Forest Methodist Circuit - Company Message
Message from the Superintendent Minister  
Rev Tony Malcolm
From the Superintendent’s Desk:

The Church – post lockdown
During this lockdown, I’ve seen much to indicate that there are people out there with far too much time on their hands!! Whilst others seem to use their time to learn new skills and complete projects they have been meaning to do, but never had time. In years to come we will no doubt be reflecting on the implications of the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown.
I’ve personally had the opportunity to revisit some of the things I have been thinking about throughout my ministry, and in the process had to ask if they are still relevant. Some are, but with others the work has changed – never to be the same again. So, as we’ve not been able to use our church buildings for the last 10 weeks, I’ve revisited one of my favourite questions.
Some of you will know that one of my favourite questions is ‘What if ….?’. So certain pop songs of years gone by feed this imagination within me – playfully sometimes, and more seriously at other times - such as ‘What if God was one of us?’ (Joan Osbourne), and ‘Imagine’ (John Lennon).
It’s not surprising, then, that I’ve been thinking about church, and our relationship with our buildings. In trying to get to the heart of ‘church’ I found I had to deal with the building the church meets in. I’m reminded that the building should serve the church and its mission, not vice-versa. So, I started wondering ‘What if our church didn’t have a building?’ Strip away the building, the ties to the building, the familiarity we’re used to and meet in a rented hall on Sundays!
Would this give us a true picture of our church? We say we’re a welcoming church, without ‘our’ building would be still be as welcoming, as friendly, as supportive as we are now? Would the groups we support survive (not necessarily the ones who rent a space as needed - but the church groups) – are they important enough to us for us to continue investing in a space for them?
In this hall where we would meet, who would set it up for worship? Would we have chairs in straight pew-like rows, or would we be more adventurous? When would we meet? What if the hall is not available at 10.30 on Sunday morning? What would be our icons, visual aids, windows into worship? (bearing in mind we would need to set them up and remove them each week).
Finally, how important would small groups be during the week? – House groups, cell groups, fellowship groups. These are the power houses of any church:
–       the places where we can ask questions – however ‘silly’ they may seem to us;
–       the place where we can reveal our weaknesses – knowing we’ll be supported;
–       the place where we can share our strengths – in the hope that they will be of use in building up the whole church;
–       the place where we can rehearse our prayers and praise for the times we will worship together;
–       and the place where we can generally grow together in the grace, knowledge and love of God.
We are the church of Christ. In this season of Pentecost, and as we anticipate the lifting of the lockdown, what if God has plans to take us out of our comfort zones? Are we ready? Are we willing? Or will we set conditions, like ‘subject to things staying as they have done in the past’? Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians wrote these words, ‘In Christ Jesus the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.’ (Eph. 2:22, NRSV)
May God bless you and bless us together as we seek his will for us and the communities we serve.
Love in Christ,
Tony Malcolm (May 2020)

I had just started think about putting some thoughts to paper (Yes! I still use pen & paper) about the importance of church pastoral systems and the support groups at this time, when I received these thoughts from Revd Bhogal, expressing some of the things I was thinking:
I dislike the term "self-isolate".  We don't want anyone to isolate or exclude anyone.
Of course we want everyone to take care of themselves and others.  We are all used to the idea of staying at home for the sake of health.  We want to watch over one another with love.  The commandment to love God and your neighbour as yourself is best practised in reverse order.  Love yourself first.  You are number one.  Be a sanctuary to yourself. This is not a selfish thought.
If you can love yourself and be gentle with yourself you will better be able to love and look after and provide sanctuary to your neighbour.  As we are advised on aeroplanes, in case of emergency put your own mask on first before you assist others.  If you don't, you will not be able to help others. If you love yourself and your neighbour, you are expressing your love of and for God. This is true spiritual devotion.
And remember that Jesus only ever mentioned one number.  He said "where two or three are gathered together in my name I am there in the midst of them".  Be in touch and in communion with two or three.  This is the beginning and deepest form of Church and communion and community.  Such contact is manageable. Worship centres are closing.  Organise your congregation/community/group to be in conversation and communion with each other in 2s and 3s.
Do not practice isolation.  Live in the confidence that God is with us and desires fullness of life for all.  Do not doubt that you have communion and sanctuary in God.
Blessings and Peace.
Rev. Dr. Inderjit Bhogal
17 March 2020 

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