Pink Streak

During Lockdown, feeling a bit low one day I dyed a Pink Streak in my hair (for a bit of fun) and I must admit I was surprised at the reaction, a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it!! I sent a photo to my daughter who came back with “I do hope that is a Photoshop Mother and your grand children are not impressed” As I don’t know how to do a Photoshop I informed her that it wasn’t, my eldest sister thought I was “brave”, my great niece thought it was “fantastic” and my friend thought it was very Zandra Rhodes. My granddaughter Ellie saw it as an act of rebellion (which I suppose in away it was) and asked if I was a rebel when I was young (back in the dark ages to Her!!!)

I wouldn’t say that I was a rebel, I didn’t wear a Ban the Bomb badge and I have never been on a demonstration but I was never afraid to speak up.  One day at school a girl ( Janet) in our class was given a detention for talking, to which I piped up saying “that’s not fair miss, Janet wasn’t the only one talking” so Miss put the whole class in detention, as you can imagine I was not very popular that day.  I believe I found my voice after being Baptised at the age of 14 and becoming a member of my Baptist Church where I was encouraged to attend and take part in church business meetings (I don’t think I was allowed to vote at that age).  I have often written to my local councillor and MP of issues and concerns which have resulted in positive outcomes.

Coming into Methodism during the 1980s and becoming a Circuit Steward, attending District Synods and even having the privilege to attend Conference in London,  I have experienced that we all have “a voice” within the Methodist Church.  Our Church stewards are there to listen (they are not there just to put the hymn numbers on the board and show you to your seat on a Sunday) along with the Church Council representatives to any concerns you have and to take them to the Church Council which is the governing body of our church and as there are going to be many changes when we eventually get back together as a Church Family and within the Circuit your voice is valued as “The Body of Christ” as we go forward in love to Worship and serve our Lord in whatever we can.

I think maybe I’ll try a Blue Streak next time !!!!  Kathy

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

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

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

Be Blessed

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

These words of Jesus offer comfort when life weighs us down. Come to him, as you are, with your doubts and your fears and know that you are wrapped in God’s love.

God’s Jigsaw

We are all part of a jigsaw puzzle. There’s no picture on the box that we can see, in fact there isn’t even a box. God doesn’t fit into a box. We have to find where we fit into the picture. 

We are made in all different colours and shapes. Our task is to seek out whose hands we need to hold to create links between us. There will be people we don’t connect with but someone else will, and so connecting the whole, completing the picture. 

God calls each of us to find our place in his jigsaw.

Words by Karen
Image by Pam