Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Since I last wrote Downton Methodist Church has closed. The closure of any chapel is a sad moment, for endings are always difficult for us. We share the pain of those who have had the courage to make this final decision. However, this is also a moment to celebrate the commitment of many people over the years, their dedication to lives of worship, prayer, study and outreach.
When a chapel closes the public face of the Methodist witness is closed with it, but there is no reason why the continuing witness through the lives of the Methodist people may not continue. This ongoing witness may lead to new life springing out of the apparent death of the society, all this is in God’s hands.
We are not alone in struggling to respond to modern society, the Post Offices, Woolworths, BHS, and other familiar and seemingly indestructible institutions have all closed. The difference is that for them closure is a defeat, for us closure simply gives us resources to respond to further opportunities. In my first circuit I had pastoral charge of Lisieux Way Methodist Church, which had been built two years before I arrived at the meeting point of three housing estates. About a quarter of a mile away had been Victoria Methodist Church which was closed some 60 years before and the congregation had moved up the road to another Methodist Church. Had Victoria still existed there would have been no need to build Lisieux Way and the opportunity to serve these new estates would have been lost. Sometimes we need to be patient when we see death but cannot yet see the resurrection.
The closure of a society can be felt as a threat by other societies, ‘They have closed will we be next?’ Perhaps some better questions would be:
‘Is our building an asset or a burden?’
‘If we had no building would we continue as a Methodist society, and if so in what way?’
‘How would we continue to serve our community?’
‘What do we Methodists offer which is unique in our area?’
Our origins are as a spiritual movement within the Church of England, we had a distinct welcome for those who were rejected by the Church. Our theology convinced us that God loves everyone and that Christ died for all. Does our worship welcome those who find themselves rejected and marginalised in our communities today?
Your brother in Christ,