Thirty eight years ago I told a self-employed friend with whom I had worked on several farms in Buckinghamshire and Northants (he is a blacksmith and fabricator, I was a fencing contractor) that from September I would not be working with him again as I was going full time into ‘the ministry’. It was a couple of minutes later that I realised he had assumed that by ‘the ministry’ I meant the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food rather than ministry in and on behalf of the Methodist Church. The same word, in this case ‘minister’ will mean different things to different people according to their experiences. On the face of it a church minister and a government minister have little in common beyond the job title. What we have in common is that in essence our role is one of serving people rather than self for the good of all. Other motives and personal benefits have muddied the water over the years – in politics we think of ‘cash for questions’, parliamentary expenses and other scandals. While in the church some ministers across all denominations have turned a blind eye to abuse and exploitation and in some cases have taken advantage of vulnerable people.
Of course if can work the other way around. People in public service, whatever their ministry, are vulnerable to exploitation and being taken advantage of. None of us is perfect and every one of us will have got it wrong and inadvertently disappointed someone and failed to reach the standard that Jesus set in word and example. This will be my last blog as my ministry in Bromsgrove and Redditch Circuit concludes so very soon. It has been a huge privilege to serve and to be served these last nine years. During that time some pieces of work done by the church ministering to others have drawn to a close. I think for example of Friday Fun. Others have been through death and resurrection – I think of Guild which died and rose again with a new life and vitality as Meeting Point. You will think of other examples in this church and our sister churches in Bromsgrove and Redditch.
So too new ministries have been born. Crosslinks Befriending, Lunch Plus and Holiday at Home and we have been doing our best to be a ‘Church Without Walls’ since our launch of the missional emphasis in October 2017. The poppies last autumn, the open air worship this coming July (20 July, 2.30 p.m.) and our pop up church at Carnival (13 July) are part of this. Please pray for and support them. From September Monday evenings will see Girls Brigade and a new youth initiative born. We are trying our best to be a welcoming and inclusive church. As Methodists we treasure our heritage which is a belief in the ministry of the whole of the church of God not leaving it to a hand full who we call ministers. Caring, praying, worshipping, telling the story of Jesus, getting involved with projects and people who support others; all this and so much more is the ministry we are all called to.
At times the size of the need and the task before us can be overwhelming. The sense that there is just not enough time can be demotivating. This is nothing new. In a letter to Jewish Christians in the first century the writer wrote “let us not give up meeting together as others have done” (Hebrews chapter 10 verse 25)
My prayer is that we will continue to be a Church Without Walls, ministering as the whole church of God to the community around us, expressing and reinforcing our faith in worship, corporate and personal, will be the hallmarks of our church as Rev Steve Levett becomes your minister. Support him, pray for him, work with him and allow him to minister to you and many in church and the community. Treasuring the past and discovering the new things God has for you all.