Greetings from Rachel

It’s hard to believe that we have just recently entered another season of Lent when, in some ways, it almost feels like the wilderness of last Lent has been ongoing since last year’s Lent began. I wonder how any of us would have reacted if we had been told a year ago that we’d still be where we are today!

To say that the last year has been challenging is obviously an understatement. However, I just want to say how proud I am of the people of Chepstow Methodist Church and your resilience during this time. You have looked after one another, have adapted to new ways of doing things, and have done it all with so much grace, with your commitment to God and to each other at the forefront. I also hope that you all have continued to have a sense of God’s presence and God’s faithfulness during this time. “Best of all is God is with us”, as has been the Methodist theme for the 2020-2021 Connexional Year, and that has, indeed, rung true.

Although we still have a little way to go before things begin to feel ‘normal’, it is very encouraging to see the light at the end of this long tunnel. As I’m sure you know, the vaccines are making a difference, with the infection rate and the death rate going down. What a godsend these vaccines have been!  So, let us continue to keep the faith, holding onto our faith and to one another (figuratively speaking) until we can go back out into the world, without fear or limitations, to proclaim the good news that God held us through it all. Thanks be to God!

With love and blessings,
Rev. Rachel

Snowdrops

Last Wednesday 27th January was Holocaust Memorial Day and throughout last week I watched a dramatisation of “The Ann Frank Diaries” on BBC Four.  Having also read the diaries and visited the museum in Amsterdam I found its impact more profound at this particular time.  The situation of the eight Jewish people who were in hiding for two years during 1942-1944 helped me put the isolation and uncertainty we are facing at present into perspective.  Ann’s hopes and dreams were so cruelly crushed with only her father surviving World War II and death in the POW camp.

It has been heartening news to hear that some of our Church Family have had their first vaccine and there is light at the end of the tunnel and we give thanks to all those who have developed and are administering the vaccine.  When we are facing a ‘Dark Day’ let’s remember we have much to look forward to and much to be thankful for.  The Snowdrops are in bloom in my garden bringing Hope and Joy.  

Kathy

The Snowdrop
Many, many welcomes,
February fair – maid!
Ever as of old
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the gay time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses
Many, many welcomes
February fair – maid!  

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Beacon Cafe Closed

Welsh Government advice for Wales, in Level 4, means The Beacon is unable to open for the time being. We look forward to meeting you again for a socially distanced cuppa and chat when restrictions are lifted.
Blessings
Debbie and Cheryl

Beacon Café

The Beacon, along with our Family Room, will be open each week from Monday-Wednesday 10am-1pm .  The Family Room is operating a pre-booking system, and we are limited to 2 households, each consisting of no more than 2 adults and 2 children under 5 yrs old.  Please book using the email beaconbookings@gmail.com We look forward to welcoming you back to a socially distanced cuppa and a chat!

Debbie and the team.

Counting Our Blessings

Just as we were beginning to get back to some sort of normality this Covid19 hits us once again! I would like to give thanks and count my blessings for the few weeks of respite that we have been able to enjoy, catching up with family members and friends and enjoying each other’s company once more. 

With campsites open, Dave and I have been able to get away in our motorhome and enjoy some wonderful coastal walks in Wales, North Cornwall and Devon.  We were walking the coastal path from Ladrum Bay into Sidmouth and I was reminiscing and bringing to mind the wonderful Church Family weekends we enjoyed at Sidholme and Brunel Manor, what fun and fellowship we shared! the great company, lovely food, the impromptu “talent shows” and the special times of worship, knitting us together as a Church Family.

Of course my memories were also tinged with sadness as many of those beloved ones are no longer with us physically today, but nevertheless  remain with us in our hearts and minds and I give thanks for sharing my life with so many wonderful people.

Our Church is now open once more and many of us are able to attend services, join in on Zoom or watch the Podcast recording in our own homes.  The shops and supermarkets are easier to negotiate and we can have a meal out and go to the pub (if we want to). Children are back to school and people are working again.  A lot to give thanks for.

However I am very much aware that so many of our Church Family members are not able to enjoy this liberation; those in Care Homes who are still only allowed visits in the garden, those with infirmities and underlying conditions that inhibit them from mixing outside of their “Bubble”.  We have many members who are waiting for hospital procedures and operations which will no doubt be delayed once again causing anxiousness and concern. 

We are so fortunate to have a very good handbook of our faith and we are reminded in Philippians 2: 4. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. And inGalations 6: 10. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.  So as we go forward in the coming months and possibly into the New Year let us act on, 1 Thessalonians 5: 11  Encouraging one another, and building one another up, just as we are doing

Rev. Rachel, Elena, the Pastoral Team and myself are on the end of a phone and some us can do “Doorstep” visits and following Data Protection Protocol we can put you in touch with Church Family friends, so if you are feeling a bit low and want a chat or a visit please get in touch.

My number is 620870, love and blessings Kathy G.

Church Reopening

Happy New Year!
More than 10 years since leaving full-time education our three children still think of September as the start of a new year. This seems so appropriate when we think on the historical emphasis Methodists have placed on education and the scriptural and social transformation of society Methodism has been so involved in for well over 200 years. I say again; Happy New Connexional Year!

This year feels like no other. It feels ‘new’ in respect of new thinking that is required in growing our on-line presence, new measures in opening up our buildings for worship and community use. New arrivals in Rev Bethany and her husband, Joel, filling the gap left by our sister and brother, Ruth and Richard. We have a new way of a local Welcome Service in Monmouth, rather than a Circuit wide one. We have a new model of Circuit which feels old; Four Missional Hubs reflecting the drawing together of 3 Circuits in 2008/9 and new, experienced Ministers in the gracious offer of Revs Joe Rooney and Lin Healey to help out in the Caldicot and Rogiet part of the Chepstow Missional Hub.

We have new social distancing rules, new hand sanitiser dispensers in our Churches and we enter a new reality unsure of what the future holds. As a Circuit Leadership Team we are trying to lead in these strange times. We have booked a Circuit Meeting for the evening of Wednesday October 14th. This will be done electronically, and we will inform you how this is to take place when we have a clear idea. We hope to arrange a Local Preachers Meeting in a similar way, and we are to encourage local Churches to have Church Council’s for good governance and opportunity to pray together and to look ahead on how we continue to share the good news of God’s love shown to the world through the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ and the continued active work of God through the Holy Spirit guiding us into all truth day-by-day.

May I say what a privilege it has been to be involved with so many detailed risk-assessments as regards opening our sacred and community spaces. The care and attention to people’s well-being has been a wonderful witness, and the practical solutions from so many gifted people has got us to a point of beginning to build people’s confidence up and allowing folk to enter sacred space and encounter God alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we have shared so much down the years.

Let us tread gently into this new year, and new beginning, and let us look forward to when we can all, as a Circuit, gather together to sing God’s praise; to say a big thank you to Local Preachers, one of whom has dedicated 60 years of ministry this year; to say a proper goodbye to Preben, Margaret, Ruth and Richard; to welcome Bethany and Joel and just to be together rejoicing that we can echo the words of the Psalmist: ‘I sought the Lord and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.’ [34:4]

Gordon

Gordon’s August Letter

It is a delight to be a small part of your loving and caring fellowship here at Chepstow Methodist Church. Your pastoral team is excellent, prayer and house groups have continued despite lockdown, the podcasts are a real eclectic mix and there is a sense of a real desire to grow Christ’s kingdom in this beautiful part of South Wales. Well done good and faithful servants.

In light of the pandemic and the changes in ministerial oversight over this past 2 and bit years, you really do need to give yourselves a pat on the back. One of many strange things in the Methodist Church is a Minister needing to give, in effect, 15 months’ notice to leave. There is that time of gentle de-coupling and then wondering what’s next. The anticipation of meeting someone new and then having to wait 9 months for them to arrive. All very strange in my eyes!

As you are all aware, it has been a dark and difficult path for Rachel upon her coming to Chepstow. Not through yourselves but through life’s events. Your prayers and support to Rachel and Tom speak volumes for you all. Rachel is starting to emerge into a better place. The Lord is guiding her through the valley she has found herself in and she inches toward that green pasture of God’s promise. We hope that she will be back amongst us all in early September and that she will become the blessing we all desire her to be. I will keep you informed and thank you for your support of me at this time.

We are also planning on re-opening our sacred space. There is a planned prayer and meditation Service on Thursday August 27th beginning at 11.00 AM. I will lead this through. There has been a thorough risk-assessment and it is unfortunate that the maximum number of people allowed to gather is 30. This will be the case, too, when we open on Sunday mornings. This is planned to begin on Sunday September 6th at 10.00 AM with Cliff Randall and his team working on ways to transmit parts of this worship into our homes so that we can all share together. More information will emerge, and the Stewards will let you know of the plans for the Thursday event and the arrangements for the Sunday mornings.

We also need to keep an eye on the future. The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today. We have revisited the past in establishing the Chepstow Missional Hub almost as a replica to the ‘old’ Chepstow and Caldicot Circuit. It is hoped that this much smaller and local unit will be effective in fulfilling our calling of growing God’s kingdom here and now. We have also revisited ‘A Way Forward’, a visioning exercise undertaken by Chepstow Methodist Church under the Rev. Rod Ingrouille.  This time we are to share this visioning with Caldicot Methodist Church in the hope that shared vision and ministry will bring fresh fruit into the lives of our Churches and Chapels as we seek to enable others to know of the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Please do pray for this initiative and we are hoping to start planting this ‘tree’ before the end of September. These have been unprecedented times. The Circuit has reduced to 4 Ministers (there were 7 when the initial amalgamation took place in 2008) and the Circuit has been able to release £44,000 of reserves to help Churches over this last six months and we emerge into an unknown future. As a Circuit Leadership Team, we believe that the Missional Hubs are the way forward for us as a Circuit, and I believe that ‘A Way Forward’ will help the Chepstow Missional Hub in discerning God’s call into his future.  For God is God and he offers these words of encouragement; God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. (2 Tim 1:7) Let us trust and obey, and, until we meet again, may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Gordon

Gordon’s July Church Pastoral Letter

Dear lovely folk of Chepstow.

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Christ Jesus. May the peace of God be with us all.

It is such a privilege to be a small part of Chepstow Methodist Church. Your care for each other shines through, and your desire to reach out to others with the love of God in Jesus Christ is striking. As the Superintendent Minister, it is great to see such a beacon of light shining in the Circuit.

This has been a difficult time for the whole world, a difficult time for Chepstow Methodist Church, and a difficult time for your Minister, the Reverend Rachel Frank.

As you are aware, life has thrown many perplexing and arduous things Rachel’s way this past year. The care and support to Rachel from you all has been, and is, much appreciated. Please do keep her in your prayers. The Coronavirus has taken us all by surprise and has drawn us into some dark and fearful places. For Rachel, coming to terms with grief, the virus has not helped in any way. She is in the category of being vulnerable due to a variety of health issues, and has been, rightfully, isolating to ensure safety. With so many varying stressful events I asked Rachel to see her G.P. and take some time away from the stresses of Circuit and Church life. Hopefully, this is for a short period of time and she will regain her energy and enthusiasm and provide the impetus for the next stage of Chepstow Methodist Church’s life.

 In the meantime I am your interim Minister. The Church is blessed by so many capable and caring people. The Sunday podcasts have provided a real lifeline to many and these will continue throughout August under the guidance of Cliff Randall and his team. The Stewards meet regularly, the Property Team are working hard on risk-assessments for the Church as a worshipping community, as a place of outreach and as a community centre. The Finance Committee are meeting regularly at this particularly challenging time for all churches. There is the prayer Chain that is being used, the weekly online Bible study, a weekly Zoom house group and Elena and Kathy are doing a wonderful job in enabling pastoral care to continue, particularly to those in our church who are not connected to the internet.

In my role as interim Minister, I will be praying for you all and making myself available to each of these groups. There will be other matters that arise, I’m sure, and I am grateful for all the prayerful support offered to Rachel and myself at this time.

As a Church we are looking at opening up for worship in the near future. There will be a ‘Plan’ of worship created to begin on Sunday, 6th September. Risk assessments will be carried out for this and more information will follow. There will be only one Service on a Sunday at 10.00 am. This is, at the moment a temporary, but necessary requirement, as we cannot ensure safety of all by having two services. The Coronavirus lingers for 72 hours and without a deep clean between Services the risk is deemed too high. There are plans being developed for this Service to be accessible to people in their homes as we recognise there is a need for this. We also have safety of all at the forefront of our minds and don’t want people to feel an obligation or duty to come to Church, as we can find ways of bringing Church to you where ever you are.

I hope that this temporary arrangement will allow us all to praise God’s holy name together and strengthen us at this time. As we draw closer to God together, the Spirit will bind us close and enable Rachel to return into this lovely, Spirit filled Church and enable us to go forward in growing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. If you have any questions please do contact me on any of the above media and may the peace of the Lord go with us all.
Gordon

Gordon’s July Circuit Pastoral Letter

Dear fellow disciples of the risen Lord, Jesus Christ.

It was with sadness that we said farewell to Revs. Preben and Ruth, alongside Margaret and Richard, on Sunday. Whilst we couldn’t gather, the Podcast put together by Cliff Randall and his team was wonderful and, hopefully, allowed our four dear friends to know how appreciated they have been and are. We look forward to welcoming them back to the Circuit next year when we can gather and say a personal thank you.

This watershed event is a prompt to bring an update about where we are as a Circuit, and as Connexional Church.

Circuit Meeting

We have not met, formally, as a Circuit Meeting since November. However, the appointed Leadership Team have been extremely busy on behalf of the Trustees of the Circuit Meeting ensuring that safe and legal procedures have been followed through. From advising running taps and flushing toilets, to Safeguarding audits, to agreeing a budget for next year, work has continued. A formal letter went out to all Trustees and we are in a position to move forward into the next Connexional year in September having fulfilled our legal requirements for this year. The CLT are due to meet at the end of August, and we hope to be able to organise a Circuit Meeting as soon as it is safe to do so.

Finances

Roger Langford has worked closely with church treasurers and has gained agreement for next years budget. About £44,000 has been taken from Circuit reserves to assist local churches over the two quarters of lockdown. This has been agreed by the Circuit Meeting. A budget for next year has been agreed. As a CLT, as Synod and as a Connexional Church we are aware of the significant challenges in front of us all. Roger will continue to work closely with church treasurers.

Re-opening of Churches

The Welsh Government has issued guidelines as to the re-opening of places of worship in Wales. These include provision for safe distancing, the numbers of worshippers allowed in a space (currently the limit is 30 max), no communal singing and steps to be taken for the giving of Holy Communion. The Methodist Church gives guidance too. As a CLT we are keen to see our sacred and community spaces open up as safely, and quickly as possible. As such we advise the following:

A/          Each Church/Chapel needs to complete a written risk assessment and demonstrate that they have implemented this before allowing people back into their space.

B/        We recommend that Sunday worship be continued in it’s current format, which is done in various ways across the Circuit. This continuation is until August 30th as we will be planning for Sunday worship from September 6th.  From September it is recommended that there be only one Sunday Service in any given Church.

C/        We recommend that Churches attempt to open for prayer in a corporate way, if desired, on a weekday in August, allowing people to safely access ‘their’ sacred space before formal worship commences on a Sunday from September. This is a recommendation, not instruction, but, for Insurance purposes, we do insist on a written risk assessment being completed prior to opening up.

D/         The Churches can start to plan for community use of their building. The Welsh Government guidelines indicate that they are willing community spaces to be used from Monday August 3rd. Any user group needs to produce a written risk assessment that the local Church Council are willing to agree.

E/        We will try and update Property Stewards of new guidelines as and when they arrive.

Staff Matters

As indicated in my last letter we have brought forward a planned restructuring of the Circuit into 4 Missional Hubs. As such, a local Preaching Plan will be prayerfully compiled in and for each Hub.

Chepstow & Caldicot Missional Hub: Overseer: Rev Rachel Frank

Preben has retired and is moving over the water to Clevedon. We wish him and Margaret all the best. Revs. Joe Rooney and Lin Healey will take pastoral responsibility for Caldicot and Rogiet. Rev Gordon Gresswell for Earlswood Hope/Valley and Penycaemawr, with Rev Rachel Frank having pastoral responsibility for Chepstow and being the Missional Hub overseer.

Monmouth Missional Hub: Overseer: Rev Bethany Willers

Bethany and her husband, Joel, come to Monmouth in August. They replace Ruth and Richard as Ruth takes up an appointment in the Dorset South Circuit, herself being based on the Isle of Portland. Bethany is a MOCC Minister, Minister from Other Church or Conference, in this case the USA Conference. She brings a wealth of experience and we look forward to welcoming, as a Circuit, Bethany and Joel, once it is safe to do so. There is a ‘local’ Welcome Service with the Chair of Synod, Rev Stephen Wigley on Sunday September 6th, that will be, due to safe spacing, by invitation only.

Newport East Missional Hub: Overseer is Rev Les Jones and he is excited about this new venture.

Newport West Missional Hub is myself and I, too, am excited about this and look forward to working closely with Rev Paula Rose Parish and the Circuit appointed Mission Developer, Tim Crahart.

Local Preachers

The coronavirus lockdown has revealed some creative and imaginative ways of worship. It is hoped that the online presence will continue, and people are to be encouraged to use their gifts. Upon re-opening from September, Local Preachers and Worship Leaders will be, certainly for this first quarter, to be as local as possible, primarily in their Missional Hub and certainly in shaping the context of delivering Passionate Worship in their local Churches.

We have not had a Local Preachers Meeting during lockdown. My hope is that we will arrange one for the Circuit when it is deemed safe enough to meet. It may be that the local Missional Hub Local Preachers and Worship Leaders will be able to meet on a more regular local basis sharing creative ideas and helping to shape Passionate Worship in their Local Churches and Missional Hubs.

Circuit Stewards

The Stewards continue to work hard in the background supporting the Circuit, myself and the staff members. They have all agreed to serve another year and Keith Harvey has graciously agreed to stay on as Senior Steward at this time due to a pastoral need. I publicly thank them here on all our behalves.

Stationing

We have no stationing needs at this point. We have agreed to work with 4 stationed presbyters at this point and in light of the uncertainty of the current times, this is a relief.

Synod and Connexion

Conference met electronically and there is a briefing from this available on the Circuit website. Synod has postponed the September 12th Synod and hope to have this in the Spring of next year. The discussion on Marriage and Relationships was postponed at Conference and we await the next steps.

On a personal note can I say a big thank you for all of the prayers, support and encouragement many have given me. I find being a Superintendent really challenging and I appreciate the graciousness in which people cover up my mistakes and offer wise counsel. This has been the strangest of times for us all, and I have heard so many wonderful stories of  God’s grace amongst his people. There is an article in the next Link magazine about the Missional Hubs. I truly believe that this pandemic has shown the value of local over global, and passionately believe this is the right structure for the Circuit going forward. There will be niggles, but, in Christ, we know we are more than conquerors.

Shalom,
Gordon

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