Sitting down and standing up, sitting down again.
Sitting down and standing up, sitting down again. Sitting down and standing up, sitting down again. Retirement has had a ‘kangaroo petrol’ effect so far, with our Church family at Crumpsall, then a return to Circuit ministry at Levenshulme and Northmoor Road, back to church life at Crumpsall, and then another spell of Circuit ministry at Long Street. Sitting down again.
But, if truth be told, I’ve enjoyed these further opportunities to engage in active ministry – hatching, matching and despatching, building-up the life of a congregation. A reminder, that the call to presbyteral ministry I struggled with back in the 1960’s is still there, still alive, still active. Once called, you can’t be un-called!
It had been twenty years since I left Long Street for Newton Heath in 1998, but ‘coming back’ in August 2018 has been like coming home. It has been a joy to see how the Langley and Long Street congregations have melded together seamlessly, and to see what a vital and vibrant contribution our international members are making to the life of the 21st century congregation. Something that is not just true for Middleton. The same is happening at Crumpsall, Clayton, Moston and elsewhere across the Circuit.
Methodist Churches have always been places of welcome [well in their better moments sometimes!] and now must embrace inclusion, in all its aspects and diversity, as another gift of the Spirit among us.
Following the 2019 Methodist Conference, the President of Conference, Rev. Dr. Barbara Glasson, is encouraging us to tell our stories, to listen to each other’s stories, to engage with stories of congregations and communities, during her presidential year. Something we all can do.
Also from Conference, the report of the Marriage and Relationships Task Group was commended to the Connexion – Districts, Circuits and Churches – for study and prayerful discussion. That means it is coming our way for consideration with its provisional resolutions on cohabitation, celebration of civil partnerships, prayers following the end of a marriage and permission for same-sex marriages to take place in Methodist Churches.
Over the years, I have changed my mind on the subject of homosexuality and same-sex relationships, though I still have unanswered questions in my mind.
This change has come about because I’ve worked with and employed gay people – men and women – in Manpower Services Commission projects, I’ve met many struggling with AIDS when the NW regional unit was at NMGH, and I’ve met transgender people coming for surgical assistance when previous operations have gone wrong, all in my 21 years as a hospital chaplain at NMGH and Pennine Acute NHS Trust. Engaging with their stories brings one face to face with people not issues.
Love has a rainbow quality about it that you have to meet, to see and to appreciate before jumping to the wrong conclusions based on previous prejudices.
As the story of the Good Samaritan shows us, loving your neighbour, whoever that might be, also means being loved by him/her/LGBT+ too.
“You must love your neighbour as you love yourself.”
I pray that, as I sit down again to continue the adventure of ministry as a member of a local congregation again, there will be that openness to listen to the stories, and to engage in prayerful discussions and dialogue while still remembering the injunction of our Lord,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
May God bless us all in our welcoming and inclusivity as we continue to ‘grow in grace’.
[Sitting down again!]