March 2nd 2021

A Message from the Superintendent Minister          March 2nd 2021

Dear Friends,

Greetings to you all as we approach the one-year mark from when Covid-19 really started to make an impact in the UK and we became aware that there might be a need for a period of lockdown.

In May 2020, in the third month of lockdown, I wrote about the ways in which the pandemic was starting to impact upon the church and in the world. I wondered if we could be a Church which is flexible enough to respond in a situation of crisis, which has an informed and prayerful understanding of the social and political context in which we live and move, and I talked about how the things we were discovering could offer a vision, a renewed identity and a potential strategy for the Methodist Church moving into the future.  I asked the question whether or not in the Methodist Church, we could take the whole pandemic situation and the things which it has been teaching us in the wider world, and create our own change and critical mission response which prioritises those things which are at the heart of scripture – love of God, made manifest in love of neighbour, and the proclamation of justice for the most vulnerable?

How the church will look as we emerge from the crisis is still not totally clear. In our own Circuit at least 2 churches have needed to come to the sad and difficult decision that they can no longer continue to meet in their existing premises.

How the church will look as we emerge from the crisis is still not totally clear. In our own Circuit at least 2 churches have needed to come to the sad and difficult decision that they can no longer continue to meet in their existing premises. This is very tough, of course, but I also believe that we have a great opportunity if we can resist the temptation to go back to exactly how things were before. Remember those questions:

“what would Jesus do?”, “where would Jesus be?”, “who would Jesus be alongside” and “what would Jesus say?”

In trying to respond to them, a group of Methodists, myself included, wrote in June last year, an ‘Open Letter’ to the British Methodist Church which ended up being signed by over 700 people – you may be one of them! The letter has provided an impetus to continue to think about what we can learn from a year of global pandemic, and how we can shape the Methodist Church in a way which places social justice at its heart as a key priority for growth alongside discipleship and evangelism. Many of those who signed the letter have been involved in a process of conferring on Zoom over the last few months to continue to dream and to develop the thinking of the Open Letter, exploring what needs to happen for its vision to be realised. It is now the start of Lent 2021, and clear goals and objectives are emerging. I want to share with you the ‘Lenten Update’ from the Open Letter. Some of the ideas within it are already reflected in Connexional initiatives and this is a cause for celebration. Others will require further engagement and commitment from Methodists to ensure they come onto and remain on the agenda for the British Methodist Church. This can, and is already happening through personal, local church, circuit and district actions and hopefully this Summer through the formal structures of Methodist Conference. I want to encourage you to think about how some of the ideas and actions within it might be relevant in our own churches and circuit, and to start a conversation locally! At the heart of all this is the belief that the search for justice in the church and in the world is the foundation of who we are as Methodists, not just one piece of the jigsaw. This includes racial justice, gender justice, justice for those who identify as LGBTQI+, environmental justice, economic justice, justice for all who find themselves marginalised. Here is the update.

Following on from the Open Letter to the British Methodist Church

A Lenten Update

The Vision 

 A Methodist Church with social justice at its heart as a key priority for growth alongside discipleship and evangelism 

In order to achieve this:

There is a need to create an environment which will engender deep systemic and cultural change

This will involve (Goals):

  • Greater grass roots participation in decision making and the setting of strategy
  • Developing a flexible use of resources
  • The Church having a ‘louder clearer voice’ into situations of social injustice

The following specific objectives have been defined as ways of reaching these goals and fulfilling the vision which has been defined:

1. Greater grass roots participation in decision making the setting of strategy 

  • Make Conference a ‘year-round’ conferring body using Zoom or similar.
  • Embed conferring into the Connexion at all levels in order to achieve a less hierarchical feel - find and listen to the voices of young people specifically, and all those in the pews, the marketplaces, and communities on and of the margins.
  • Seek greater transparency, grass roots involvement and positive action in appointments to committees, voluntary roles, and the Presidency. 
  • Encourage all churches to conduct an audit of priorities – what we will do and what we won’t do - whilst emerging from lockdown, challenging congregations to use this liminal moment in a missional way and including people on the margins of the church.

2. Developing a flexible use of resources

  • Advocate for a total re-think of Connexional structures (District and Circuit), which is not a re-arrangement of what currently exists but something more fundamental that releases people to focus on social justice, alongside discipleship and evangelism, and not just on buildings, finance and numerical growth. 

  • Use church land for permanently affordable housing (e.g. Community Land Trusts, best value disposals, partnerships with Registered Social Landlords) and voluntary/cell communities.

  • Use church land creatively within the community, seeking partnerships with other community based organisations to meet local needs.

  • Seek to change Standing Orders to allow other World Faith communities to use Methodist buildings for worship.

  • Explore creative ways to redistribute wealth across the connexion, placing money and personnel into work with the poor and those who suffer injustice.   For example, churches and circuits with significant Model Trust Funds offering interest free loans or grants to  churches and circuits working at the economic margins.

3. The Church having a ‘louder clearer voice’ into situations of social injustice

  • Establish a Connexional Campaigns Team to assist the Methodist Church to:

    • campaign openly on justice issues, not restricted by the need for ecumenical consensus or JPIT’s work programme

    • be able to speak swiftly and clearly, through local and national leaders, into situations of injustice.

    • Support , and be informed by, those engaged in direct, prophetic action in situations of injustice.

    • Support, and be informed by, those holding local or national political office Find ways of giving JPIT a higher profile as a policy, research and advocacy body by, for example, reporting annually to Conference.

    • Re-affirm a commitment to organisations which have historically been part of the Methodist Family -  Action for Children, MHA, All We Can and The Fund for Human Need, recognising them as more than the recipients of fund-raising but as key partners and expert witnesses as the church speaks into situations of social injustice. In addition, explicitly partner with other organisations such as the Fairtrade Foundation, Christian Aid, Eco Church and Citizens’ UK, which are focused on changing the systems which keep people across the world in poverty.

    • Re-discover and define anew an identity which respects the origins of the Methodist tradition of placing social justice at the heart of the Christian life.

    • Promote existing and continue to produce new theological materials and resources for prioritising social justice, for lay, ordained and those in ministerial formation. This could include, for example, a social justice lectionary and preaching resources.

If you are not already a part of this conversation and movement towards action, and you would like to be, please email methodistopenletter@gmail.com
 
And please remember as always: 
In this time of isolation and separation may we feel the unity of God’s spirit in the bonds of peace and love which connect us to one another.

  1. When we feel lonely let us know that in Christ we are never alone.

  2. When we feel isolated may we be reminded that within the worldwide Body of Christ we are always connected.

  3. When we need a hug help us to feel the warmth of God’s embrace

  4. When we are compelled to keep our distance, may we be drawn close to each other within the Spirit of Companionship that flows from God and which moves through and between each one of us.

With love, blessings and deep thanks for all your messages of sympathy and love over the last few weeks. They have been a great comfort and source of strength to me.
Rev Cathy


Notices

Helpful hint to find Zoom links quickly - Go to the calendar on the website (click here). 

If you click on the event you would like to attend, a box will pop up with the Zoom information. You can click on the link and go straight into the meeting. 


Worship

See your local church notices for details but for the time being we are continuing our Circuit wide Zoom service at 3pm on Sundays.

Login details as usual as follows:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87212246881?pwd=VXpyMzRYV21UZ1ZoYlkvc2R4dmV1QT09

Meeting ID: 872 1224 6881    Password: 974333


Circuit Lenten Study Course: ‘Life Changing Stories: Scripture From the Margins’ 

Every Wednesday in Lent 7pm -8pm on Zoom, starting Wednesday 24th February to 24th March led by the ministers. 

The Bible shows us again and again that God is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. People on the margins. But too often, when we read scripture in our churches, we focus on other aspects of the story, or we are so familiar with the text that we don’t notice the challenging things it has to say to us.Scripture from the Margins is a series of Bible studies that encourage people to focus on the voices and perspectives in scripture that we don’t usually hear in our churches. If you are hoping to join the course, please download the associated book here: https://www.church-poverty.org.uk/bible/lifechangingstories/
If you are unable to download the booklet please contact your minister or Christine Hufton in the Circuit Office and we will get a printed copy to you. email admin@stockportcircuit.org.uk or phone 0300 0110 015 (Option 1). 

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87212246881?pwd=VXpyMzRYV21UZ1ZoYlkvc2R4dmV1QT09

Meeting ID: 872 1224 6881    Password: 974333


WE NEED YOUR ENTRIES!! Forty Days of Faith

During Lent, we want to share what our faith means to us with one another through social media. You can find more information on how to get involved by clicking here. Look out for #FortyDaysOfFaith on our social media feeds.


All WE CAN are also running an online Lent Course ‘Change Begins in Lent’ running at 8pm every Wednesday in Lent. To register please go to https://www.allwecan.org.uk/event/lentgroup/


**NEW** Stockport Digital Lending Library 

Starting Point have set up and run Stockport's first digital lending library, which provide computers, tablets and phones along with internet access to people who need it, for example for online school work or job seeking. They currently have around 300 devices on loan across Stockport, around 1/3 of which are being used to access school work whilst schools are closed due to the pandemic.
If you have a device that you no longer use, please consider offering it to them. They can make sure it is cleaned of your data and ready it to pass on, so you don't need lots of technical knowledge to be able to do this. If you think you have something to donate, please contact Ryan McMurdo on  07817-824-680 or e-mail ryan@startpoint.org.uk. The team can arrange for any donation to be collected from your house in a covid secure manner, or arrange a time to drop it in at their office if you prefer.

Click here for more information.


TRAIDCRAFT - LIVE FAIR FOR LENT TUESDAY 9TH MARCH on Zoom

We're excited that here in the United Stockport Circuit, as part of the Eco-Task Group, we have the opportunity to attend a presentation by Matt Oliver, who works for Traidcraft, highlighting all sorts of ideas, products, producer stories, and facts about Fair Trade. It will highlight the fact that Lent isn’t all about giving things up, but can be an opportunity to learn and try out new things – and that when people ask you whether Fair Trade makes a difference, you’ll have some answers. You don’t need to let us know if you’d like to come, but if you’d like a copy of the new Traidcraft catalogue beforehand please get in touch (details below).
Topic: Lent Road Show (Cat Stoker)
Time: Mar 9, 2021 06:30 PM London
Join Zoom Meeting The presentation will start at 6.45 but the zoom meeting will be open from 6.30.

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86805452033
Meeting ID: 868 0545 2033

In addition, I have plenty of stock in at present, so I’d love to hear from you if you’d like a Covid safe Traidcraft delivery.
Catriona Stoker, Dialstone Lane Methodist Church, Tel 487 2010; email – cat.stoker@btinternet.com


Circuit Prayer 

As we continue into lockdown, let’s continue to say this prayer together when we can, at 11am on a Sunday morning. This way we stay connected in a very really and tangible way with all those who are not yet able to come back to church. You can also read more about each church on the Circuit Website www.stockportcircuit.org.uk

God of Love and Life, we pray to you this morning for the life the United Stockport Methodist Circuit, for our sisters and brothers who belong to:

Christ Church Methodist /URC (Reddish)

Dialstone Lane Methodist Church

Davenport Methodist Church

Edgeley Community Church

Hazel Grove Methodist Church

Heaton Mersey Methodist Church

Heaton Moor United Church

Jubilee Methodist Church, (Marple Bridge)

Marple Methodist Church

The Ridge Methodist Church (Marple)

Romiley Methodist Church

St. Johns Methodist Church (Cheadle Heath)

Tiviot Dale Methodist Church (centre of Stockport)

Trinity Methodist Church, (Bramhall Lane)

Windlehurst Methodist Church (High Lane)

Woodley Methodist Church

We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.  We ask that this time of crisis might pass and that those who suffer might find comfort and strength within the knowledge of your grace, revealed through the kindness and compassion of the people of God. Eternal God, through the self-offering of your Son you have filled our lives with your presence.  Help us in our sufferings and trials. Fill us with hope and strengthen us in our weakness.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


 


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