Many years ago, I was on a walking holiday in the Alps. We had walked for a few miles beside a stream, its water muddy with silt from a lake higher up. Then we came to a confluence, where a second stream flowed in. This stream came from a glacier and was a pearly greenish-white colour, with little flakes of ice in it. The new stream disrupted the flow of the earlier one, and for a further mile or two we could see the two separate streams in the river, until eventually they combined.
We find ourselves at the beginning of another new Connexional year. The life of Methodism continues to flow on as it has done for centuries. Yet this year, we have reached a confluence. A new stream has begun flowing into the familiar patterns of our life as a church, and it has brought an icy chill as we’ve experienced life in lock-down and in the very gradual reopening of society. We have known anxiety and sorrow, frustration and disappointment. We have missed our families and friends. We have missed each other and our fellowship Sunday by Sunday.
Yet this new stream has also stimulated us to find new ways of following Jesus. For many of us, Zoom worship has become a regular Sunday fixture. For others, worship comes in an envelope, with the weekly worship booklet, or even down a phone line via a conference call. We have discovered afresh that the church does not depend on its buildings. We have experienced the power of prayer as we have prayed together for those affected by the virus and the key workers who are still giving so much, and we have given thanks for the things we used to take for granted, like seeing grandchildren. Our priorities have changed and we see the world differently from a year ago. Our lives will continue to be shaped by all that this past year has brought to us.
‘Best of all is, God is with us’: said to be John Wesley’s last words. We do not know what this Connexional year will bring – though we hope for fewer shocks than last year – but we know that, whatever happens, God will be with us.