from our Ministers Joseph & Peter
and our Family worker, Troy...
“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true,”(Revelation 21:5).
Happy New Year, and welcome to 2021. I hope that wherever you are reading this Pastoral Letter from, you are looking towards a fresh start. Because the start of a different year should help us to look forward with a different perspective. The past has gone, and as it says in Isaiah 43:18: “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.”
And as you know this is also true for myself, Mareike and Joel. Circumstances in our personal life means that we are leaving the Circuit towards a new life in Germany. As a Family, we must fully rely on God to help us to discern, not just through Covid19, but also to filter through the effects of Brexit. But we hold unto one vital truth, that Jesus says: “Behold, I create a new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind,” (Isaiah 65:17).
That even today after the year 2020, we look forward to a time when the New Year will be permanent.
But I share this reminder to us to look at a fresh start and perspective for another reason. Because I have heard people say in regards to the year before that, “I will be glad to see the back of it.” And then the year after is also filled with uncertainty and circumstances that we cannot change. So, then I ask the question: “What is it people are looking for, relief and security in the here and now? Things to be comfortable and easy within this life?”
But I want to share something with you that might not be easy to hear: we have no guarantees that things will be easy, and if you are truly in Christ then you are “meant to take up your Cross daily.” The road ahead will be full of ups and downs, but for the follower of Christ we know that the road ahead is narrow, and only a few find it. This is because we are not meant to stay static, we are meant to live everyday like it is a New Year. The Believer in Christ is meant to live one day at a time, forgetting the past, and not worrying about the future. Every day to the Christian is a fresh start.
Therefore, to quote mine and Mareike’s marriage hymn is “Great is thy faithfulness” because of one specific line: “Morning by Morning new mercies I see, all I have needed thy hand has provided.” Because we know in our hearts that no matter what lies ahead, our Father in Heaven is leading our steps. And our prayer is that God will continue to lead your steps no matter what circumstances you face in your life.
Let me finish with Jesus words from Matthew 6:25-26:“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”
I hope that this New Year of 2021 we keep reminding ourselves the vital question Christ asks us in Matthew 6 “Are you not of more value than they?”
Amen. Troy, Joseph and Peter.
from Rev Joseph Suray
“And love consists in this: not that we loved God,
but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
(1 John 4:10).
In spite of the past year’s difficulties, hopefully my previous letters have been a motivating factor not just for you, but also for me to press on with assurance, confidence, courage, and trust in the Lord during this Christmas season. Knowing that we are empowered to rise up with a fresh attitude, to live for the purpose God has for us, experiencing His presence here and now should fill us with a joyful spirit!
For me, assurance begins with whom God is and what He promises about salvation, as we, as sinful people accept and believe the mighty work of God on the Cross.
However, the word assurance brings mixed feelings of pain and joy today. All my human efforts to read about other gods made my soul restless with the fear of sin leading to death. When I was introduced to the Gospel of John in my school days, I was encouraged to read, “But as many as received him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: ”(John 1:12) This liberated me to live my life differently. It not only humbled me but also encouraged me to know that the eternal, holy, immortal God has taken time to think about me, to love me as his special child, to invite me to believe in his son Jesus Christ who forgives sins and transforms me into a new creation. John says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). God so loved the world is the complete expression of his relationship with humanity. I wondered: how can God love me when there was no genuine fear of God! I realised that my assurance of being forgiven and salvation does not come from my own achievements.
When I believed in Jesus as my Saviour, I began to understand that God’s assurance was at the cost of His only begotten son (2 Peter 1:4). “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). It is amazing to know the assurance Jesus offers to those who believe in him. “Jesus said to Martha: "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). Jesus gives the assurance of eternal life and a joy that cannot be crushed by any powers of darkness (Romans 8:38-39).
May I remind us all that we know that we can have the assurance of salvation when we realise that we are sinners. We repent, return to God and believe that we can never be saved by anything that we do, but only because of His love is so extravagantly poured out on us in and through his son Jesus Christ who gives us the blessed assurance of eternal life and joy.
For many, the Christmas season brings mixed feelings. For some it brings joy, but for others it brings only fear of uncertainty, loneliness, and sadness. This year Christmas is unlike any other, but it makes us to ponder on God’s amazing love that is showered upon us through his son Jesus Christ. I pray that this Christmas season may be celebrated without hectically rushing around! I imagine most of us have already experienced and are tired of not being able to do what we ‘normally’ do during the Christmas period. Let us affirm that the greatest good news is that God comes to us as Immanuel. Whoever you are, whatever you do, whatever fears you are living with, there is an opportunity for you to have Jesus in your life and he is here to empower you to overcome those fears.
So, do you look forward to meeting him in prayer and in his Word? During these challenging times, try to re-discover Jesus as your Lord and Saviour –and share your joy with someone. Let us not be afraid, no matter what we face, because we have the Gospel of Assurance, Hope, and joy. Let us praise Him for all that is past and trust for all that is yet to come because he says, “Do not be afraid”. So, my friends, may I wish you all the Gospel of Assurance in order to have a fearless Christmas and joyful New Year in 2021. Know that you are not alone, but the Lord God is with you always.
Shalom my friends, shalom.
God bless you all, Joseph, Peter, Troy
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4 NJKV).
This is one of our most beloved Psalms, filled with passion, pathos, and profundity and it exudes a deep sense of trust and confidence in God’s provision and protection. Psalm 23 is the ‘go to’ source of solace for soldiers going into war and a repository of peace for hospital patients facing surgery. It is a fountain of wisdom and inspiration for ministers needing a word from God to support and encourage grieving families at funerals, and a word of hope and comfort to businessmen in the face of bankruptcy. One Chaplain recounted the many occasions Bibles had to be replaced in the hospital Chapel because the page containing Psalm 23 was constantly being torn out by those desperately seeking God’s help and hand of intervention. These precious words are a source of light when the darkness threatens and danger terrifies. David did not choose these word by chance. They captured for him an entire array of emotions, challenges, difficulties, misfortunes and setbacks. He especially remembered those days as a young boy when he was alone in the Judean hills tending the sheep and been keenly aware of the threat to his life from brigands, bears, and wild lions. Can you imagine yourself as a young teenager standing before a towering giant who is threatening to grind you into ‘mincemeat’ and feed you to the birds? Or walk in his shoes as a successful warrior who was instrumental in setting your people free from an oppressive nation only to be criticised by your brothers and, after an initial euphoria, rejected and persecuted by your King and father-in-law who placed a bounty on your head because he was jealous of your success. Finally, go sit with him in the Cave of Adullam, desperate and alone, as he cries out to God in those turbulent and tempestuous moments which captures so poignantly what we call ‘the dark night of the soul.’ Here are some words of wisdom that you may find instructive as you pass through the valley of the shadow, endure the night of weeping, and wait patiently for the ‘morning’ for God’s promise to be fulfilled. 1. VALLEYS ARE INEVITABLE: Those seasons when you pass through the valleys are a part of life’s journey. You may have just come out of a valley, or you’re in one right now, or you’re probably headed towards one. Jesus was very realistic about it. In John 16, He says “In the world you will have trouble.” It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. You’re going to have difficulties, disappointments, and moments of discouragement in life. They are going to happen. They are a normal part of life. Don’t be surprised by it. 2. VALLEYS ARE UNPREDICTABLE: You can’t plan them, time them, or schedule them. Valleys are always unexpected. They usually come at the worst time — when you’re unprepared. Have you ever had a flat tire at a good time? Jeremiah 4:20 says, “Disaster follows disaster… In an instant my tents are destroyed, my shelter falls in a moment.” 3. VALLEYS ARE IMPARTIAL: No one is immune or insulated from pressures and problems. When you are facing difficulties and dogged by insurmountable odds it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re a human being. The Bible is very clear that good things happen to bad people and sometimes bad things happen to good people. Valleys are impartial. 4. VALLEYS ARE TEMPORARY: David says, “Even though I walk through the valley…” Valleys are not a permanent location. It’s something you go through – a circumstance, a situation that has a season to it. When you’re in a valley you often think it’s a dead end, but it’s not. 5. VALLEYS ARE PURPOSEFUL: The apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 1:6-7, “At the present you may be temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials.” He had the wisdom garnered from his experience to understand that trials are temporary and do not last forever. Remember, when you are going through trials and valleys that they are not accidents or freaks of nature. God can use them to strengthen our faith and transition us from one season to another and move us from glory to greater glory in our walk with him. Trails and valleys are purposeful. When we go through the valleys of life the scary parts are the shadows. David did not say that he walked through the valley of death, he said “When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” One day, someday, a shadow is going to fall over your life. When that moment arrives you need to remember three important things about shadows: 1. Shadows are always bigger than the reality. The fear we feel is sometimes greater than the actual problem. It’s the fear that is enormous. 2. Shadows cannot hurt you. A Shadow is a figure that is produced from the blockage of light. It is not the real thing, it is only a reflection of that reality. The shadow of a dog cannot bite you because it is not the real animal. Have you ever been run over by a shadow? There is a difference between the shadow of a truck and the truck itself. Shadows are images without substance or power. They cannot hurt you. They can scare you, but they cannot harm you. They are just shadows. 3. There is no shadow without a light somewhere. When you’re going through a dark valley it is easy to imagine that the sun has stopped shining. But whenever there is a shadow it means there is a light somewhere. When you start being afraid of the shadow in the dark valleys of life turn your back on the shadow and look directly at the light and the shadow falls behind you. No matter how dark a shadow is, it is a reminder of the presence of light because it is when light is shielded, that a shadow appears. When you’re afraid, don’t look at the shadow look to the light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). I find the words of Helen Howarth Lammel (1863-1961) written for struggling saints walking through the valley of the shadows both empathetic and instructive: O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Saviour, and life more abundant and free. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Don’t look at the shadows. Don’t be intimidated by the darkness. Remember, it is in the darkness that Satan develops our negatives. When you’re walking through the valley, look at the light. Ps. 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” The current pandemic has cast a long and menacing shadow across our world. Its potency, resilience, and power has intrigued and baffled scientists and governments. We may well compare this spectre to travelling through a tunnel without an end. Let us remember that pandemics may be potent but they are not permanent. May we fix out eyes on the God of hope and ask for his wisdom to find a solution. As we pass through this valley of the shadow let us remember those immortal words of our spiritual father John Wesley as he concluded his pilgrimage here on earth which he uttered with such sublime confidence: “The best of all is, God is with us.” Every blessing in Christ Jesus, Peter, Joseph, Troy.
A NEW BEGINNING
pastoral letter for the Methodist New Year
A Call to Press on for a New beginning ....!
"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ
Jesus," (Philippians 3:14).
I write this letter as we enter a new Methodist year: a moment when we look back and reflect on how we began last year. It becomes clear that we have only managed to come through so well because of God’sgrace. We are called to press on with a vision of heaven which calls us to leave our past behind in order to have a fresh and new beginning. How true it is: “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion's never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).
God has spared us for another new year.
Paul too had his past; he was a leader, a scholar with a great position in his community but was also the persecutor of those who followed Jesus. He agreed to and witnessed Stephen’s death, but from the moment he encountered the risen Lord (Acts 9) his life was changed with a new purpose. He wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”(2 Corinthians 5:17). He could have returned to the past and continued with his old life, but he affirms that in Christ his past is forgiven and he is now empowered for a new beginning.
After many years of serving Christ, he had the humility to write to the Philippians, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). It is clear that ‘pressing forward’ only becomes meaningful when we leave behind our unhelpful pastand embrace the new, not fully known to us now. Although Paul considered the Philippians his “joy”,“crown” and “pride”, he also recognised the deep divisions and quarrels within that early church. Paul was aware of various personality clashes in the church, and therefore he wrote; “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord....” (Philippians 4:2). To agree, meant to let go what had happened in the past. It also meant embracing something new that would enhance their fellowship and bring them the joy of being under the Lordship of Christ. By his own example, Paul was encouraging the Philippians not to dwell in their past, but to grow to know Christ more deeply so that the fellowship might grow deeper.
I am inspired by Paul’s determination to focus on the “prize” to which he aspires. For him, the new life was to live for Christ alone and to die meant only “gain” (Philippians 1:12). The “heavenward in Christ” vision compelled him to keep going without turning back to the old life. He was a true disciple of Jesus, doing exactly what was expected of him (Luke 9:23, 62). To achieve his goal, he was willing to pay the price, leave behind everything that was precious to him: his Jewish tradition, education, name, fame, position and possessions. Not only did he renounce all these, but considered them all as “rubbish” in order to press on to something unexpected, new, fresh and unknown, by trusting the Lord Jesus, his only vision in this world. (1Timothy 4:8).
We all have our past: we all carry something within us, which has hurt others or broken relationships. This can prevent us from moving forward for His glory. So, let us take time to be still in the presence of the Lord and honestly ask the Holy Spirit to show us where things have gone wrong in our lives and how to put things right. God is only able to help us if we are open to listen and learn from him and have the humility to say “sorry”. I am sure, there is no better ambition in our lives than for God to be glorified, even if it costs us our pride, self-righteousness and self-made positions and possessions that have prevented us from being Christ-like. We need to rejoice and know that despite our weaknesses, we are called to re-enter the new covenant that gives us the joy of belonging to his eternal love and teaches us to love one another as Christ loved us.
Let us commit our lives into God’s hands where we are strengthened to leave our past behind and Press On to start afresh so that the Kingdom of God may grow!
Shalom my friends, shalom.
God bless you all,
Joseph, Peter, Troy.
TITLE: THE CHURCH OF THE FUTURE
Words such as ‘COVID-19’ and ‘coronavirus’ have not only impacted and transformed our vocabulary,
the pandemic has changed the socio-political
landscape and created a seismic shift in our thinking which has left
governments and institutions scrambling to reinvent themselves and develop
fresh ways to engage and serve their communities.
School and Universities have turned to online teaching. Restaurants have
changed from a sit-down dining experience to outdoor or take-away
service. Churches have also moved from gathered assemblies to ‘online
sanctuaries’ in their homes. Digital worship has become the defining worship
experience of these challenging times.
What of the future Church? We need vision, courageous leadership and the faith of godly men and women to enable the church to see beyond the fears of the current crisis and grasp the unique opportunities of the present to build the church of the future. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are in the midst of truly radical change, the kind of cultural change that happens only once every few centuries. When the dust has settled, we may begin to view the current cultural shift on the same level as the invention of the printing press. This is a seismic shift and those who are passionate about the mission of the church should see this as our wake-up call because every time there is a change in history there are potential gains and potential losses.
This mini treatise is not a “Word from the Lord”, rather it represents a heart cry from my own personal reflections to see the church fulfil its mission and purpose as the people of God for which we were created. The thoughts I offer should therefore be considered as my thinking in pencil rather than ink.
The church, throughout its history, has always adapted to respond to the pressing needs and concerns of our community and society. She proved her resilience during the fall of the Roman Empire by her readiness to serve the common good when institutions and the social order were collapsing. She stayed vigilant as her post in the midst of epidemics and major pandemics and was the vanguard serving the weak, the poor, the suffering, the needy and the abandoned.
Our mission is to serve; our resolve remains strong, passionate, and purposeful. In the midst of all the debates about the future of the church, the cynicism and despair, we need to remind ourselves that the church is Jesus’ idea and not ours. He said: “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” (Matt.16:18). The church will always survive whatever the mishaps, missteps, or cultural trend that is happening around us. The church has an incredible history of overcoming and breaking through in every generation to share the love of Christ with a broken world. To the cynics and critics, who have long predicted the end of the church, we can say with utter confidence that “the reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated.” Every generation experiences change. My Father-in-law is ninety-three years of age. It is simply amazing the magnitude and scale of changes that he has experienced in his relatively short lifetime. The truth is, while some people fear change others ride the wave and reap the benefits. In the same vain the current challenges might prove to be too much, and churches and entire denomination might expire. The difference will be between those who robustly cling to God’s mission and those who cling to their model of the church. When the car was invented the railroad, barons opposed it with every fibre of their being. They saw the new invention as an obstacle not an opportunity. Why? They had lost sight of their mission. Their mission was not trains but transportation. The car represented a revolution in human transportation which allowed people to travel at a level they could not have before with the added benefits of freedom and independence. Had the railway Barons understood their mission they could have been the first to invest in this transportation revolution and the returns would have been astronomical.
God’s mission is the main thing. As someone has said, “The main thing is keeping the main thing the main thing.”
We need to stay focused on our mission (leading people to become fully devoted followers of Christ) while investing in growing our innovative and creativity base. Again, we can learn some vital lessons from the business world. Companies that show innovation and creativity around their mission, such as Samsung and Apple, always outperform those companies that remain devoted to their methods such as Kodak. Look at the changes that have occurred in the music industry over the past two decades. Look at the trend. The mission remains music, but the model is always shifting… moving from 8 tracks, cassettes and CDs to MP3s and now streaming audio and video.
Our models and methods may change but out mission - God’s mission remains the same. Having spent the last four months in lock-down even with some measures easing there are those who are speculating that Church gatherings have become a thing of the past. This is naive speculation. The narrative of the inevitable decline of the Church is a historically inaccurate piece of wishful thinking on the part of secular humanists that we must not internalise. While it may be true that we will experience some losses, what remains an unchangeable fact is that the Christian Church has always gathered because we are a communal faith, one body with many parts (see 1 Cor.12:12). We are at our best when we gather together to demonstrate our oneness and unity because that act of gathering far surpasses our individual efforts.
Being the Body of Christ in this new environment means that our gatherings, rather than suffering terminal decline, would have undergone a metamorphosis, a rebirth, a resurrection, a transformation into a radical community that is ecclesial in nature but looks very different in terms of our organisational structure and missional engagement. Some people are beginning to ask the question, given this extended period of lock down, is the mega Church dead? There is nothing inherently bad about mega churches. The Churches in Jerusalem and Ephesus were significant in terms of their size and missional reach. What we should focus on is effectiveness rather than size. In that regard there are effective mega churches as well as effective small churches.
My personal hunch is that in the future we will continue to see multiple expressions of the church in terms of size, relevance, and effectiveness. Some large churches will multiply significantly. We will also see multiple expressions of the same church happening at different locations at the same time or at different times to suit the missional needs of the local community. Under a structure of shared leadership, churches will meet in places ranging from large arenas to simple venues such as restaurants, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, fast food outlets, and homes under a missional structure that is light weight and low maintenance. The effectiveness of the church in this new paradigm will not be about our size but how well we make disciples.
Here is a challenge that we need to wrap our minds around: if you make disciples, you will always get the church.
But if you make a church, you will rarely get disciples. We are not called to assimilate people into the life of the church but to make disciple. That call still remains. It never wavers and it never changes. Make disciples!
For the church in the future we need courageous leaders who will challenge the status quo and overturn some of the comfortable assumptions from the past. We need to prune our structures, lay to rest what is not working, and be bold enough to take risks in a missional environment of unknowns.
One of the fruitless assumptions that is embraced by many churches is that increased attendance will drive engagement. In this new environment it is the engaged that will attend because only the engaged will remain. This represents an exciting shift because, throughout history, the church was at its best when engagement drove attendance. For years we have held on to the assumption that the more a church grew, the more activity it should offer. The more people in attendance the busier the schedule should become. This led to a programmatic approach to ministry. The more courses we plug people into the more they would grow in their discipleship. The outcome was that many ended up burnt out and eventually dropped out of the church. In cases where people stayed, they ended up with no life except church life. Families became swamped and overloaded because they did not have the space to be families.
We need to remember that we are at our best when we equip our people to live out their faith in the world. In order to do that we need to release them from an endless cycle of programmes and do a few things well that complements their witness and not compete with their already overloaded agenda. One of the vital lessons we need to learn in this new missional milieu is that churches that focus their energies on the few things they identify as their unique best will emerge as the most effective churches moving forward. Remember, less is more because it releases you to be more focused, dynamic, and intentional. This pandemic has been disruptive in terms of its social, spiritual, economic and political impact and revolutionary in terms of the ideas it has spawned and crystallised. We need to pay attention to these emerging trends because they are, and will continue to play, a significant part in shaping the way we live in the present and the future. The use of Digital technology has exploded which includes the boom of web-based businesses such as Zoom and local digital production through technologies such as 3D printing. There is no need for me to elaborate extensively on the benefits of 3D printing in these deliberations but one cannot underestimate its role, contribution, and impact in the current crisis for creating PPEs and other critical components and parts for equipment and machinery in the current battle with this pandemic. The Zoom platform has enabled the church to beef-up its online presence through digital church services, online prayer groups, online Alpha Courses, Parenting Courses, and a range of meetings which made the church more accessible to those who are just looking or beginning to explore faith, as well as supporting regular church members during this time of confinement. Churches have coped well despite the closure of their buildings. They have adapted by digitising their content and ‘meeting’ in each other’s homes digitally, a response that takes us back to a format that strongly resonates with the church’s roots and early missional impulse. There is a plethora of conversations about the merits and demerits of online church. I would caution any rush to judgement and encourage a spirit of openness to assimilate and learn from the collective wisdom of our partners. How we manage this new digital space will have serious consequences in terms of safety, safeguarding and legal liability. Safety protocols should not be seen as barriers to this ‘new world’, rather they are our friend or critical friend on this journey. Online church is an opportunity for those who have no other access to church. It is not a substitute for the gathered church which requires physical presence and human relationships.
The church at its best is a gathered experience and nothing can supplement this vital part of being the Body of Christ and having relationships that are real, open, vulnerable, deeply fulfilling, and accountable When the dust of the pandemic has settled, pastors, church leaders, and missiologists will have much to say about the emergence of online ministry and the new role of online Church as a missional tool. I believe that online Church will become the shop window or front door of the Church for those who are curious, unconvinced, or who want to retain a sense of anonymity while exploring what Christianity is all about. We engage in the same process when we shop online. Rarely do we purchase a product however attractive, without first reading the online reviews or visit a place of interest without scrutinising the myriads of visitor comments to satisfy our interest or curiosity that this is a wise investment or a worthwhile trip.
Online Church will be the front door for strangers, seekers and believers looking for a new spiritual home. People will be able to attend church meetings, prayer meetings, small groups, and access courses and information online at a time that is more convenient and in tune with the rhythm of their domestic agendas.
The church of the future starts here. It represents the new normal to which we have arrived, only we are still trying to figure out the contours and important landmarks of our new environment. The challenges we face at this juncture in our history should be met with the same counter-cultural combination of humility, grace, boldness, and expectation of God’s manifest presence that characterised the pioneering pilgrimage of the early church and other periods of renewal and vitality in the life of the church. I pray that we may all see this crisis as a God given opportunity for reflection, repentance, spiritual renewal, and a renewed call to fresh missional engagement to make disciples.
Every blessing in Christ Jesus,
Blackheath and Halesowen Pastoral Letter
“The Lord Almighty is with us…” (Psalm 46)
By God’s grace and strength we have completed another month in isolation for which I thank God.
Not knowing what is awaiting us in the days to come we shall continue to trust God because He knows what is ahead and He will sustain us. Therefore, let us offer all that is known and also the unknown to Jesus, all for Jesus, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1Wa2msOq9c&list=RDmv8wo-t6C1I&index=6
As we know that the CV19 has impacted us so much that it has raised many questions. It will not disappear so soon but will present a continuing challenge for us to live our lives carefully and meaningfully to be fruitful in all that we intend to do. Therefore, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ( Hebrews 4:16 NIV). In the light of the government advice and Church office, it is a challenge for us to see how we are preparing ourselves in terms of worship, different activities and fellowship groups in relation to our Mission and Ministry. This matters for all who have responsibility and duty of care for people in our churches. It is not what we wish or intend to do for one day but the greater question is what Next after every next?? So let us place our lives into his caring hands,
There is no doubt that CV 19 presents practical challenges for all churches in terms of human resources, age, underlying health conditions and also how we continue to maintain the social distance as we come through the doors of our buildings. Also how we encourage all those who use our buildings for different activities to do the same. I am confident that we shall overcome and we will come out stronger but before we come out of the lockdown we need to ask the following questions for us to reflect objectively–
1. What are we going to leave behind,
2. What are we going to let go,
3. What are we going to bring out with us and
how are we going to live our lives in relationship with each other and God?
I am aware that while trying to do different things in order to meet the needs of families, we also need to pay careful pastoral attention to the older generation…. Once upon a time they were always young and energetic like some of us today and that is how they have established the existing Christian witness and built the buildings for us to come together to worship. So how are we going to rise up to re-build the broken, damaged walls today so that we may also leave a lasting legacy beyond our boxes for another generation to know Christ and worship God?
I am conscious that with all our difficulties, we are brought to a situation to use the opportunity to renew our faith in Christ and to know that the God we have been worshipping all these years is not dead and abandoned us but he is with us, He will strengthens us to follow him till we complete the race on this planet.
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23).
In times like these we are called to be firm and hold fast to the hope we have claimed all these years because the one who has called us is faithful and he will see us through.
CV19 will continue to change our way of living, thinking, relationships, attitudes and how we spend our remaining life in serving God. I pray that when the restrictions are eased, people may have the courage to trust each other, confidence to start fresh by maintaining any social distances and be liberated from any fear that may hold any one back from joining the fellowships. I also pray that people may experience fresh healing touch of Christ in their body, mind and soul; that they may also experience reconciliation to God and to their past months in order to trust him for the grace to move on; that they may know that our life is God’s gift, every morning when God wakes us up he places eternity in our hands, empowers us to live that eternity today and therefore recognise that this life will pass away soon without our permission. As we are not here on this planet forever, let us live the eternity today with a sense that every day is the last day of our life on this earth. Therefore, “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews. 10:22 NIV).
It is my hope and prayer that this Pentecost be the Explosion of the Holy Spirit in the life of every individual of our Circuit in order for the nation to explode with the good news of Jesus by all means to reach out anyone at any cost to know Jesus.
May I encourage you to what St Paul says,
(1 Corinthians 15:57-58). May the Lord be your Strength and shelter for you to be safe forever.
Be assured of my prayers for you all.
God bless you all. With much appreciation.
Joseph, Peter, Troy
OBSTACLES AND OPPORTUNITIES
One of the rare gems of blessing that we discover through our relationship with God is that obstacles can become steppingstones for great and exciting opportunities for personal growth and development and for advancing the Kingdom of God. David, a Shepherd boy, with no apparent military skills, confronted and defeated an opponent who outmatched him in size and strength. What seemed to be an unfair contest became an opportunity for David to demonstrate his skills and prowess on the field of battle.
An army that was being gripped by fear and terrorised by a seemingly unassailable enemy, and on the verge of defeat, rallied behind David’s inspirational leadership, routed the enemy, and rescued their nation from a future of subjugation and oppression. David saw this obstacle as an historic opportunity, a defining moment, in which his destiny would change from being an unknown Shepherd to Israel’s future anointed King. He chose faith over fear. His heart as a worshipper and his calling as a warrior were stirred when he heard the Name of God being defiled and his army defied. Both Saul and David heard the challenge of the huge Philistine. Saul, who was Israel’s greatest warrior hid in fear. David, a nipper of a lad, seized the moment, rose to the challenge, and won glory and honour for God and freedom for his people. The rest as they say is history.
One of the most significant principles of leadership that is illustrated and confirmed in the story of David is that a crisis will reveal the true nature and character of a leader. Saul, who was the current king, was by contrast, a ‘lid’ holding back the potential of the army and the future of the nation. He should have been an example of courageous leadership to unite the army and ignite their potential into a formidable fighting force (See 1 Samuel 17:52-53). He sent others when he should have gone himself and later allowed his poor self-image to cloud his judgement regarding David. This proved to be a serious obstacle that undermined not only his relationship with David but prevented him from capitalising on key opportunities to advance the nation and grow in his obedience and walk with God (Read 1 Samuel 15).
Everyone who wants to lead must first be a good follower. The greatest leaders are servant leaders. On one occasion Jesus shared some perceptive insights on leadership with his disciples when a dispute broke out among them about who should hold the senior positions in his future Cabinet. He called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).
The manner in which a leader chose to exercise power and use his authority will reveal the depth of his character and shape his destiny and that of those under his leadership. Power in the hands of a leader can become a corrupting influence and an obstacle to personal growth and self-development or it can be stewarded and exercised for the common good, where it is used to transform dungeons of darkness into domiciles of hope, prosperity, national regeneration and transformation. Ultimately, power does not corrupt, it simply reveals the true nature and character of a leader. That is the law of leadership and the true nature of power.
The Covid-19 crisis has revealed a number of servant leaders, like Captain Tom Moore, who has shown us that great age and the lack of physical agility should not be an obstacle or an excuse not to serve others. He has demonstrated that a person with restricted or reduced capacity can overcome obstacles and seize the opportunity to serve the common good. The heroes whom we applaud every Thursday remind us of the very best of our humanity and give us an opportunity to celebrate the depth of commitment and sacrificial service that is unstintingly given by our Care Givers. It has revealed that at the heart of our nation are people who are not motivated by selfish ambition but a self-less desire to serve the weak and vulnerable with love and compassion. Three cheers for our Care Givers!
These are indeed strange and unprecedented times. For many, these uncertain times have created a sense of disorientation, fragility, vulnerability, and fear. In my judgement these are not just strange but serious times in which we need to choose to live serious lives if we are going to change the course of history. COVID-19 has ensured that life will never be the same again, and we have to choose, not how we live after this crisis, but how to live during this crisis, because how we live now will determine our future. What is the current spiritual picture that is emerging in our nation? Are there any clues or insights? The April 27th edition of New Statesman Magazine reported that more people have been engaging with religion since the lock-down. In March, the Bible App downloads shot up globally at an unprecedented rate. The top English language Bible was installed over two million times, the highest ever recorded for March. Eden, the UK’s largest online Christian Bookstore have seen physical Bible sales increase by 55 % in April, and according to CRUX, an online media platform reflecting Catholic views, Google searches for “prayer” and “Christianity” have skyrocketed. There are reports that 25% of people in the UK have watched an online service during this lock-down season, ten times the number that normally go to church. Holy Trinity Brompton, one of the largest Churches in the U.K., has seen double the number of inquirers signing up for their online Alpha Course. I am excited because people are hungry for spiritual things and are asking questions. This crisis has triggered an historic spiritual moment and we need to be ready for the harvest. When the harvest is ripe if we do not reap it, we will lose it.
Our response should be twofold: prayer and action. Thy Kingdom Come, is a global call to prayer between Ascension and Pentecost (May 21st – 31st). What a wonderful prospect to pray: come Holy Spirit and let thy kingdom come. During these eleven (11) days let us pray that we will see the life-changing power of prayer in our families, churches, communities, country, and the world. O Come Holy Spirit! Grant us a harvest of souls. (Please note: More information will follow shortly)
I see this season of confinement not as an obstacle but an opportunity to advance the kingdom. When have we ever seen in this ‘sports mad’ nation a period where there is no football; no sports; no entertainment? This is a unique moment when people are sanctioned to their home with few distractions, in what the Dean of Gloucester Cathedral, Revd Stephen Lake, calls “an enforced period of reflection.”
The serious nature of our day has presented us with what theologians call a Kairos moment. “Kairos” writes Os Guinness, “is a time filled with opportunity, a moment pregnant with eternal significance and possibility…it is the moment when the present is at its greatest intensity and the future is uniquely open to our decision and action.” How we choose to live and act in these times will take on
new meaning and urgency. The obstacles and challenges in the present crisis are real but they have also gifted us a unique and fresh opportunity for mission.
At the heart of our Easter Faith we see weakness transformed into strength, the oppressed into over-comers, and the vanquished into victors. Indeed, the testimony of the people of God, is that, to use the words of St. Paul, “God’s power work best in our weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The setbacks in life should not be seen as obstacles to our future but by God’s grace can be transformed into life changing opportunities and become the fulcrum where we gain the will and momentum to redefine our purpose and reignite our passion to fulfil our destiny.
I find the story of Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) inspirational and instructive. She faced multiple challenges and privations that would have undermined the character and overwhelmed the affections of a lesser person. At the tender age of three her mother died in childbirth. Her father suffering from an incurable disease was unable to look after his two daughters and gave them up for adoption. Annie was drawn to spiritual truths and at the age of eight accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. She became a great champion and advocate of the idea that children could understand sufficient spiritual truths to become disciples of Jesus Christ. She rightly perceived that many of the Christian truths were more easily grasped by the simple faith of a child than adults who often made it more complicated and failed to grasp its wonderful simplicity.
Annie was a popular girl with a positive outlook who enjoyed writing poetry which reflected her caring nature and deep sensitivity towards others. After leaving High School she went on to train as a teacher and had a position offered to her. Shortly into her teaching career she developed arthritis. The disease rapidly progressed taking her mobility and independence. She was forced to give up her dream as a teacher and had to support herself and her younger sister from the limited income generated from her poems, handcrafted cards, and gift books.
The degenerative effect of her illness could not undermine her robust faith and life transforming testimony. She came to terms with her condition and opened a unique window into God’s grace in the midst of her suffering. Her verses were poignant, personal, and perceptive. She wrote movingly with great insight to encourage others to understand the hardships of their own lives as reflected in one of her well-known poems, God Hath Not Promised:
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through.
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labour, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
Annie’s experience reflected an uncommon courage and a deep trust in God’s unfailing love. In the midst of her deepest trials she saw opportunities for service and received fresh insights into God’s grace. She was forced to give up the classroom of her dreams, but she exchanged it for the courtroom of heaven where her intercessions were heard, and fresh fires were poured out on her faith. Her pen became her voice “and by faith she still speaks, even though she is dead” (See Hebrews 11:4b). Her pen was the ‘sword of the Spirit’ to banish the darkness of depression and put the devils of discouragement to flight in the lives of many needy and desperate people. Her words still provide solace to the broken, renew the faith of the saints, provide manna for our journey, and remind us that God speaks through our sufferings and comforts those who suffer (2 Corinthians 1:37).
She believed that God used her weakness for his glory and through her life distilled and dispensed much needed grace to the broken, needy, discouraged, and those suffering with incurable and irreversible conditions. To the suffering and struggling her words are a conduit of grace, and one of the means by which God’s healing balm has touched and blessed his people. She understood the depths of God’s redeeming grace in the finished work of Christ for our salvation. She also gave us a deep insight into the richness and sufficiency of God’s grace towards his children, penned so beautifully and eloquently in theses verses:
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labours increase.
To added afflictions, He addeth His mercy, to multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
when our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share.
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing; The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure, His power no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
These verses are a poignant reminder that we have an all-sufficient relationship with an all-sufficient Christ. Everything we need is already provided in Jesus Christ. Let us remember…
He gives grace for every trial and adds more when we are tested. He supplies strength to endure when our troubles grow stronger, and a light to guide us along each darkened way. He releases peace to the persecuted and protects with his presence every child that is sheltered under his care. Our Father knows best when we are perplexed, his grace is sufficient in boundless supply.
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement, give you a tenacious faith to overcome obstacles and seize every opportunity to advance his kingdom. As you serve the purposes of God may you know the Father’s everlasting grace and eternal love, so graciously given and matchlessly supplied, out of his infinite riches and wisdom, in Jesus Christ. Every blessing in Christ Jesus,
From Joseph…………..May 1st
Sylvia Smith-Smile, Smile, Smile….See you…
“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction. and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality”.
(Wisdom of Solomon, 3:1-4)
Dear Friends at Hasbury,
Greetings to you all in the most loving name of our Lord Jesus Christ who said: “I am the way, the truth and the resurrection”.
I write this in light of the great loss of Sylvia, who was dearly loved by all in the church and circuit. Her life and all her work in the Circuit shall be remembered with a great appreciation and gratitude.
Following your responses to the news of Sylvia’s passing, I have not stopped thinking about the family and Hasbury in my prayers. The loss that cannot be gained back no matter what we do and the gap that is left cannot be filled with anything we have, and the sorrow cannot be compensated with any amount of celebration.
I feel the pain you have expressed, the deep sorrow you have shared, but also glad that you have exhibited great confidence and hope to know that one day we shall meet again. I commend your courageous spirit to stand firm in your faith, to offer your prayerful and caring support to the Smith family in their difficult times.
Sylvia was a woman of concern, compassion, and commitment to go the second mile to help anyone she met. She was a woman of Christian conviction who always demonstrated her faith in Jesus through her prayer, trust, love, forgiveness and smile in the midst of storm. This was very evident throughout her life till her last breath. She was conscious of God’s presence surrounding her all her life, whether at home, work or in hospital. She was ever-grateful for your prayers, and well-wishes received with gratitude and appreciation.
Sylvia’s departure from her mortal life to the immortal presence of God has no doubt caused us to reflect on sickness and health, pain and laughter, joy and sorrow, love and forgiveness and the plans we make for every tomorrow. Now as we stand together not only to say goodbye, but thank Sylvia for all that she has been to the family, Hasbury and to the Circuit. We shall cherish your memories, rest in peaceful presence of the Lord and see you in God’s time. We say to Sylvia: “no more suffering, no more pain, but your soul will rest in peace. Your memories will bring great healing, inspiration and strength for those that are left behind.”
May I just say a BIG thank you to Hasbury family for standing with the Smith family through prayer and thoughtful support all these days. My prayers and thoughts are always with John and his family now and in the days to come. Let us continue to trust what Jesus said, “ I am the resurrection and the life.. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believed in me will never die” (John 11).
Shalom my friends, Shalom,
May the Lord be your comfort, peace and hope.
With much appreciation.
Rev Dr Joseph Suray
Blackheath & Halesowen Circuit
April 22nd 2020
Psalm 4: Answer Me When I Call
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honour be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
Selah But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds and be silent.
Selah Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the LORD.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety, (Psalm 4 ESV).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As I laid Joel down in his cot the other day, I noticed how peaceful he was. He was so at rest that I commented to Mareike that, “he knows that he is loved.” There was no worry in him, just the beautiful words from King David in Psalm 4, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Today I am writing this pastoral letter to you from the beautiful words of Psalm 4 to encourage you to hold unto God during this time. This is because when I watch the news, all I observe is more chaos and fear over the pandemic, and misinformation to what is really going on. I speak with my neighbour who comments that, “things will never be the same again,” and we see a friend, who is a Christian, and she shares with us that her and her husband wash every item of their shopping when they get home; all this portrays to me is fear.
I then hear loudly the words from Psalm 4, “Who will show us some good?” I then need to stop myself and ask these questions: “Where has the trust in Christ gone?” or “Why is it that we need to worry so much over the Corona 19? All we have to do is follow what the Government is suggesting we do.” “Is this misinformation really so bad that we need to panic so much?” My faith was never discovered when all was apparently going well. It was discovered through my darkest days. I even hear the great men and women of the Reformation professing Christ in glory against the backdrop of great difficulty, and I have to ask the question: “Have we really forgotten that Methodism was started from disruption, not easygoing theology?” I think, John and Charles Wesley would see our generation differently.
So, I decide to take my daily walk with Mareike and Joel around the streets where we live, and I see pictures of Rainbows in support of the NHS and feel sad inside. I feel sad because this is not the real message of God’s covenant with the world. It is not the real message of washing and regeneration of a world full of sin. So, I stop and remind myself to not “Be angry, and [not to] sin; [but to] ponder in [my] own heart on [my] bed and [to] be silent. “I see the good intention behind this. However, I ask God with King David that this world will “Offer [up] right sacrifices and put [their] trust in the LORD.” What we need now in this time of Corona 19 is a turning back to God, because I know that this world will never discover peace without Christ. How do I know this? Simply this: I discovered real grace and Sonship in the depth of our grief when we buried our first son Malachi. When we cried out the words of King David: “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! [Only] You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” When I read that the great men and women of faith rose up in their darkest hour after losing children, I see that they did not bury their heads in the sand with fear and uncertainty. They stood up for the truth of God’s word. We also understand the power of prayer; so, we pray for Joel every day, and we pray for you every day, too. Because in prayer and reading God’s word do, we truly find hope. Because in real darkness do we discover the light, and I know that Jesus has “put more joy in my heart than they have [with] their grain and wine [abounding].” We can look at Joel when he is at peace in his cot and profess the same words from Psalm 4, “In peace [we] will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, [you] make [us] dwell in safety.” So today let us be thankful for what we have; we are blessed in so many ways even when we don’t feel it. Let us stop, reflect, and take time with our families, because every day is precious with them. Let us take the time to pray, read God’s word, and teach our children to do the same. And most of all: Let us hear clearly the words of Jesus when he says to “Not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27 ESV). Our lives are more than this pandemic, our love for one another in Christ outshines this time of isolation, and we will be together again when this is over. Brothers and Sisters, this is the real message of our Father’s heart for you during this time of uncertainty: “That the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when [we] call to him.”
Let us call to Him always. Amen.
Troy, Joseph, and Peter.
SUNDAY APRIL 19th
BLACKHEATH & HALESOWEN CIRCUIT
CIRCUIT PASTORAL LETTER
The words of Bob Dylan’s call to action, “The times they are A- Changin” ring with fresh poignancy in these strange and embattled times. Indeed, we need fresh vision, compassion, character, and courageous leadership that is grounded in the hope of the Gospel, to counter the fallout of fear and anxiety, as lives and livelihoods are threatened and put under pressure during this extended period of confinement.
These are changing and challenging times with much for us to grasp and process in terms of the social, spiritual, economic and political upheaval and the plans that should be put in place for a post-COVID future. As we wrestle with these issues is it also pertinent for us to ask, “What is the Holy Spirit saying to the Church in these challenging times?” What is our mission now? What will the future look like in terms of our mission and ministry?
This period of confinement does not signal that we are being laid aside or being made redundant. I believe that the Holy Spirit is brooding over the Church during this Covid Crisis to resurrect a dynamic life giving church with a vital and transforming spirituality. Far from being laid aside in lock down, we should be God’s hands serving the needy; his feet taking his compassion and support where others fear to go; his heart showing mercy to the broken; his eyes looking with love and tenderness on the weak, vulnerable, dying and mourning reminding them that He is the God who cares.
Our working model of the church is that of a gathered body of believers meeting regularly for fellowship. We have been dispersed and in our confinement we need to find fresh ways of being the church (an effective network of believers connected to our community and each other) so that we by God’s grace may emerge from this period as a people whose faith has being refined and renewed and our mission reignited with fresh vision, fresh hope, and fresh purpose.
The disciples on that first Easter Sunday were confined with fear in the Upper Room when the risen Jesus stood among them, declared his peace over them, breathed the Holy Spirit on them, and unleashed their potential to start a new missional movement that would take the gospel to the whole world.
One of the key lessons from the Book of Acts is that these first disciples were a House Church Movement. They did not have the luxury of their own buildings
and when they were turned out of the Synagogues they simply used their family network that became the bedrock of a new missional movement where people were enfolded and discipled in the faith and became part of an extended family.
These households of faith, or extended families, became the catalyst and main driving force of the new missional movement that turned the world upside down. They were transformed into lifesaving stations; huts of refuge; places where people found unconditional love; unconditional acceptance; unconditional forgiveness. They discovered grace; met Jesus; shared their resources and did life together. They were embraced and enfolded in a family of friends and had relationships that were transparent, real, and vulnerable, and many discovered for the first time a place they could call home.
In this season of disruption and uncertainty I know that we are all longing for our spiritual home. I can just imagine the home coming parties when this is over! Cheer Up! However, might I encourage us all to continue to reach out and care for each other. It is so lovely and deeply moving to receive your news and stories through the various media platforms. Thank you for taking the time to show your love and care in such practical ways.
As we care for others, it is also vital that we care for our souls through prayer, Bible Study, reflection, reaching out to friends and neighbours with compassion and what I call practical Christianity. Soul care and acts of mercy towards others are key motivators and de-stressors that will protect us against slipping into moments of depression, discouragement, and temptations that come with the stress of these daunting times.
We continue to hold you in prayer that you may know Christ’s sufficiency in your insufficiency, and in your weakness know his power at work in you, and his presence resting upon you in your confinement.
Every blessing in Christ Jesus,
Peter, Joseph, Troy
Monday April 13th
It is with great sadness and heaviness of heart that we receive the news that Sylvia has gone to be with the Lord. I know that for the Church Family at Hasbury, the wider Circuit, and especially John and his family, this is a devastating loss. Sylvia's life, faith, and witness was an inspiration to many. Her energy was irrepressible; her zeal unabated; her hospitality full of grace; her compassion and industry on behalf of the vulnerable unstinting; and her love for family and friends beyond measure. She had a smile that was matchless - which shone from a heart that loved Jesus and was dedicated to serving others and his kingdom.
The church family has lost a great friend who was a confidant and care-giver to so many. In our sadness, let us remember that Sylvia had an Easter faith. Her risen Saviour welcomed her home with joy, a faithful servant and inspiration to the very end, even though this may be hard for us to bear. She will always be missed, but her legacy will inspire our faith and commitment to God and our love and encouragement for each other.
Rest in peace my dear sister as you behold and walk in the presence of our risen Saviour.
Peter & Carole
Thursday April 9th
Easter Letter from our Superintendent Minister, Joseph Suray
“The joy of belonging to the Risen Christ”
Greetings to you in the most wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the current time of difficulty and vulnerability , I need to be honest here: I miss meeting you all in different fellowship groups in our well-loved churches that we have cherished for ages. I understand the feeling of isolation, not being able to visit one another today.
Personally as a Minister, it has been a challenge for me to not be able to visit those who are in hospitals to read the Bible, pray with them and to assure them that the Lord is with them. My heart goes out for those who have lost their beloved ones and I extend my heartfelt condolences and my sincere prayers for them during their loss. Certainly I have missed the opportunity to be with them in order to share their deep sorrow, tears, pain and to listen to the lifelong stories of their relationships. Many difficult questions are raised about God, personal faith, human suffering as well as personal questions of what to expect next, and what happens after the death.
This week, the Lord came to the end of his earthly journey, reaching Jerusalem to face his destiny. He knew the cost of submission to Father’s will: betrayal, imprisonment, crucifixion and burial. Jesus faced the challenge of redeeming humanity from sin and death by offering himself on the cross. He knew this was the only and final way to conquer sin and death, in order to bring forgiveness and hope.
Today in our isolation, we are grateful to God for the gift of technology that has enabled us to encourage and pray for one another and be assured that we are together on this journey to know that God is here. In the midst of our loneliness, pain, and sorrow, it becomes clear that nothing shall separate us from love of God. We belong to the Risen Lord and that is our joy which keeps us moving on in our Christian journey today. Therefore I affirm what St Paul said, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from
the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). We try to understand the amazing love of God that compelled Him to come down and dwell amongst us. God demonstrates his love for us – through Jesus - where we are reconciled to be his children, restored back to God’s family and assured forgiveness of our sins. We are bound together in him and given the blessed assurance that “Jesus is mine, oh what a foretaste of Glory divine”
Our hope is founded on nothing but on the Lord Jesus who was the same yesterday and shall remain the same in the forthcoming days. We are bought by his great sacrifice on the cross and we are redeemed to live and enjoy the glimpse of eternal life which comes through the power of the Resurrection. Our hope is built on the Risen Lord who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26) .
When I Struggle to explain God’s comfort and assurance of eternal life beyond our present life here on the earth, I am reminded that in Christ we are not lost but found to be with him forever. As Paul writes, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his
sufferings, becoming like him in his death..” (Philippians 3:8-10) We draw our comfort and confidence from these words. We do not know where Coronavirus will take us, but I pray that while obeying the medical advice, we all continue to believe in Jesus who has gone before us, died on the cross, buried and rose again.
He is not dead, Halleluiah, He is alive. So friends, no matter what we have been going through today, may I encourage us to take heart to rejoice because Jesus is alive and be confident that he is with us even in the midst of all darkness that surrounds us today. Let us not be afraid but be bold, because Jesus is our faithful friend who knows what we go thorough. Do you remember the song which goes like this –Trust in the Lord and don’t’ despair, no matter what your troubles are, Jesus will see you through, trust when the day is bright and trust through the darkest night, every day, all the way, let us trust, trust and trust the Lord. This is my prayer for all of us during these days to know that:
Jesus is our Rock upon which we stand today.
Jesus is our refuge where nothing will touch us today,
Jesus is our comfort which encourages us to live today,
Jesus is our hope which empowers us to live beyond today,
Jesus is our peace which will not be shaken by the world today.
Jesus is our confidence which helps us to face tomorrow.
Therefore let us continue to pray for the world as we prepare to meet the Risen Lord.
Jesus may come in the morning,
Jesus may come in the noon time,
Jesus may come in the night any time,
So it is time to tune our hearts to meet him every time. Amen
May I wish you all a Joyful Easter to know that we are not finished, but are just entering into New beginning to enjoy the joy of belonging to the Risen Lord.
Shalom my friends, Shalom
Sunday March 29th
It is so lovely to see the daffodils outside the church buildings reminding us of Spring and new life. This crowning image of Spring is overshadowed by the darkness of the Corona Pandemic. This crisis has certainly left us in a profound state of shock and disorientation; having to isolate at home has left us bereft of friends, family, and a sense of community. We need to acknowledge that the social, financial, and spiritual struggle that many are facing is real and one that we must meet with courage, hope, faith, and tenacity. As this crisis continues to shake markets, economies, and financial institutions, it is forcing us to re-evaluate our priorities and what is really important and necessary to function and live a fulfilled life.
As the flaws of our trusted systems are revealed, and the frailty of our humanity is exposed by this invisible enemy, we need to anchor our lives on the unshakeable rock of Jesus Christ. The Psalmist affirms, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble" (Psalm 46:1). Let us hold on to our faith as we apply wisdom on how to live and stay safe; we may not be meeting together but we are still a family. This crisis has brought home to me just how precious and important our church family is. Let us make use of the opportunities we have to connect with each, shart stories, celebrate community, and affirm each other's needs with words of encouragement and support.
As we continue to stay safe, let us draw on the inexhaustible grace of our Heavenly Father who is our shield, shelter, and strength. Thank you for your love, prayers, support, and concern for our Church Family. The apostle John captures a powerful scenario of anxiety and fear when, "On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews..." he tells us that "Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you!". What a powerful reassurance that in our homes, behind our doors, the risen Christ is among us offering us his presence of hope and peace.
We miss you profoundly but you are most deeply in our hearts and prayers.
Every blessing in Christ Jesus,
Sunday 22nd March
MOTHERING SUNDAY GREETING AND INSPIRATION
I greet you on this Mothering Sunday, entrusting you all to God’s grace and love, praying that you will be sustained by his peace, unfailing love, and mercy.
These are indeed grave and difficult times with many who are anxious and fearful. I want to remind you that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
I am inspired by the story of Martin Rinkart, the German Clergyman, who from humble beginnings, went to the University of Leipzig to study music before taking Holy Orders. At the age of thirty-one, he went as the archdeacon to his home town of Eilenburg in Saxony. He lived through the thirty years war and saw pestilence, plagues, and famines. He endured multiple privations and challenges as he served and ministered to his people; challenges which he faced with a courageous faith that was undimmed, unbowed, and unbroken.
One day he went into his study and penned these inspirational words which carry in these anxious and troubled times fresh resonance and poignancy especially with today being Mothering Sunday:
Now thank we all our God, with hearts
and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom his world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills in this world, and the next!
praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son, and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven—
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
I want to take this opportunity to honour all the women among us; those who are mothers or remembering mothers; those who are not mothers by choice, those who have chosen not to be mothers and those who have been like a mother to others. To all you dear ladies and sisters – you are indeed our brightest lights, greatest gifts, strongest support, wisest mentors, and sweetest inspiration. Just what would we do without YOU? Today we celebrate you and thank God for the wonderful blessing and gift that you all are to the church and community.
Have a blessed and wonderful Mothering Sunday.