Pause for Thought

 

Prayers during the coronavirus pandemic

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15 September 2020

A new Methodist year

At the beginning on a new Methodist year, the Revd Richard Teal  reflects on the challenges of life in recent months and the path ahead.

May I express my profound thanks and appreciation to you for all the cards, letters, emails and gifts which you have kindly forwarded to me since I became President. I cannot begin to express my profound gratitude. The Ex-President Dr Barbara Glasson shared with me on a number of occasions how I would feel the prayers and love of the Methodist people and how right she has been. Thank you.

September is the beginning of a new Methodist year. Everything starts up again after a welcome break during the few weeks of summer. Not this year! We are in different times. Covid 19 has affected us all, whoever and where ever we are. When the virus has   cleared away will everything go back to normal? At this stage we don’t know if we will be totally rid of this virus in the future and what about the poorer countries of the world?

Some churches have been hugely creative during these last few months doing things they never thought possible. Other churches have done very little. Ministers have been learning new skills and ministering in differing ways whilst others have felt totally overwhelmed. Whatever our situation, many of us have stopped what we have normally been doing and have reflected deeply. Stopping and reflecting amidst our ever increasing frenziness is a good thing. One of the great leaders in the Old Testament is Nehemiah. We tend to think of him as a man full of activity and action. Remember how he amazingly rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. When he arrived in the city he didn’t start work immediately because he didn’t know where to begin. He didn’t organise people straight away to start work on this huge building project. He stopped, observed and listened and only then did he know what to do and the rebuilding started. He didn’t rush to respond to the devastation  he found in Jerusalem, he took time to listen and discern before knowing what to do.

Is this where we are as the Methodist Church at the moment? Do we really know where we are going as we move from disorientation to reorientation? I believe we need to be like Nehemiah and do some deep and real listening to where the spirit of God is leading us. This is not to be passive or inactive, but to do some vital theology together as a Church. Real theology is not a learned experience. Real theology is thinking with the mind of Christ.  Henri Nouwen once wrote, ‘The Christian leader thinks, speaks, and acts in the name of Jesus, who came to free humanity from the power of death and open the way to eternal life’. If this is true then that deep listening to God is to discern how God is acting in this time of COVID 19 in our personal lives, the Church, society and the world and to really listen is to discern where is he leading us and to follow.

This is no easy task, since God’s presence is often a hidden presence and through deep listening and reflection that presence is discovered. The huge concerns of COVID 19 can make us deaf to the gentle voice of God, so as a church, together we are called to help people to hear that voice. Christian leaders today have to discern the signs of our times which are counter cultural and deep listening to Christ, is required. Christ did not cling to power but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant. We live in a competitive and ambitious world but to discern the mind of Christ for our times is to seek that discernment in another place where hope is to be found.

We commence a Methodist new year in a very different way to what we expected a few months ago. If by the end of the year as a church we have reverted to our usual ways and practises we have missed a huge opportunity to move from disorientation to reorientation in a new age. So, may we use this time to discern the mind of Christ for His Church as we listen deeply together in these concerning days, knowing always that as we do, we are indeed a community of resurrection and in the words of our founding father ‘The Best of all is God is with Us’.

Richard J Teal, President of the Methodist Conference.

 

A Prayer for Beirut

On 4 August, a devastating explosion occurred at a warehouse in the Port of Beirut, causing widespread casualties and catastrophic damage to homes, hospitals, and other buildings throughout the area. Initial reports indicate more than 135 people were killed, and an additional 5,000 people were injured.

Action is now being taken to find many more, who remain missing. It is estimated by the Lebanese Government that the explosion has left more than 300,000 people homeless. Hospitals have struggled to cope with the number of casualties, with many intensive care units already near capacity as the country struggles to deal with the impact of Coronavirus.

All We Can is working with a local partner in Lebanon to help provide th*e support needed to those in greatest need. Please give generously to help save lives today. www.allwecan.org.uk/give/current-appeals/beirut/

 

Prayer from the Revd Ruth Gee, Assistant Secretary of the Conference.

As we continue to see and hear reports of devastation in Beirut we pray for those who are bereaved or injured and for those responding to the catastrophe that has engulfed the city.

Gracious God,

We pray for those who live and work in Beirut that

the bereaved may be consoled and

the injured comforted and healed.

We pray for the rescue services and the hospital staff

giving thanks for their commitment and skill.

In the midst of catastrophe we pray for peace, truth and justice.

As the sound of explosion fades and the smoke clears

give wisdom to those who lead,

courage to those who serve,

and hope to all.

Amen.

 

A Psalm of lament and praise in a time of coronavirus

How shall we praise you, Lord, our God?
When we are locked down,
how shall we praise you?
When the doors to your house are barred,
and your people cannot assemble?
When those desperately in need of money and work
cannot even wait in the market-place?
When we have to circle round people in the street,
and to queue for shops maintaining safe distance?
When we can only communicate

by hearing on the phone,
or seeing on the screen;
or digitally messaging,
or even just waving through a window?
When we cannot meet our parents and children,
grandparents and grandchildren,
or other family members and friends?
When we cannot touch them in their flesh and blood,
to know they are really alive?
How shall we praise you?
How, like Thomas, shall we not see yet believe
that your son is raised among us?
How shall we praise you?

How can I praise you, Lord?
Are you plaguing us with this virus
to punish us because we have all done wrong,
or thought wrongly,
or felt wrongly,
or just been wrong?
If so, why do only some die,
and those, apparently, the ones who are the least worst or most caring amongst us?
Or are you trying to teach us a lesson?
If so, why is it so hard to learn?
And how are we to find the answer
when we do not even know the question?
Or are you still the same loving God,
coming to us in our sufferings
and opening up the way to new life in Jesus?

Lord, I will try to praise you.
Through gritted teeth,
I will try to praise you.
I will try to remember that you have created all things,
and this virus is part of your creation.
I will try not to hate it
but seek to mitigate its harm.
I will try to keep myself and others safe.
I will work to pray for them
and seek to help in whatever way I can.

Lord, when I cannot pray or worship
help me be aware of all your people
and your saints and angels
hovering around me,
lifting me up.
When I feel alone,
let me feel you near me,
even if only for a moment that enables me to go on.
Let me hear you say
“Peace be with you”.

Lord, I will praise you.
Let all the peoples praise you.

 

The Revd Kenneth Howcroft 

 

Thy Kingdom Come 21 - 31 May 2020

The global movement of prayer between Ascension and Pentecost is all set to go.

How are you taking part?  

Thy Kingdom Come - Jasmine Yeboah, Youth President of Methodist Conference 2018-19 (with subtitles) from Thy Kingdom Come on Vimeo.

 

A prayer for uncertain times

coronavirus story laptop reform amj

The Moderators of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church (URC), the Revd Nigel Uden and Derek Estill, have offered the following prayer as the UK and the rest of the world come to terms with the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

‘God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.’
Psalm 46:1, NRSV

As so much is re-shaped by Coronavirus Covid 19, let us pray with

people left unwell, beckoned by death or bereaved;
people providing professional health care and advice, looking after loved ones at home or working to create treatments and cures;
people shaping the response of nations and neighbourhoods, of commerce and industry, of service and voluntary organisations and of communities of faith;
people who are anxious or afraid, alone or isolated.

Living, loving God,
we praise you,
and through times of peril we lean into you,
for in Jesus Christ
you have trodden paths as difficult as ours,
revealing there a love that nothing defeats,
a love that bears us through.

Even as we strive to behave responsibly,
and to care reliably,
so we feel after you
that in these uncertain times we might trust you are with us,
our refuge and strength,
and our faith, hope and love might be renewed,
through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

Image: Andy Jackson/URC
Published: 14 March 

 

A poem for a new year


Years turn their page
Patiently the author
Writes fresh dreams long- hand
On the scrumpled sheets of lives
Quill or fountain pen or comic sans
The story comes to light
Word writes words
Erasing life’s blots and scribbles

The future pulls in her skirts
Rounds the corner
To dance or teeter
With reckless hope
Who knows, only a Holy Spirit sketches
Such lines, such movements, such faith!

The Revd Barbara Glasson