MOCC (Minister from other Churches or Conferences) and is from the USA. Bethany and Joel are currently in Notting Hill and hope to be in Monmouth by the end of August. The magnificent Monmouth people are already swinging into action to welcome them both as best they can, but we will not be having a formal Circuit Welcome Service in September, but will await a future date when all is safe. Bethany and Joel will create their own ‘get-to-know-us’ once they arrive in Monmouth.

Finance and Administration

We recognise that this has probably impacted Churches/Chapels. Not meeting without an offertory and not having rental income are just two factors that we recognise is probably making treasurers lives more difficult than usual. Roger Langford, as Circuit Treasurer, is doing a stirling job keeping in touch with Church Treasurers. We have some proposals, as a Circuit Leadership Team, and these will be discussed at a ‘Zoom’ Treasurers Meeting on June 11th.

Alongside this we need to agree next year’s budget. This would normally be done at a Circuit Meeting. We are not going to be able to meet, in person, for a Circuit Meeting for a while. The Circuit Meeting Trustees will be contacted with any proposals and we are hopeful that we can find consensus going into our uncertain future. We will be in touch with the Church Representatives very soon.

In a similar vein, the Wales Representative Synod that is due to take place in September will also be postponed and will, hopefully, take place in the Spring of 2021. This will probably involve the discussions we have been having around Marriage and Relationships, as Conference, this year, is to take place electronically and this is not one of the items for discussion.

Please also note that the Revd. Alexis Mahoney, who candidated out of Caldicot Methodist Church and is stationed in Cardiff, will come into ‘Full Connexion’ at this Conference. His Ordination, however, will take place at a date further down the line.

Superintendent bit

Christian faith, it has been said, owes a lot to the Stoics, a Greek philosophical idea from about 250 BC which became prominent in Roman thinking around the time of Jesus. From my reading of you all, you are being wonderfully stoic. The support networks in Church have been a pleasure to be part of and to hear of. We have had folk in hospital, and some who have passed on to be with the Lord, yet I have heard no grumbling and much love and wisdom expressed. Thank you for the encouragement all of this has given me.

We will ‘wake-up’ to a similar, but different world. Alongside colleagues and the CLT we are seeking to discern how we go forward as relevant Church in these circumstances. The word LOCAL keeps cropping up. Please pray into this word and may God bless us as we seek to grow His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Stay safe, until we meet again. With love and prayers in Christ

Gordon

June 1st 2020

A Message from Rachel

To the people of Chepstow and beyond: These are most certainly very difficult and frightening times that we are all facing. It seems there is no escape from the news, and it is particularly disheartening when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know that we are all being forced to make hard choices; none of us could have been prepared for these horrible circumstances. It would be easy to let despair set in.

But we must continue to breathe the breath of the Holy Spirit. We must continue to extend grace, as best we can, to our neighbours, but also to ourselves. In some ways, it almost feels appropriate that this should all be happening during Lent (though obviously we’d all prefer it didn’t happen at all). The 40 days of Lent represent Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, and I think it is safe to say that we are all having our own wilderness experience right now, and probably on a scale that most of us have not seen in our lifetime and hope never to see again. Lent is normally a time for us to reflect and repent. It is a time when we attempt to sit with and try to empathise with the disciples and the pain and uncertainty that they felt on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, not knowing that the resurrection would come. Perhaps these feelings resonate with us more than they ever have before.

I don’t know if any of you are Lord of the Rings fans, but this quote is also making rounds on Facebook at the moment from a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

These are still our times. God is still in these times, and God is with all of us as we decide what we will do in the time given to us. We don’t know that our time in the wilderness will end on Easter Sunday this year, but we do know that, at the end of it all, there will be new life again. It will be yet another of those ‘little resurrections’ that we all experience in life. And it will be one that we as a society will experience together, even while we are still mourning all we have lost. Our hope comes from knowing that God is with is in all of this.

I think that the words of the last verse of ‘When we were in the Darkest Night’ by Matt Redman (in the section ‘THE FAITHFUL CHRIST: LENT AND TEMPTATION’ in Singing the Faith, 241) are incredibly fitting at this time:

So, whatever lies ahead,
whatever roads our grateful hearts will come to tread,
you’ll be there, Lord.
We will fix our eyes on you,
and know that there is grace enough to see us through.
You’ll be there, Lord.
You’ll be there in the struggle.
You’ll be there in the fight.
You’ll be there all the time.

Be well, and take care of yourselves and each other… until we can all meet again.

Blessings,
Revd. Rachel Frank

A Letter from Gordon

Dear all.

We live, for most of us, in unprecedented times. I am aware that our Churches have people who remember World War 2 and have lived through dark and difficult times.

As Christians we are committed to doing the best we can to care for people at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. I am reminded of this verse from Deuteronomy 31:67; ‘Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you.’

It is heart-warming to hear some real good news stories. If you have any, please do let me know and we will publish them.

At Trinity Methodist Church they have established a Facebook Group to share prayers, information and to reach out to those in need. Church families are offering to buy shopping for those who are self-isolating, and the Church building is to be open for prayer at the ‘normal’ worship time on Sunday morning. This is a good news story. Practical help is excellent and please do follow guidelines in this practice.

So, what can we make of all this? Habakkuk 3:17-19 points to scarcity yet still we can be joyful in the Lord, and Psalm 27:14 offers wise words for us all. As Church we are a sign of God’s light in this world, a symbol of hope and comfort to our communities. At this time let us try and be this sign. Phone people, skype, not just family but our neighbours too, send texts, set up What’s App and Facebook groups (and others this Luddite doesn’t understand!) Let us be there for our communities, even though we are out of sight, let us not be out of mind.

Also, on a practical and spiritual level, I take comfort in Psalm 62:1-2 leading into Philippians 4:13. There are a few of us working on how we can continue to bring the worship of God into your homes. Please do be alert to this opportunity, with our focus, at this point, being on how we can somehow celebrate the greatest festival of all we know as Easter.

There are resources for daily and Sunday worship on the internet. The Methodist Church website has these as well as many other denominations. Please do take this opportunity to grow in grace and discover more of the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer, Bible readings and meditation.

On the website is an act of worship, which I hope to send out in a similar format day-by-day. Initially, we will work our way through the Lord’s Prayer. You may wish to use this, to share this, to go onto your Facebook Group or to ignore this. I offer and know these words: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Gordon

Mobile: 07570992890

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Link to Hope Shoeboxes

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