Newsletter February 18th 2021

United Stockport Circuit (Manchester and Stockport District)

Circuit Newsletter February 16th

This week I am standing in for Cathy as she is taking some leave, and I am sure that we all wish her a good rest and a time of refreshment following the sad loss of her mother.

Today is Shrove Tuesday, and my husband, also a Methodist Minister, is having back-to-back Pancake services, gatherings and feasts, all on Zoom, of course! 

Why do we do this?  Well, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and it is a tradition designed to use up all the luxury items in the kitchen – eggs, milk, butter, and whatever you put in or on your pancakes – sugar, syrup, cheese, bacon, etc. so that your kitchen is free from luxury and, I suppose, temptation for the coming weeks.

But why do we do that?  In the past, perhaps more than now, Lent and Advent were seasons in the Christian year where we paused and reflected, and fasting was to help us do that.  To deny ourselves of something we really enjoy is a discipline which we undertake not grudgingly, but joyfully as a way of identifying with Jesus spending 40 days and nights in the desert and undergoing the temptations – not just the temptation to eat something when he shouldn’t, or to take a short cut to achieve something, or to do something spectacular for show, but to think about just how he was going to work out his ministry which he was about to embark on.

And this is where Lent – and Advent for that matter – can be useful for us, too. 

It is all too easy to continue in the usual pattern of doing things, as individuals, and as Churches, because that is the way we have always done them.  That is the way we like doing things – it’s worked before, so why not now.

But God doesn’t call us to tread a rut, the same this year as last, and the same again next.  God calls us to follow Jesus where he leads us; to listen to the voices which are speaking today and hear what is needed now, not last year, or next, but to do what is needed today.

To prepare ourselves for this time of reflection, we are invited to a special service on Ash Wednesday.  By the time you read this, it will be past, but don’t worry about that.  This service is a time in which we reflect on the things we have done wrong, or could have done better, or just not even attempted but know, deep down, that we should have.  It is a re-learning time; a time to repent, to receive forgiveness, and to commit to trying to do  better.  In the service we have the sign of the cross placed on our foreheads, and when we leave the service, this is visible to all we meet.  It is, in effect, a statement of what we are and what we are about.

And Lent has begun.  It can feel as if we are entering a tunnel; a narrowing down of horizons; dark.  No options to turn to right or to left, we just have to keep on in the one direction until the light appears at the other end and we burst out of the tunnel at the other end, and into the joyful light of Easter and spring.

Yes, Lent can feel a heavy time.  A questioning time, a time of self-discipline, and a time of self-examination, and a time to listen to what God is telling us and not just going off following our own thoughts and preferences.

But shedding the burden of past wrongs and knowing that we have been forgiven clears the way for this very special time of searching.  It is easier to focus, easier to think and easier to see the way ahead.

So this Lent, so different from any that any of us will have experienced before, in a time that is unlike any we have experienced before, spend some time asking God what God wants of you now.  This may well be different from what God wanted from you in the past and may be different from what God will want of you in the years ahead.  Together with other people in your church ask what God wants your church to be doing now (or when we’re able to do things together again), which may well be different from how things have been done in the past, and different from how God will want us to do things in the future.  Use this Lent to recognise that we are living in a world that is rapidly changing and we must adapt to meet new needs and demands.

Together we can answer God’s call for here and now.  It’ll be challenging, it’ll be exciting and maybe a bit scary.  But when God calls, God equips, inspires and supports.

And remember, Sundays are not fasting days, so there are some lighter moments!  

Yours,

Lindsay


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.

  • When we feel lonely let us know that in Christ we are never alone.
  • When we feel isolated may we be reminded that within the worldwide Body of Christ we are always connected.
  • When we need a hug help us to feel the warmth of God’s embrace
  • 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.

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.

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. 


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

Every Wednesday in Lent 7pm -8pm on Zoom, starting Wednesday 24th February 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

See Helpful hint to find Zoom links above.


Forty Days of Faith

During Lent, we want to share what our faith means to us with one another through social media. 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/


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 real 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:

(pausing briefly to reflect after each name)

Christ Church Methodist /URC,     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, though 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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