My Day of Blessings

The ‘novelty’ of lockdown was wearing off. The hot weather gave me the excuse not to go out unless I really needed to, and I was spending too much time sitting slumped in a chair reading a book or fabric painting. Not a good idea for someone with back and neck problems that need regular exercise and to be free from tension. Crafts that I normally enjoy were becoming ‘jobs’ to be done rather than a relaxation and pleasure. I was suffering from a lack of motivation and beginning to feel sorry for myself and not counting my blessings.

Friday had not begun well, I didn’t feel refreshed when I woke up, my back and neck were stiff, and I had a headache. I couldn’t make up my mind whether to have a shower and hair wash or just a shower. Friday is the day I check bank statements etc. It’s easier to pick up mistakes in my ledger weekly rather than monthly, so I decided to postpone shower decisions until that job was done. All went well until one building society would no longer accept my details. They had performed an ‘update’ and would no longer accept hyphens in usernames but had omitted to tell anyone! The phone rang; it was an unexpected call from one of my daughters who had thought I had sounded rather lacking in spirits the previous day. I had a moan about the intermittent problems I was having with my phone line and that I wanted to talk to someone about a minor query I had about my prescription. I didn’t want to be a nuisance and bother the surgery or Pharmacist as they were under pressure. She listened patiently and I felt better for offloading and decided to try to do something about the land line. That’s Blessing number one: – A daughter who cared and listened to me moaning about trivial things.

I could only speak to a machine which couldn’t cope with an intermittent problem, so I tried a ‘Live Chat’. I ‘talked’ to a very helpful gentleman with an unpronounceable name, who much to my surprise, has arranged for an engineer to call on Tuesday morning. He ended the call by telling me to ‘keep safe’ and ‘Blessings’.  That was Blessing number two.

It was now lunch time so I had some food and a sleep to try to clear the headache. I was contacted by the Pharmacy to say that my repeat prescription was ready for collection, so I made the effort to go out and get it. I was handed the packet and a slip asking me to contact the surgery for a medication review. Expecting to have to wait at least a week, I phoned the surgery for the review and was asked if Monday morning would be convenient. That’s Blessing number three

I then received a text message from a friend saying that my name had popped into her mind so she thought she would enquire how I was. That’s Blessing number four

During the morning I had heard a bang on my kitchen window and realised that a bird had flown into it. I didn’t investigate and forgot all about it until evening when I was watering pots on my patio and saw a dead baby sparrow; its underside was still fluffy. I felt rather sad about it and was reminded that God cares about every sparrow that falls. I couldn’t remember where the verse was so went online to look it up and a passage from a commentary came up. In Biblical times sparrows were looked on as pests, a nuisance and worthless. So that verse shows how much God cares about us and all of His creation. God cares about me and my small concerns just as He cares about the death of the baby sparrow. I couldn’t just put it into the dustbin, so I buried it and thanked God for His love and care. So, what started off as a miserable day was really a day full of Blessings.

Written by Joy Wilson

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

Lambing Time

April is an exciting time on the farm. Preparation has been made months before; getting the lambing shed ready and keeping a close eye on the expecting ewes. We wait with anticipation as the lambs arrive and ensure the mum and her babies have bonded well before the little family are let out into the paddock in the warm sunshine.

It’s easy for a ewe and her lambs to be temporarily separated as she leaves her youngsters asleep under a tree while she moves around grazing on fresh spring grass. When the sleeping lambs open their eyes and realise mum is no longer next to them they feel abandoned. They call out alarms with their bleating, rushing around to locate their mother. The ewe responds and bellows for her lambs. Quickly enough, the lambs recognise their own mum’s call, distinct from all the other ewes’ bleating, and once again they are reunited. Lambs rush in directly underneath her as if they had never fed before.

Occasionally, a young lamb will need to be bottle fed, 3 times a day for 3 months. They know who is bringing them their warm milk and will rush to the side of the pen, clambering over each other as if calling out “Feed me first!”. The person who feeds them needs a calming voice, to gently settle the excitement, with each lamb called by a nickname rather than just a number. This unnatural bond becomes regular and familiar as time is spent talking to these little characters.

Months go past and all the season’s lambs are ready to be weaned off bottles and their mums. They no longer get all their nourishment from milk and so roam the fields like gangs of teenagers. When it’s time to bring them in for routine jobs like vaccinations or medications, its easy to spot the bottle-fed lambs amongst a group of a couple of hundred lambs. You only need to stand in the field and call for them and a dozen 30kg sheep come galloping, close to bowling you over. No bottles or any other enticements needed to gather this group together as they know the voice of someone who protected and nurtured them.

Just as Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me’.

by Anna Birt (Pam’s daughter)

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

Easter Sunday

At last the Sabbath was over.

Usually a day full of happy remembrances and gratefulness for all that YHWH had done for us in the past.  A time to be with family and celebrate together,

Not this week.

This Sabbath was full of grief, disappointment and confusion.

The man we had followed, loved and recognised as our promised Saviour

WAS DEAD

A horrible, painful, shameful death.

Strange and frightening things had happened as he died, thunder, darkness, voices. Rumours that the curtain in the Temple had been torn from top to bottom, tombs had opened and the dead were seen walking about.

All we knew was the pain of losing a loved one.

As soon as the Sabbath was over we went to purchase oil and spices to anoint and prepare the body for burial.

After a sleepless night we took the oil and spices and set off to the place where Jesus’s body had been placed.  The sun was rising; the darkness was leaving the sky to welcome another beautiful day.  We could not appreciate it; we were full of grief and questions. 

Were we strong enough to move the stone from the mouth of the cave?  We had heard that soldiers were guarding the cave, would they help us or turn us away?

All we wanted was to perform the final act of love to the body of the man who had meant everything to us.

Imagine our amazement as we reached the cave.

The stone had been rolled away, the guards were asleep, the cave was empty, and the grave clothes were folded.

A bright light shone in the cave.

It dazzled us.

A voice spoke,

“Jesus the Nazarene has risen from the dead, He is not here”

Was it an angel?

One of our group, Mary Magdalene, saw a man that she thought was a gardener, she asked him if he had been the person who had moved the body and if so, could he tell her where it had been taken to?

He looked at her, His eyes full of compassion and love and called her by her name, Mary.

It was Jesus, our Lord.

We were told to go to the Disciples and tell them what we had seen and wait with them until He came to them.

Confusion fled. Joy returned.   We remembered all that Jesus had told us and at last we understood His words.

Jesus had defeated death and was alive.  Everything he had said had been fulfilled and was true.

Amen.

By Joy Wilson.

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

The Lord is my Shepherd

I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul …

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23 (ESV)

Palm Sunday

As the day of the Great Festival drew near, it was all hustle and bustle.  Preparations to be made for friends and family to join us at the Festival.

Food to be planned, accommodation to arrange

and a whole host of other things to do.

I was busy from dawn to dusk!

Then I heard a rumour that Jesus, the teacher, who was supposed to have raised the dead, healed the sick, made blind people see and even walked on water was coming to Jerusalem with His disciples.

It was only a rumour, but I would love to see the man who had made friends with Tax collectors and prostitutes and upset the authorities!

 Perhaps he would do something spectacular?

The crowds are getting bigger

The rumours are flying around

‘He is coming’

‘No, he is not’

‘Yes, he is’

Then, one day I saw a man riding on a donkey, surrounded by a group of shabby looking men.  He did not look like a miracle worker or king, but there was something about him that drew my attention.

I do not know what it was.

He had kind eyes, the sort that smiled at you as if he knew you and cared about you.

Then

Something extraordinary happened.

People began to break branches from the trees and wave them; others laid their cloaks onto the ground for him to ride over, just as if he was a king or a hero returning from a war.

Then

A shout went up.

Alleluia

Hosanna

Welcome to the King of the Jews

The Priests and Romans will not like this.  I do hope that they will not send soldiers to break up the crowds and destroy the happy atmosphere.

I joined in the shouting and cheering.  I could not help myself.

Slowly the procession passed by and the sounds died away into the distance.  I was thrilled, confused, troubled, had many questions and did not know what to make of what had happened.

Ah well, no time to brood, back to the preparations.

But

I will never forget his eyes and the effect they had had on me.

by Joy Wilson.