Hello everybody! Last Sunday our service was led by our Deacon David Hunt and Peter Raisbeck from the Joint Mission & Vision Group which is preparing for when the Harrogate and Knaresborough circuits will unite in September to become the Nidd Valley Methodist Circuit as the River Nidd flows through it. He is a member of Kirk Hammerton Chapel at the moment in the Knaresborough Circuit. David introduced the service and we sang ‘Lord, thy church on earth is seeking thy renewal from above’. We saw a DVD which Peter had put together of the churches in our 2 circuits being introduced to the rest of us; work at different chapels was highlighted such as Messy Church in Knaresborough, Coffee outreaches in a church in Harrogate and in Knaresborough, the homeless project support and youth work in another chapel. It is an encouragement to see how much is already going on in our chapels and we are looking to the future as a new circuit with greater capabilities together. It was an excellent overview of our circuits. We then sang the hymn ‘O breath of life, come sweeping through us,’ before there was a reading from Ezekiel which encouraged the Jewish people that Judah and Israel would be united again.
Peter then preached an entertaining and informative sermon. He took the illustration from Ezekiel, in which he took 2 sticks Judah and Israel and made them into one long stick which would be stronger. Peter said when we merge the 2 circuits into one long stick, it will be strengthened, just like the fishing rods his father used to make from split canes welded together. The combined strengths of the circuit will be stronger to reach out to the community; especially as the differing skills of the clergy and parishes will be shared more widely. He also talked about the terrier he got on advice after the death of his wife, but the dog proved to be more trouble than it was worth! He destroyed a chair in his conservatory and then he dug out a row of plants; he was thinking of getting rid of him until the terrier put his head on his lap and looked at him with his appealing eyes and he forgave him!! We too can seek God’s forgiveness and he will give it no matter what we have done, as long as we are sorry! Peter challenged us to ask ourselves why we are doing what we do. What could we do differently to draw more people into worship or how we can go out to be there for people?
Peter went to see a Surfing Church outside Padstow in Cornwall. It had been turned into a café with a skateboard ramp, behind the ramp there is the cross. On a Sunday there is a service first and the original congregation of 20 has grown to 50 which includes old fishermen and teenagers. Two students there talked about the way they gave out flip flops to night clubbing young women worse for wear from drink or drugs. That was meeting the needs of vulnerable young women and being there for them; just as chaplains in the town centres minister in many towns and cities. Peter reminded us of our founder John Wesley who told the ordinary people of the love of Jesus, as he went out to the poor and unhappy people in rural areas and gave them hope; the Anglican churches were remote from the ordinary people and did not speak their language. A village blacksmith who had been converted by John Wesley sang gospel songs about the love of Jesus as he worked and eventually his congregation grew and that community built a chapel. As we found the Nidd Valley Circuit from Harrogate and Knaresborough circuits we must remember our roots in John Wesley (of course not forgetting as Methodists that Jesus is the focus of the church) and wonder if we are in the place God wants us to be. We have a powerful mission to spread the reality of God’s forgiveness, acceptance and love in other lives. That is what we are called to do so let us learn how to love and serve.