It’s not quite started as I expected with not being too well, but it has come and I’m genuinely looking forward to being with you. It has been good. This is my second year with you and as I look back I realise that it has been challenging. I’ve been a minister for 33 years but the last 19 of them were not in local circuit appointments. Therefore I’ve spent a good deal of time out of my depth. It has helped me realise that Judith and I have landed on our feet among people who are quite prepared to forgive mistakes and the kindness to help us get it right. We both feel very grateful. Thank you. I think you have all been on a learning curve as well. Getting used to a new member of the ministry team isn’t easy. However, I think we are all in a better place to enjoy the journey ahead, and I hope you feel that even if your ‘new minister’ isn’t all that you could hope for, there is enough hope to make a go of it! If not, as some have reminded me, ‘He’ll go eventually!’ This is the strength of Circuit Ministry. We are invited for five years and move on. The invitation can be extended, and we are all delighted that Nik has accepted an extension for her ministry among us. But even extensions run out and ministers are ‘temporary’ creatures – their role is to hold the individual churches within the wider family of the Church. I’m convinced that they should not ‘rule the roost’ or dominate the direction the local church should take. It is instead the task of the circuit minister to encourage the lay leadership of the Church, to help the Church as a whole, see what God wants of us, and what God has given to us to help us achieve it. Nik and I share the role of ‘pastoral charge’ – but we do so with a Church that is very good at pastoral care. We both share in the leadership team – but we do so in a Church that has some outstanding leaders. We preach and teach and lead worship, alongside Local Preachers and worship leaders.
A number of challenges lie ahead of us, that I personally face with enthusiasm and confidence. I hope in the coming year that we will continue to develop the leadership teams, of stewards, pastoral visitors and property and finance so that we increase a common sense of our Godly purpose in Epsom. I also hope we bring together our outreach work into a more coherent ‘mission’ team – people who want to help the whole Church reach out with God’s love into the Community. I would also like us to look back on this year and see that we have a more coherent view of the excellent work we do alongside young people in both the uniformed and informal areas of that work.
A huge blessing for our Church has been the growth of Chinese and International congregations and this is an area where I think we can develop a much closer, prayerful, fellowship within the whole leadership to discern God’s direction for us.
Epsom Methodist Church is a Godly and loving fellowship. We can only grow in this together. We have had much bereavement in the last year and our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones. This is part of our story as well, and will continue to be so. But our faith will prove stronger than our sadness for the promises God makes are true in life and in death. I wonder, as you look back, how your Methodist Year has been, and as you look forward, what you are looking forward to?