We have started off 2015 with a new Stewards team and Senior Steward. The team is made up of some old faces and some new ones! With Mark’s help and advice we are planning some changes to our roles and tasks. One of the changes you will all hopefully see very soon is to do with the services on a Sunday. Our aim is to have a representative from the team at each service to help the service run smoothly and to make sure that we have the time to listen and talk to the congregation. We are in the process of finding a supplier for name badges. Other changes will be announced in due course.
To help us in planning for now and the future, the whole team is meeting this month for an “Away Day”. This promises to be a lively and entertaining day – a report on the day will be published after the event. We met formally for the first time a couple of weeks ago and intend to meet on a regular basis twice a month. Each meeting will start with short worship and a minister’s slot to focus on what we are trying to achieve.
Over the next few editions of the 'Focus' magazine, the team will be writing profiles so that you know who we all are. I also hope to have a “Senior Steward” slot to keep everyone informed of what is going on within EMC. It is a real privilege to serve as Senior Steward again. We have a really excellent team and I am sure that EMC has some really exciting times ahead. If anyone has any problems/issues please let me know, I will be only too happy to discuss them with you.
With God’s Love Harvey Morris
True Followship with God in our lives - July 2012
I enjoy many fellowship meetings, but the one which I really enjoy is Mid-week Communion with Bible Study. We are now on 1 John. The Gospel starts with the “Word of Life”, the theme is on the joy of true fellowship with God and with one another.
I believe the greatest joy in life comes from loving relationships and we all want such relationships. Mid-week Communion gathers people around the Lord’s table. Jesus said, “Take and eat, do this in remembrance of me” and also, “Drink all of it, do this in remembrance of me”. This act of worship is so sacred, it gathers the brokenness of the world. His sacrificial love is for each one of us. We sinners can have fellowship and share together before the holy God and partake in the bread and wine. This act of worship really overwhelms us!
“Fellowship” means sharing in common or sharing together. The fellowship with one another is based on the fellowship with God. Those non-believers who come in among us should be able to sense this love. They cannot know true fellowship with other believers until they personally come to faith in Jesus Christ and begin to walk with Him on a daily basis. Knowing Christ personally and growing in that relationship is the first step for any true fellowship with others that know Christ. It is Christ Himself that we share in common.
True Christian fellowship is when we share the riches of Christ and the treasures of His Word together. Sometimes we chat with one another about the weather, sport or the news. There is nothing wrong with talking about such matters but, is it true fellowship? True fellowship is our communion in Christ.
Methodists believe that we are saved by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. We grow to know Jesus Christ better through the study and teaching of the Word. When you know Christ, you experience genuine unity and fellowship with other Christians, even though there may be significant differences in background, personality, social status, or race. To love one another in the church and in our community makes no distinction between who you are and where you come from. It is Christ in all.
True Christian unity at the basic level consists in mutually knowing Christ through the Gospel. We have started ‘Disciple’ in April this year. Those who attend these sessions can tell you that they have grown to know Him better through His Word as they spend time to study daily and gather weekly to expound His Word in a two and half hours discussion.
If fellowship is not based on the revealed truth about Jesus Christ it is not true fellowship. True fellowship bases on the truth of the apostolic testimony about Jesus Christ. If we depart from that, we have left the biblical foundation for unity.
Fellowship with God exists only through the blood of His Son. Faithful Christians need to be in line with the whole Bible. The only way a sinner can draw near to the holy God is if his sin is atoned for and the only thing that can atone for our sin is the blood of God’s perfect Son, Jesus Christ.
If someone claims to know God, but denies the need for the blood of Jesus Christ to atone for sin, in John’s language, he is a liar and deceiver. He does not know God and there is no basis for true fellowship. Therefore, fellowship based on the truth about Jesus Christ is a matter of shared life in our weekly gathering.
To be in fellowship with God, you have got to work at it, make time for it, and turn away from things that would create distance between you and God. Of course, sin hinders fellowship, but so do other things. The enemy will try to get you to anything except spend time alone with God. It may be TV, the newspaper, work, hobbies, or time with your friends. If you allow these things to crowd out consistent time in God’s Word and in prayer, you will not grow close to God in genuine fellowship.
Fellowship with God and with one another are really just the two Great Commandments, to love God with all your being, and to love your neighbour as yourself (Matt. 22:37-40). The aim of the entire Bible is to help us glorify God as we experience the deep joy of a close relationship with Him and close relationships with one another. As we grow in obedience to these two Great Commandments, we will grow in great joy, not only in this life, but also for all eternity! I encourage everyone to work on the relationship with God. Please do not settle for occasional, distant fellowship. Make time daily to spend with Him in His Word and in prayer. Read books that help you to know Him better. Cut out of your life anything that hinders fellowship with Him.
Also, work on your relationships with other believers. In this sinful world such relationships will never be perfect, but they can be good but they will not become good without effort! The payoff is that true fellowship with one another and true fellowship with God will bring you true joy.
With love and every blessing, Hazel
Year of Jubilee - June 2012
Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations are nearly upon us. On Saturday, June 2 she will attend the Epsom Derby, on Sunday June 3, there will be the Big Jubilee Lunch and the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant.
A concert is being held at Buckingham Palace on Monday June 4 – afterwards, a network of beacons will be lit across the UK and the Commonwealth, just as they were in 1977 and 2002. Then finally on Tuesday June 5, Her Majesty will head to St Paul’s Cathedral to once again thank God for her reign over us before taking part in a carriage procession through the streets of London.
Although many in the UK and throughout the world will now think of the Jubilee as an exclusively Royal celebration, it has a biblical heritage. The Jubilee year came at the end of seven cycles of sabbatical (seven) years in Israel. The instructions can be found in Leviticus 25:10:
“Consecrate the 50th year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family and to your own clan”
It primarily deals with property and land and it was with this in mind that the Jubilee 2000 coalition movement launched its campaign back in the late 1990s.
The campaign was intended to see poor countries’ debts wiped out in the year 2000 and is perhaps the easiest way for us to understand the concept of a Jubilee.
The Jubilee 2000 project was something that Christians should have been involved in. It was about the lifting of debts to give countries a chance to break the cycle. Like the year of jubilee of old it was not a guarantee of success, but merely the offer of a second chance. It is a Christian principle to give second chances. Maybe this year is a good year to think about who we can give jubilee second chances to in our lives. Who has let us down, is indebted to us or has wronged us? Who can you offer a second chance to make things right in the spirit of jubilee? To be Christians is to seek opportunities to offer the jubilee second chance. Philip Yancey, says
“The people of God are not merely to mark time, waiting for God to step in and set right all that is wrong. Rather, they are to model the new heaven and new earth, and by so doing awaken longings for what God will someday bring to pass.”
So the year of jubilee should be for us all a time to lift our voices in thanksgiving and praise, in thanks that God is a God of forgiveness, that Jesus came to bring forgiveness. Both forgiveness for the wrong we have done, and also a time to bring forgiveness and healing to the things done to us. Forgiving others will set us free and restore us.
Looking towards Pentecost - May 2012
Sometimes we get past Easter and think that the big celebrations of the Church are over until next Christmas. The truth is that is not the case, for the Church also has another great celebration called Pentecost, which this year will be on Sunday 27th May.
As Christians we often make reference to God the Father and our Christmas Celebration reflects the Father’s concern for us, his children, that he offered a way back to humanity who had lost contact with him. The plan involved coming to earth as a baby and living as God on earth and we know him as Jesus. Jesus, our second view of God, died on a cross and was raised to life that the living relationship with God could be restablished. Pentecost concludes the story because Jesus promised he would not leave us alone and gave us the Holy Spirit to help us as we live our lives. The Holy Spirit is the third view of God.
So if Pentecost concludes the plan, why do we so often downplay this event in the life of the church? Many people are not sure of the Holy Spirit, because they are unsure about some of the gifts the Holy Spirit offers to the church. We are usually comfortable with the fact that God is with us and if we perceive the Holy Spirit in that way it’s Ok, so we look to the fruits of the Spirit as set out in the letter of Paul to the Galatians,
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (Galatians 5 v22)
Most people (not just Christians) would agree that these are good things to aspire to and the Bible tells us if we follow God that we should see all of these fruits developing in our lives. It is not a once and for all change but a development over time as we are slowly and gently encouraged to develop by a loving God who cares deeply for us. Of course, that means we are not fully there yet and so, as human beings, we are indeed capable of behaving in ways that are the opposite of the fruit God longs to see in our lives.
We need to be honest and recognise that possibility in ourselves and in those we worship with within the community of the Church. In recognising that fact we need to focus on encouraging those who fail and this starts by us all having an attitude of forgiveness to one another. In so doing we recognise that we have a significant part to play in God’s redemption of the world. In the Lord’s Prayer we are reminded that God forgives us as we forgive those who trespass against us.
The fruit of the Spirit is both an increase in the gifts Paul lists in Galatians and an increase in our ability to forgive others. May we spend our time actively looking for the development of the fruit in our lives and in those we know and as we see God developing us, let’s give thanks and celebrate together.
The fruits are but one part of the generosity of God to us through the Holy Spirit. Not only does God offer us the chance to develop our personal character, he also wants us to be fully engaged in the work of the Kingdom. Paul records a number of gifts and skills given to the people of God for the benefit of the church, gifts which include preaching and teaching, evangelism, administration and hospitality amongst many others.
Perhaps here we are more reluctant to step forward but the Bible tells us that everyone is given a gift to use in the Church. In this way God demonstrates to us that we are a community, that we need each other, because each of us brings something valuable and important to the work of the local church. After all it is through the local church (the people of God) that God so often reaches out to those who do not yet know him. So we need to ask God what he is asking us to do for him. The joy is that his gifts are so varied there is something to suit everyone.
In Acts Chapter 2 we read of an event where the Holy Spirit descended on a great number of people and those present from many nations heard God speaking to them in their own language. It’s a wonderful picture of God being present with his people and one which resonates with us as Epsom Methodist Church as we have members from a great number of places around the world.
That first Pentecost encouraged the people present and many we are told committed their lives to God on that day. As we look towards this Pentecost may we too gather expectantly to see what God might do in our lives as individuals and as the gathered people of God in Epsom.
New Life - April 2012
Easter is a great time in the calendar it signals the arrival of spring with images of new born lambs, spring chick’s, flowers popping up and opening and sunshine. It is for us a period of the year which seems to offer hope after the harshness of winter. For children there is the added wonder of Easter eggs, something that many adults still love, as they connect us with our childhood which somehow often seem much better than the here and now.
Easter is also of course hugely significant for the people of God. We recall the death and resurrection of Jesus and it offers hope to us because God loved you and me enough to allow his son to come to rescue us from our failings.
The trouble is we tend to use words that complicate matters for example, the word Resurrection. I wonder what it means to you as you read that word again? In some ways a very simple word, it reminds us of the fact that Jesus had died crucified on a cross but was then able to rise from the dead. It says exactly what it means and yet for the Christian Church the word resurrection is immensely important.
Resurrection talks of new life, however our own pictures of new life do not really do the word resurrection justice. We think of animals born into the world but we know that they will at some point die, often to provide us with food. The chocolate egg we receive will soon disappear into our mouth and will be no more. The lovely spring flowers that blossom will all too soon die and fade away.
Each of our human illustrations of new life is tainted with finality. Yet these illustrations are powerful and we feel drawn to them year after year. Each one seems to reach out to us with the offer of hope. New beginnings all seem to speak of hope, often into situations which felt bleak and hopeless until the new possibility is understood. Jesus death was bleak but his resurrection brought new hope to the first disciples and continues to offer hope to all humanity today. The difference is that in Jesus being raised to life, God’s purpose of offering hope to humanity was achieved once and for all. In being raised to life Jesus lives for evermore there is no future death for Him, He has conquered death forever. It’s exciting to realise that the hope that Jesus offers cannot disappear – it does not melt away like the chocolate Easter egg in our mouth. Of course resurrection not only changed Jesus it also sought to change humanity both at the level of the individual (you and me) and at the level of community (our town, our workplace). The bible teaches us that our identity is bound up with Adam who messed everything up and that community suffered as a result. The resurrection offers a new way following Jesus by which community can be restored.
It is in knowing Christ that we can be different; it is in his death and resurrection that we can rise free of our past and create a new corporate identity which involves us seeing the world in the way Jesus sees it. Paul talks about us being transformed so that we become Christ like. It is by changing that we move from our old selves and become something new and different.
One of the ways we can demonstrate our changed lives is in the way we live. What does it mean for us as the church at the centre of Epsom to live for Christ? Our buildings are now complete and hopefully building projects are now finished so how will we use our resurrected buildings to benefit the local community.
Recently Churches Together in Epsom have been engaging in a similar discussion and whilst the answers are not clear we are engaging in dialogue with our local Borough Council. We are privileged to have a voice along with many other groups in looking at the strategic plans of the Council and to bring our concerns to those in local government. One change that is planned, that was shared at the review meeting, is a food bank for those in need in our community. We hope that the thought will become a reality and in its presence will be a tangible change at the heart of the community reminding us that the poor and vulnerable matter. Over the coming year Churches Together are seeking to hear the voice of the community, interestingly the Council are also seeking to do the same thing. It seems to me that resurrection is happening in our community so please pray for those who are engaging in conversation. Pray that we might see the green shoots of resurrection life reflected in our community just as we give thanks for the changes Jesus brings to our lives.
Wishing you a blessed Easter. Nick
Lent - March 2012
This year Lent commences early in February. The forty days of Lent that lead to Easter is the most sacred and spiritually powerful event in the Christian calendar. Ash Wednesday sends us a signal to 'remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,' to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, to the joyful Easter song of 'Christ the Lord Is Risen Today'.
Lent is a time when Christians are invited to examine their faith and deepen their commitment to live the Christian life. It is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on our Lord Jesus Christ; to relive the story of his suffering, his sacrifice, his life, his death, the burial and resurrection. Having said that, I observe that not all Christian churches observe Lent, in particular the Chinese churches. Lent is mostly observed by the main denominations such as Methodist, United Reformed, Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholics. When we refer to the Bible, it does not mention the custom of Lent. However, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in both Old and New Testament. For your bed-time reading see 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
Since we are part of the Methodist Church, we have learned to respect this pilgrim journey and hope to grow and discover the walk with Christ alongside each others. We are pleased that Dr George Chew, one of our Local Preachers will lead the devotion during Holy Week on three themes: The Servant, The Cross and Betrayal. We pray for good responses in remembrance of Jesus’ life on earth. He is with us and among us.
It is easy to focus on what we are doing for Lent. In fact, Lent is about God’s love for us. God, the Father draws His people to Him, He manifests His love to us through His Son. These forty days of reflection and meditation are meant to draw us into a deeper knowledge of that love. My personal thought is to bear personal witness. Lent is an unique time for us to mend our brokenness, rekindle our relationship with God and with one another in Christ. Though I am passionate in preaching and teaching, am I living up to my professed faith? Perhaps, the words of preaching remain true but the practices make it hard for others to believe what I preach. Actions speak louder than words, I believe I need to practise what I preach.
On the other hand, Ash Wednesday allows Christians to be physically "marked" with the sign of our faith, but it is easy for us to go through life as spectators to our faith as opposed to being active participants practising what we preach, not only in word but in our actions as well. I love to listen to others during my pastoral visits. Quite often people will say, “I don’t do much, not as many things as you do”. I disagree with them because the word “witness” is someone who is able to testify to what he or she has seen and experienced personally. Last week, a young man gave a powerful testimony at the baptismal service. Since he opened his heart for Christ, his life has changed. His brokenness is no longer there, he sees bright light ahead of him. He described how things had been; he graduated with a good civil engineering job, got married, self-proud, no need for God, all things were achieved by himself until his marriage did not work out and ended in divorce. Now he has found Christ, and he has been a different person, a happy all round person, he is now one of the active leaders of young people.
Jesus gave his disciples this promise: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Since the disciples had seen Jesus in action personally and heard his teachings with their own ears, they were credible "witnesses" to their world and beyond. The Holy Spirit is your internal guide in witnessing. God can "speak" to you through the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will put a very strong impression on your mind that you should speak to a certain person. Go ahead. Follow through with this. Many times you'll find that the Holy Spirit has been preparing them and that they're ready to hear your testimony of what Jesus has done for you. Who are the people whom God has put around you to love, to pray for, and perhaps to be a witness.
Let us pray together that Lent 2012 will make a difference at EMC so that we can live up to words and deeds.
Pray and let God worry - February 2012
The Christmas celebrations are all over for another year. We have had our presents. We enjoyed the get together with friends and loved ones. The New Year arrived with a bang, or maybe this year just a whimper. The decorations are packed away for another year. Many of us will have made resolutions and some of us will, by now, have already broken them. But are we still filled with the peace that the angels promised so recently?
Many of you will know by now that I have insomniac tendencies and may even have received emails from me that say they were written at odd hours of the night. But of all the things that keep me awake it is rarely because I am worried. In fact unlike many people my natural tendency is to shut down and sleep when I am really worried about something.
Many of you though may be more familiar with worry being one of those things that keeps you awake; you may know those times when it is 3am, the house is quiet, your family is asleep, it is warm but it is dark, and you should be asleep too. However, your mind is racing, your heart is pounding and worries are overwhelming.
It might be thinking about the unexpected things of tomorrow that will find you unprepared, or it may be an area of concern —financial (the presents have to be paid for now), relational (should never have argued with Uncle Bert about the turkey), or employment.
You may even find yourself temporarily in a place where you are out of hope and out of peace. There is something about this part of the night that seems to magnify all of these problems, even for someone like me for whom the middle of the night is a part of regular life, things seem different at 3am and I am not sure exactly why that is. Maybe that is why the psalmist said "He guards us from the flaming arrows at night." I am convinced that we need God's help, not only when we are alert and awake, but even when we are sleeping. As you get ready to go to sleep, I think that it is a great thing to end the day in prayer. It has been said that God works the nightshift and it is so true.
In the “Sound of Music” Maria Von Trapp sings “let’s start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start” I found that when ending the day with prayer, the best place to start is back at the beginning of each new day. Start your day in prayer, committing your decisions, your challenges and whatever you are going to face that day to the Lord. Then, as I suggested, end your day with prayer as well. In each instance, our prayer could be as simple as, "Lord, here it is. I commit it to You."
I am reminded of a quote from Martin Luther, "Pray and let God worry" I like that. Not that God worries, but the idea is that we should pray about it, rather than worry about it. Is there something troubling you? Is there something eating away at you? Bothering you? Irritating you? Causing you to be afraid? Pray about it, right now. Simply say, "Lord, I can't handle it, please take away the worry."
Philippians 4:6 says, "Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. The peace of God that passes all human understanding will keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus."
So try and worry less and pray more, you will sleep, and live much better.
Good News - December 2011
“Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Thus Luke announces the words of an Angel in his Gospel telling the good news that God is sending help to the world through a baby boy. A baby who was, we know, born in the modest surrounding of an inn. Today it might be a hotel room. Born in the inn because the parents had nowhere else to go, all they could do was to plead for help from an innkeeper.
We come to the end of another year and we are mindful that life is tough for many, the aftermath of the riots remind us of the sense of injustice felt by many. Global unrest and fears over the economy have seen unemployment continue to rise and for the first, time over 1 million young people are unemployed. What hope is there in the future for them? How tight will this Christmas be with increasing fuel bills and frozen salaries? As a church we have strived to play our part, be it collecting clothing and goods for people whose homes were burnt down in Croydon or raising the awareness of people trafficking within the Epsom community. We are committed to continuing to work with our community and trust in God to direct our actions.
Yet, despite the gloom we feel around us the overriding message of Luke remains true. This is a time to celebrate because God cared enough to send His Son to earth to offer us a new hope if only we will accept it. It is incredibly comforting to know that God loves you and that He cares for you. As the people of God the church is called to share that love in our community and as ever, we seek ways to offer hope and encouragement to those who need it most. As a church we seek to care for all, from the youngest to the oldest but at a time when we remember Jesus entering the world as a baby, it seems right to think about the work being done with young people. God mobilises us to be the modern day innkeeper offering shelter and encouragement to those in need. To reach out and encourage those in difficulty and to share the joy of all who feel good. We have seen God celebrating the life of young people in many ways over the last year. Our children’s groups report increased numbers and we thank God for all the leaders who work with our young people week by week. In April Little Monkeys was going to close but two people offered to lead the group which is now thriving and we are delighted that Genesis is also doing well. Add to that the wonderful Ofstead report we received for our Nursery and it seems clear that young people and their parents are thriving due to the offerings we provide. Recently we have seen Coffee Cup opening early on a Tuesday to allow the Nursery mums a chance to talk and share over coffee and we see this as key in building relationships with those who use our services but as yet do not worship with us on Sundays. Sundays have also recently seen the launch of a children’s choir at the same time as the Chinese Service (once a month) for those up to eleven years old and we have seen over twenty children attending along with their parents.
Over the last few months we have been thinking about how to develop further our links to families and children and the church is now being consulted about appointing a Family and Children’s worker. Such a project naturally needs funding but more importantly it would need a team to work with the person appointed - are you able to help in some way? We believe this work will build on the work already being done in the church for young people.
Of course Christmas is not just a time to remember the young and we are mindful of the need to make provision for everyone of all ages. The new Youth Hall will undoubtedly improve our provision for the older young people and we hope that the additional space created will also allow us to build our work with the adult community whom we serve. It was wonderful to see over 170 people at our service for those whose loved ones died in the past year and to see the church full at the Remembrance Day Service. We thank God that we can support those going through tough times and we ask that we will always be a people of hope.
As we enter 2012 we will recommit ourselves to the work of God at our special Covenant Service on 15th January. May we encourage one another by the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ so that we can be hope to those around us?