As with the Academic world and the Judicial system of this country, September the First marks the beginning of a new year in the Methodist Church. It’s not entirely inappropriate for me to begin this Pastoral Letter for the Autumn Preaching Plan by using the familiar greeting to wish you ‘A Happy New Year’.
We may reflect on the past year – or rather the year and a half of the pandemic, and our reflections may lead us to see the period in entirely negative terms. Certainly, in many ways, Covid 19 has had some very devastating effects on individual lives, on society and on the whole world. Literally every continent and every corner of the world has been touched and people’s lives altered. It doesn’t end here, and the virus continues to take its toll and will have a long reach into the future.
It’s not all negative. It’s not all negative for the Church, although we undeniably have had to cope with very severe restrictions and disruption. We have learned new skills and broadcast services, which enable an inclusivity to those unable to attend physical church, are now part of the norm. We have reached out in pastoral concern for one another. We have had an enforced pause in the relentless hurly-burly of our lives with time to perhaps sit and think or just enjoy the natural world around us.
Part of my purpose is very simply to say Thank You. Thank you especially to those who have worked tirelessly through this period to maintain the very fabric of Church life. Our teams of Stewards – Church and Circuit, property, finance and all involved in the day to day running of the organisation that, in honesty, is a time consuming and energy demanding enterprise. I have recently written to our team of preachers – lay and ordained, to thank them for their continuing creativity, commitment to the task and devotion. I am glad to share that note of thanksgiving here too.
Most of all, Thank You to you, the members and supporters of the Churches that make up the family of the Salisbury Circuit. Thank you for your resilience, your consistency and your faithfulness.
And Thank You to God! In one of his New Year Hymns, Charles Wesley wrote ‘His providence has brought us through another various year.’ That’s true – as are the familiar lines of faith and commitment –‘We’ll praise Him for all that is past, and trust Him for all that’s to come.’
Bryan Coates, Acting Superintendent Minister.