To respond to God’s love in Christ for everyone - by being a real focus in the town for Christian teaching, worship and care
Minister's message January 2018
So, I’m not the greatest gardener.
I can quite imagine the scene in a few months-time – one sunny summer’s afternoon – as Bob (not his real name) is in the garden next door filling his wheelbarrow with freshly-pulled spuds (‘Cor, I got some whoppers ‘ere!’ – his cheery Devonshire accent drifting over the fence), weighing his prize marrow (‘Nearly broke the scales that did!’), and offering me a couple of crates of his succulent strawberries (‘I just got no room left in the fridge!’)… while, on my side of the fence, I’m throwing my pitiful looking carrots straight onto the compost heap (hoping that Bob’s not looking), discovering that blight has once again ravaged my tomato crop, and cutting up into six pieces the one small raspberry I’ve successfully grown so that whole family can have a taste of the season’s harvest.
You get the picture.
Here’s what Bob knows: Set the right environment for your fruit and veg and they will thrive. Give them the sunlight, warmth, water and nutrients that they need and they’re going to do well.
And just as gardeners want their gardens to thrive, God wants us to thrive.
We see a picture of it in the first psalm,
’They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do’ (Psalm 1:3)
God wants us to thrive, to be healthy, growing followers of Christ. There are many things that will help us to thrive as Christians, but here’s a key one that we’re going to be focusing in on during our teaching in February: being a part of a House Group.
House groups help us to thrive because they are a fantastic place to make meaningful and lasting friendships. And friendships are important. God created us for community, to be with one another, to encourage and support one another, to share together in the difficult times as well as in the happy ones. In House Groups we have a safe space to be ourselves, to be real, open and honest; to care and to be cared for, to love and to be loved.
House Groups also help us to thrive because they are a fantastic place to grow in faith. As we study the Bible together, share testimonies, ask questions, worship and pray together, we get to know God in a deeper way and are strengthened and encouraged in our Christian walk.
House Groups help us to thrive because they give us a chance to participate and to get involved… to help, to serve, to host, to lead, to pray for others, and just to be ourselves! House Groups provide a safe context for us to use the gifts that God has given us and to be a blessing to others as we do so.
Here’s what some people have said about House Groups:
"I have gained a lot from being part of the group, making a contribution, the social events and the Bible studies” " Apart from everything we have learnt together, so many friendships have been formed as well as some deeper ties which are of great and lasting value..." "We have been gaining a great deal from the studies... it is proving a wonderful opportunity... we are gaining so much from doing this."
So, if you are not already part of a house group, we’d love to encourage you to consider joining one! Our groups meet at various times of the week in different locations throughout Epsom. You’d be very welcome to try one or two groups out to get an idea of which one feels right for you. If you’d like to know more, you can:
Chat to one of our group leaders (please see below) or to me.
God wants us to thrive, to be healthy and to grow in our relationship with Him. House groups can really help us to do that. If you’re interested in joining one, please do let us know how we can support you.
Minister's Message December 2017
November has been so full of the golden leaves of autumn. It has been quite breathtaking. You could never capture such colours with a camera alone. You seem to be immersed in the colour; surrounding you on all sides. And when the sun comes from behind a cloud the leaves catch fire! Seasons never fail to move me and as we enter into the long nights and gloomy days of December, slipping a little reluctantly into the deeper parts of winter, it is worth remembering that. Spring seems to be an age away and the spirits can flag and our energies wane. Sometimes you suspect that deeply written into our genes is the inclination to hibernate and sleep away the darkness.
I wonder what this all must have felt like to ancient Britons at the dawn of history? I wonder about the cold of draughty round houses, and the drastic narrowing down of diet and drink. I wonder with a great deal of relief for central heating and supermarkets and electric light! It is no wonder, however, that in their ancient beliefs, seasons played such an important part and in the heart of winter they celebrated the light. Nor is it surprising that the young Christian faith emerging into Roman Briton, latched onto such celebrations, not only because they shared a longing for the spring, but because the annual cycle reminded them of a greater truth still. The cold days that slowly become warmer days, the dark days that gradually brighten, and the austere diets that burst into the plenty and coming of new life; all speak of their experience of Jesus.
We owe the Pagan world a great deal for the feast of Christmas! For that reason, if nothing else, I find it hard to grumble about the modern pagans and their use of the images we as Christians have borrowed. However, while I am grateful, I am sad that the ‘greater truth’ goes unacknowledged. In solidarity with humanity I am content to enjoy the winter feast of light and share a longing for the Spring. But in happiness I want to rejoice that God sent his only son and share that as well. There isn’t a ‘real meaning’ of Christmas, but there are levels of meaning and the deepest level is the most wonderful of all.
Christmas by John Betjeman
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker's Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
"The Church looks nice" on Christmas Day.
Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says "Merry Christmas to you all".
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say "Come!"
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true? and is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?
And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.
Happy Christmas from EMC!
Minister's Message November 2017
My brother and I recently took on the famed ‘Yorkshire Three Peaks’. The challenge: cover 24 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation climbing Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough and make it back to the Pen-y-ghent Café in Horton for a cuppa within 12 hours. It’s a stiff challenge. To add a little further spice, my brother and I decided to run it.
Many years younger than me and several pounds lighter, I thoughtfully let my brother lead most of the way round. His light, silky strides the prelude to my pained and exhausted stagger for any of those we passed on route. Reading running magazines seemed not to have made me as fit as I was hoping. Maybe I should have actually done some training. But I digress.
The miles ticked by and within four hours we were enjoying the sunshine atop Whernside – our second summit of the day – tucking into peanut butter and jam sandwiches, encouraged by our progress, and taking in the beauty of our surroundings.
With the wind in our sails our descent of Whernside was swift and gazelle-like, and before long we were taking a deep breath and locking eyes with the day’s final summit: Ingleborough. Its distant peak now circled with dark, swollen clouds – majestic, moody … and menacing.
And then we must have gotten chatting. Or dreaming about that cup of tea (with a scone. and a cake and maybe a fry-up). Or perhaps we were imagining the heroes’ welcome back home.
In any case, we missed a signpost. It must have been quite an important signpost.
Within a short while, the path we were on petered out in an area of shake holes and marshy heather. We could still see our final peak, but we had no idea how to get there. Dark clouds spread across the sky. The sun began to set. Our food and water ran out. Our aching bodies started to cramp. We were cold and exhausted. Hungry and thirsty. And lost.
Signposts are important.
As a church, we need to be looking for God’s signposts. We need to be diligent about seeking his direction and guidance. Without that we may be able to see where we should be going but be unsure about how to get there
The church in Acts leaves us great example in this. They prayed. They did their best to listen for God’s voice. And when they heard, they did what they felt God was asking of them. They followed His signposts. (See, for example, Acts 13:1-3
So, what is God saying to us at EMC
One of the things, we believe, is to strengthen and sharpen our focus on mission. We’re so grateful for the fantastic foundations that we have in place, and the good work already being done by so many. But our vision is to grow still further in this, reaching out with compassion to our local community and sharing with more people the message of hope and new life in Jesus. The Mission Action Group has now formed which will play a key role in this, and I’m also excited to announce to you that on January 13 next year we will be having a Church Away Day called ‘IGNITE’ – a day of worship, fellowship and teaching to inspire and empower us for mission! Look out for more details coming soon. We would love to see you there!
A second signpost is leading us to focus in on prayer. Prayer was both prized and prioritised in Jesus’ life and in the life of the early church – leading not only to a greater power in ministry but also to the deep joy of richer connection and closeness to God. This is so important for us to take hold of as we look to grow in our personal walk with God and in our life and mission as a church. Among our initiatives and activity in this area, we’ll be teaching on prayer in our morning services throughout November – please do join with us!
And a third signpost would lead us to focus on one another. We’re very blessed by our small groups and our pastoral care team at EMC. Our huge thanks to all those involved who play such a key role in standing alongside others in fellowship and support! Over the coming months we’re looking to grow ever further in this with the launch of new small groups and an increasing sense of connection and community with one another.
There are other signposts too. We all have a role in looking out for them. And we look forward to all the ways in which God will direct and guide us as we continue to move forward in his purposes.
And as for the Three Peaks Challenge. Yes, we did make it. Just. And I got my cup of tea.
Have a great month!
Minister's Message October 2017
It has been an exciting new start to the Methodist Year already. We welcome Chris, Hannah and family and look forward to working together in the ministry team. The role of the ‘ministers’ is to support the ministry of all God’s people – so we hope we will continue that journey of discovery. October is an important month because we celebrate Black History. This matters so much to our church because much of the media and the European story has presented African and the African diaspora in negative light. We shouldn’t really have to celebrate it – but it’s so good we can! Look out for the weekend 21st and 22nd of October with a Saturday social and film and a Sunday celebration service.
I want to use my Focus slot to remember an important Anniversary - that of Constance Coltman – a pioneer in ministry. (Some of this article is taken from the Methodist Church, ‘Sing the Faith’ website - click here)
The centenary of the ordination of Constance Coltman is marked on 17th September 2017. Laurence Wareing remembers Constance and asks where the hymns are, about women in ministry.
Though not the first woman to be ordained as a minister in Britain, Constance Coltman was the first woman to be ordained into the presbyteral ministry of a mainstream British denomination: the Congregational Union of England and Wales. Formal discussion about the ordination of women had been ongoing in the denomination since 1909.
Constance Todd (her family name) was born in 1889. She was admitted for training at Mansfield College,Oxford, in1913. Four years later, Constance was ordained alongside Claud Coltman; they married the next day. They began ministry together in London Docklands. A committed pacifist and suffragist, Constance was also an early supporter of birth control. In later years, she did much to promote women’s ordination across the churches,at home and abroad. In 1929 she helped to found the interdenominational Society for the Ministry of Women in the Church. Constance died in1969.’
My mother and I were ordained together at the Methodist Conference of 1984. I think this was the first time a mother and son were ordained on the same occasion and we were even interviewed on Breakfast TV by Ann Diamond! Despite the long time since Constance Coltman’s ordination it has taken the Church a long time to value and appreciate the leadership of women. This has been to our loss! My mother is fond of saying, ‘The first Christian sermon ever preached was by the woman who found the empty tomb. The men didn’t listen and the Church has struggled to listen ever since’.
I wonder who else we find it hard to listen to. The whole theme of white male privilege is very much in the news. Men are feeling left out and angry! But it is an inevitable aspect of progress. In the past things were wrong in that some benefited unfairly from the status quo. Changing this does mean a loss to some as we achieve a better balance. However, I believe the benefit to all as we seek to take heed of the rich diversity of human society far outweighs any loss that might be felt.
I know that at EMC we are keen to celebrate the contribution of different cultures and experiences as well as cheering for Constance Coltman!
Nik's Message August 2017
Farewell and ‘Fare Well’
At this time of year numerous Methodist Ministers in the U.K. are preparing to leave for pastures new. Since this was my first appointment, I am relatively inexperienced compared to the majority, and so moving from my familiar stationing here in Cheam and Epsom to one in Scotland is both a challenging and exciting time in my life’s journey.
I was once given advice about saying goodbye - the advice ran: practice the three G’s – be grateful – be gracious – and go!
Sounds like good advice to me as I prepare to leave EMC and take up my new role in the Angus, Perth and Dundee circuit.
I am grateful – for the joy of having been a part of Epsom Methodist church. From the beginning you welcomed me and my family into your fellowship and many of the relationships formed have been enriched and deepened through your friendship, hospitality and through the pastoral contacts, joyous and sad, of the last six years.
Thank you for your love, care, friendship and prayers.
Be gracious: I pray sincerely that you ‘fare well’ in the future – this is not a light good luck wish – but a prayer for inner strength to meet well the changing and often demanding events of life – I pray for you the prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21.
'For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.'
Go: I will no longer be the minister of Epsom from 30th July and will take up my new role as minister of Blairgowrie and Perth from 1st September. I leave you in safe hands and wish both Mark and Chris every blessing as they minister alongside you all.
Thanks a million for the last six years, and if you’re in Scotland,feel free to pop round for a cuppa!
Ung Soon's Message July 2017: A New Time
When I was attending my first Synod Meeting last September after I arrived in England, it was a sad moment for me. Never in my life have I needed to make such a decision, that is: whether to lift up my hand or not to agree to cease worship for one of the Methodist churches. Before I came to England last year, I had read a report saying that churches had been closed down or been put on sale to individuals or organisations for other purposes in England and other European countries. How sad this message was to me?
The homeland of John Wesley, John Wycliffe and William Tyndale, and I might say England, was once a thriving center of Christian thoughts. Besides, this land was experiencing a spiritual revival and had commissioned so many missionaries to unreached people groups. It is so difficult for me to understand and accept. Today, secularism and Islam are growing influences among the populations in England. Freedom of speech and religion are limited. An estimated 59% of the population claims the Christian faith, but that number is decreasing annually. England is in desperate need of a spiritual revival and the only one who can lift the weight of hopelessness and despondency in this land is Christ.
When I looked back, with the darkness in moral standards of the 18th century British society, Wesleyan revival broke out. As the flames of revival broke out in what was once darkness, historians marvel at how the movement of revival was sustained for decades. Why? To Wesley, a True Christian was marked by two inseparable qualities: holiness and happiness. I might say this has become an essential reason why spiritual revival takes place.
John Wesley wanted the followers of Jesus to have a disciplined life, to live in holiness. Once, John Wesley was visiting one of the churches. He expelled sixty four church members. The reason why John Wesley was doing that was: two selling liquor, two said bad words, seventeen drunkenness, twenty nine lightness and carelessness, three quarrelling, four swearing, three habitual lying, two sabbath-breaking, one laziness and with one count of wife beating.
In order to live a transforming life, Wesley's followers first met in private homes "societies." When these societies became too large for members to care for one another, Wesley organized "classes," each with eleven members and a leader. Classes met weekly to pray, read the Bible, discuss their spiritual lives, and to collect money for charity. These societies and classes provided continual pulses of revival power which ultimately changed a nation. During this prolonged period of cultural transformation, a thought provoking question was consistently asked of participants. That question, which might be asked a thousand times upon one’s participation in a Methodist society over a lifetime. Each time when these questions were asked in groups they held each other accountable.
What known sins have you committed since our last meeting?
What temptations have you met with?
How were you delivered?
What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not?
Have you nothing you desire to keep secret?
After the questions and sharing, it was followed by a question “Do you desire to flee from the wrath of God to come, and to be saved from your sins?” I am thinking shall we have these questions to be asked in our worship together, bible study or prayer meeting?
For many today, notions of “the wrath of God” may seem outdated, questionable, or even backward. Nonetheless, the theme of God’s wrath permeates all of Scripture and was a central theme in the DNA of the Wesleyan revival. Should we also consider the reality of God’s wrath as we seek to make disciples in the 21st century? John Wesley thought it so important that he and others framed an important question around this theme for every participant in the Methodist movement.
This is a new time; a time to seek holiness, a time of mercy and a time of shaking. It is the time that EMC and CCEMC respond to God’s calling. To humbly come before God, seek His face; turn from our wicked ways and to pray. Now is the time to persevere, continue to live as true followers of Jesus Christ although others have declined. Now is the time for us together, as God's people across our UK nations, to pray in unity for God to fulfil His purposes for our nations, just like what John Wesley had emphasized, to have holiness and happiness.
Ung Soon Nguang
Minister's message MAY 2017
Mirth and Youth and Warm Desire
Song on May Morning John Milton, 1608 – 1674
Now the bright morning-star, Dayes harbinger, Comes dancing from the East, and leads with her The Flowry May, who from her green lap throws The yellow Cowslip, and the pale Primrose. Hail bounteous May that dost inspire Mirth and youth, and warm desire, Woods and Groves, are of thy dressing, Hill and Dale, doth boast thy blessing. Thus we salute thee with our early Song, And welcom thee, and wish thee long.
My children are clever souls – and Rachel (our younger daughter) takes a picture, every year of her children holding a picture of themselves from the year before. This is Emily. If you look carefully you should see at least five years of her growing up! This one was taken last April and before we have seen this year’s picture. I assure you she has changed a good deal since then, but is still our lovely, kind Emily. Of course, we are hopelessly biased, but it is such a thrill to see things growing and changing and especially when things are grandchildren.
When you are reading this, we will be safely on Sabbatical and if all goes to plan, up to our elbows in the garden and allotment. It is such a brilliant time of year to be in the garden, plants grow super-fast, and you can almost see them changing as you watch. Plants want to thrive and, if you get it even half right, they do. Your efforts are so richly rewarded, far and away above even your hardest efforts. As you know I often see the Church as being a bit like an allotment. When caring about plants you do need to plan, and it is the same with Church – and we do the Church equivalents of digging, sowing, weeding and watering. But when together we get things even half right, what God can do with all that thoughtful effort is extraordinary. It is all God’s grace and goodness, and areas that seemed a bit barren and dull begin to flower and fruit and fill you with happiness. Our going away means that when we come back at the end of July, we will see a lot of changes. A lot of people have already worked very hard in various areas of the Church life and, through that Grace of God, it is our hope that we will come back to new and exciting things! In the garden, even a week away can be such a thrill when you return to walk around and see all the new things. I wonder what it will be like? What our Church will be like a year in May 2018? Perhaps we should take a picture every year of us holding a picture of the year before. There will be loss and sadness because change nearly always means loss and sadness, but there will also be good new things, new people, new challenges, new hopes and ideas.
We will be truly missing you while on Sabbatical; we are enjoying our ministry quite as much as our garden! But we are excited about what changes will happen while we are away, and even more the changes and new life we will see as we journey together on our return. God’s grace is so wonderful, and the promise made compelling and full of joy.
Mark and Judith’s Sabbatical 19th April – 19th July 2017
Methodist Ministers have their first Sabbatical after they have served for ten years, and afterwards every seven years. They must submit a plan for how they will use the time, and decide with a small group who oversee all the arrangements needed to make it possible. We have filled all the plan dates, and meetings, and Nik will carry the responsibilities I normally do. Thanks, Nik! It is a great gift of the Church to its ministers and is much appreciated by them. The Sabbatical is for three months and its purpose is to refresh and invigorate! This is my third Sabbatical as I started in circuit in 1982. I have used my previous ones to complete academic work and Judith continued teaching. This one is different because it will probably be our last one. We expect to retire in 2022 if we are allowed to. They have moved the retirement age since we started, but we’ve decided that if we can afford to go at our original finishing date we will! We are, therefore, using the Sabbatical to help us think how we will live after retirement. We will look at our ministry together as ‘active supernumeraries’ and we have planned two longer retreats and some pilgrimage days on the way to Canterbury. How will we continue to serve the Church? We will also explore our hobbies and are spending time at RHS Wisely on several day courses to learn more about what we love doing. We will also visit various possible places where we might retire, checking out the area, visiting churches, and getting a feel as much as you can while staying in a campervan. Apart from that we have the ambition to sort out the Manse garden which is still in a bit of a state. We hope it will be ready for the Garden Party on the 29th of July (details in next Focus) when you are invited to check up on how we have got on and have some cake!
If you need to speak to a minister during my Sabbatical please contact Rev Nik Wooller or Rev Dr David Dickinson (the Circuit Superintendent) 020 8643 6884.
Thank you for giving us this time. We know it is a privilege and we are grateful. Pray for us as we will continue to pray for you.