A week ago this evening Mrs Nomad, the Wee One and I were at the local Methodist Church for a Welcome Service for the new ministers coming into the Circuit. One of those ministers was, is, of course, me! It still feels strange saying that, though at the same time it feels normal. It felt most strange on Monday evening when, in cassock, gown and preaching scarf, I welcomed the new vicar of St Germans to the area on behalf of the local Methodists – he is married to a Methodist Superintendent minister, grew up in Methodism, and operated for a while as an Associate Minister taking pastoral charge of one of the churches I now look after; I, on the other hand, grew up an Anglican and had only just moved into the area! Nonetheless, it was good to be there and to formally and officially be the face of Methodism in that particular village.
I did the same in a more informal way this morning, when in the same village of St Germans I popped into the Community Shop to see what they had for sale having just been at the chapel for the weekly “Coffee Plus”, where I had begun the work of listening to the lives and stories of the local folk, whether Chapel, Church or neither. Like so many villages in rural Britain, St Germans has had to work hard to keep a shop and Post Office running – they now rely on a team of volunteers to do so, but it is a lifeline to some folk in the village, and sells some wonderful freshly baked pasties and cakes, as well as a range of everyday necessities from household goods to tins of baked beans. It felt good to be there, and to be a visible sign of the church being alongside and supporting the work and concerns of the local community.
It also felt good on Sunday to be back leading worship again, including presiding at Holy Communion for the first time. Anyone who has paid attention to my various ramblings over time will know that Holy Communion plays a significant part in how I see my role (indeed, all the sacraments do, the ones formally recognised by Methodism, and those further ones recognised by our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters). While there are arguments for and against Authorisation to preside at Communion outside of being ordained, all I can say is that it felt good and right for me to be doing it and it was a joy and privilege to do so.
Indeed, it has felt a great joy and privilege over the past week, from wandering up to the local newsagent in my clerical collar last Saturday on my first day in “the job” to leading a Bible Study on the Lord’s Prayer in a church member’s home this afternoon. Driving around the area to various appointments has blessed me with the beauty of this place – while I fell in love with the unique beauty of the flat Fens it is good to be back amongst hills and rivers, woods and beaches! And attending two welcome services, my own and the St Germans vicar’s, has given me time to reflect on the wonderful hospitality of the people of this area – a gift I have no doubt will be most helpful as we journey together to explore our radical discipleship (as District Chair, Steve Wild, referred to it at my welcome service) in which we are called to constantly re-engage and interpret afresh the gospel for a new generation seeking the welcome of God (to paraphrase Bishop Tim of Truro’s sermon on Monday evening).
Wherever you are, may you too have reason to offer God praise and thanksgiving for at least something in your life today.