Our Minister is the Revd Moses Agyam. His email address is email@example.com
The Minister’s Letter
A Living Hope
Happy Easter Everybody!
During Lent, a number of us met weekly for bible studies. We used this year’s Lent study material from Churches Together in Britain and Ireland. This was a powerful practical study course; we learnt of ‘40 Stories of Hope’ from prisoners across the country and how faith has changed their lives. These were extraordinary and moving stories of hope and the power of the gospel to transform lives in a dark and broken world of today.
Hope is at the heart of the Easter story. The Easter journey starts in darkness and despair, in failure and death, but its ends in a living hope – in a restored and healed life. This Easter ‘hope’ is not static – a mere belief in Jesus’ and our future resurrection – but a dynamic and life-giving hope which is ours now. Peter speaks of this dynamic Easter power as ‘a living hope’: ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ (1 Peter 1:3).
Peter says that the significance of Easter is not just the belief in the resurrection but the power of the resurrection in this life. It is this dynamism that gives us the Easter vision which Jesus want us to enact and live now. This Easter vision is what drives the mission and the church’s engagement in the world. One theologian put it this way: the power of the resurrection is at work ‘anytime love overcomes hate, liberation overcomes bondage, flourishing overcomes diminution, abundance overcomes scarcity, repentance or forgiveness overcomes sin, belonging overcomes estrangement, and relationship of trust overcomes suspicion’. In other words, whenever life overcomes death, and hope overcomes despair and pain.
It is this Easter vision in the power of the resurrection that we acclaim on Easter morning: ‘Alleluia. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia’!
May the power and blessing of the resurrection be yours this Eastertide!
The Minister’s Letter
Following the Star
We are told that after Jesus was born wise men from the East were led by a star to the Christ-child bearing gifts. ‘When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at it rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy’ (Mat. 2:9-10). Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you whether you’ve checked what your horoscope say about your chances for 2018. Despite the long traditions and legends around the Magi, Matthew’s point (theologically at least) is to show that Jesus is for everybody (Jews and Gentiles alike). So here is people from the East coming to worship the Jesus – the king of the world.
But I like the idea of being led by a star and I think it is a good idea to hold on to through 2018 individually and collectively as a church. Who or what will guide you going forward this year? The Magi have heard that there is a good news in the air, but they needed help to discover it for themselves; they needed God’s guidance and direction. And they were ‘wise’ enough to let themselves be guided by God’s star and light. As we begin yet another new year, the temptation is to go alone, relying on past experience and wisdom to pull us through. The other alternative is the way of the wise-men or the Magi. To humbly allow ourselves to be guided by the Christ-star and to know his presence, love and security along the way. We all needs a star to guide us to go deeper into love. The church’s long tradition of epiphany is meant to help us discover the glory of the Christ-child and be guided by him into an ever closer communion with him.
The writer Chris Thorpe reflects that the story of the Magi is in some respect connected to the question of our ultimate identify in this life. Let me quote him at length here. ‘What are you here for? What is your real purpose in life? The Magi were here to visit the new-born child who was to change the world. They were here to kneel and worship, to give gifts. In a way, the visit to Herod was a distraction; it was not where Jesus was to be found. As Christians, perhaps particularly as the church, we can get caught up in the daily grind of running an organization, and lose sight of our real purpose. We get distracted and deflected easily, and need to keep centring, returning to the heart of things, remembering our unique gifts, coming back to what we are really here for’. Well said indeed!
So then, may the Christ-star led you gently into his future for you, making you a blessing. And may you become a star to others through 2018.
This year I got my Christmas cards from Action for Children. The cards have different titles; one pack says ‘Christmas Begins with Christ’, another pack simply says ‘Peace’, and then there is another still, with no words only a star and painting with Mary and Joseph ‘Beside the Manger’.
Lots of thoughts have clearly gone into making these cards and picking the front titles. These titles come with message. ‘Christmas begins with Christ’ is a reminder of what this festive season is all about – the Christ-child. Christmas is a time of the year when focusing and worshipping Jesus should be the easiest but is the hardest.
I few years ago I heard about ‘Blue Christmas services’. It is a service intentionally designed for what is often a difficult time of the year for many people. These service are sometimes referred to as ‘services for the Longest Night’ and reflect the darkness of days and length of nights during Advent, aiming to offer something of the hope that the Christ child can bring. It is created as an opportunity to share sad and ‘blue’ feelings around Christmas time, and specifically to remember the bereavements that means Christmas is not always a happy time, as loved ones are missing. But the focus is not exclusively on bereavement. It might be that breakup of a relationship, or the separation from family because of other factors, might be causing distress at Christmas times.
Also, some will see another Christmas as a marker of hopes and dreams yet unfulfilled, and others might be facing Christmas without a job, or with illness and anxiety.
As we celebrate Christmas then, let’s keep in mind those in the ‘blue’. And if we keep Christ at the centre, our hopes and prayers will be that the peace he brings will extend to everyone, including those in the ‘blue’ this time of the year.
I wishing you all a peaceful Christmas
The theologian Malcolm Guite in his sonnets for ‘remembrance Sunday’ opens with this line: ‘November pierces with its bleak remembrance . . .’ So November is the month of remembering. Why November has come to stand for remembering is not clear; we think of remembrance Sunday when we pause to remember our fallen soldiers and their sacrifice for us not only in the two World Wars but also the ongoing commitments of our soldiers and Arm Forces today. But in a sense Remembrance Sunday in November is quite recent coming at the back of the two Wars.
It maybe that perhaps the reason why November is a particular month for remembering is down to the Church’s long held tradition of ‘All Soul’s Day’ (not to be confused with ‘All Saints’ Day!) which takes place on 2nd November every year. All Soul’s Day is about remembering and saying prayers for departed friends and families. The practice has long history (and some trace it origin to Jewish religion, although other cultures have also long practiced this) and Catholics have long celebrated All Soul’s Day. Because of its early association with purgatory, Protestants pretty much stayed clear from it. However, since the nineteenth the practice of remembering and praying for the departed has become a common practice in all church traditions.
The annual service of remembering and thanksgiving flows out of ‘All Souls’ Day. This is now an important aspect of the Church’s ministry and mission of remembrance for the families of those who have died during the year. A service of remembering and thanksgiving provides the church an opportunity to reconnect, journey alongside grieving families, help them remember rightly, provide pastoral care and show genuine solidarity. This means that service of remembering and thanksgiving is not only for the families of the departed, but for all of us as a church community to remember together and share support and healing!
Jesus said that the church should be a remembering community that remembers his death and rising. So let’s us remember together this November with others.
Yours in Christ,
From Our ministerAugust letter.Then God said, Let there be light’,
and there was light.
And God saw the light,
that it was good’
(Gen 1:3-4).Dear Friends,
Summer season brings many benefits and blessings: golden fields, ripe plums and meadowsweet, warm sun, tea in the garden, holidays, barbecues and weddings, summer fetes and all. There are more hours and light evenings when it is hard to be early in bed.
This summer radiance and light can remind us of the light of the creation story in Genesis.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.‘Lights brings warmth and comfort.
Light shines into dark corners
and shows us that there are no hidden monsters waiting to pounce.
Light reveals the beautiful colours of our world.
Light always shines, even through storms’.These words by Elizabeth Kime, are particularly appropriate today; the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, and now the Grenfell Tower fire, are painful and sad reminders that whilst there is summer light around, darkness is not far away as well. We need the summer light but we also so desperately need the light of Christ in our darkness. So this summer, go gently, and please hold in your prayers, the many school children on holidays, the elderly, travellers and many other situations and events happening locally and nationally.‘Lord, the light of your love is shining,
in the midst of the darkness, shining:
Jesus, light of the world, shine upon us:
set us free by the truth you now bring us –
shine on me, shine on me’
Shine, Jesus, shine . . .
(Graham Kendrick)And in the words of the Psalmist:
‘Lord, lift the light of your countenance upon us’ (Ps. 4:6).
Moses( July letter)Dear Friends,I writes a week after the arrival of our new born baby– Moses Jr.And already we have been overwhelmed by your love andgenerousity! We are truly thankful to you all!The gift of a child is always a mircale #lling us with wonder andutter joy. This wonder-ful gift is also a hope-ful presence. This isbecause the presence of the ‘gift’ is a sign of a God who stillcreates newess out of choas, pain, su*ering and disorder in theworld.Here at Mapperley, after a rather di*icult and challengingmonths, the knowledge that God still creates newness out ofpain and su*ering should #ll us with hope and lift us – if only forawhile – from fear, hopelessness and despair.We need to embrace this awarness of God’s newness and hope-ful presence to go forward as a church. This is particularlysignifcant after our recent AGM where we made a sign#cantdecision about our future. The decision to stay where we are inthe current scheme of things, and reach out with the good newsof God’s liberating love in Jesus could be seen by some as riskyand reckless, even – given our manifold limitations.But the Christian Church from its very inception was called to arisk-taken-mission – to be daring and to allow the Pentecostalspirit to drive it out into yet uncharted territories – into love andservice.The alternative to risk-taken-mission is despair, fear and apathy.Despair and apathy can immobilized us – they can give us tenthousand reasons why we can’t do things or go forward and bedaring in faith. More than ever, being a church in the twenty-#rst century is about risk taken and being led by the Spirit togrow in holiness and mission. Yes, we must be sensible with ourresources and recognise our limitations – be #nanical, ageing,building etc; but we must also learn to be open and positive, putpast behind, seek the face of God in prayer and practicediscipleship of deep listening to God and one another in love.If our collective decision from the AGM was Spirit-led, then wemust go forward knowing that God has not #nished with us yet;that we stick and work together, channelled our energy and
resource into positive use, and with God’s help and guidancemake that decision a success.May the ever creating God grant us all the newness we seek,Moses.
The chances are that by the time you read this article you would be in the thick of the Lenten season, and if you follow the spirit of Lent, you would have given up chocolate or fish and chips by now!
Giving up things in Lent, by the way, has nothing to do with losing weight! The chief reason is probably the fact that Jesus himself fasted for forty days. The Latin term for Lent is jejunium and it means ‘The Fast’; die Fasten (‘the Fast’) or Fastenziet (‘fasting time’) is the German term for Lent. Our English word ‘Lent’ comes from the Old English lencten, ‘lengthen,’ that is, spring when the daylight begins to lenghten. (German Lenz). So Lent is usually seen as the Church’s springtime of renewal.
The poet Malcolm Guite says that: ‘Lent is a time set side to reorient ourselves, to clarify our minds, to slow down, recover from distraction, to focus on the values of God’s kingdom and on the value he has set on us and on our neighbours’. In the title of the book I am currently reading, Lent is a season of Holy Attention, i.e., of intentionally attending to God, self, neighbour and the pains and the cries of the world.
It is to help us with the practice of the art of ‘Holy Attention’ that the church came to devised the so called the ‘Lenten discipline’. These are: fasting, self-denial, prayer, bible study and good works. All these are to help us towards self-examination and repentance: ‘turning around, changing the direction of one’s life’.
John Welsey taught us two simple ways of practicing our faith, viz. acts of piety and acts of mercy. In the season of Lent, we find that remarkly the inward and outward and the social aspects of our faith comes together and intensifes.
So whether you give up something or not this Lent, I pray that you are able to find space to practice a bit of Lenten discipline to help you attend to God, self, neigbour and the world.
What do you most look forward to in January? Perhaps a return to a daily routine after all the Christmas hype; or perhaps if you are like me, it is the Australia Open tennis.
But I suspect that for most Methodists across the Connexion, what we most look forward to in January is the annual Covenant service. The Covenant is a uniquely Methodist ‘thing’ and has long become part of our spiritual practice. Isn’t it truly wonderful that at the very start of the year we are given the space as body of Christ to renew and offer ourselves anew to God in prayer and service?
In my covenant sermon this year, I suggested that we see the Covenant in terms of belonging – an invitation to come and belong, first to God, and then to one another. Jesus was all about enabling people to belong; the gospel shows Jesus again and again connecting with those who don’t think they belong. He not only reaches out to the excluded, but also removes barriers – spiritual and social – that prevents people from belonging.
And that, I suggested to you, is the calling of the church. The church is called to model Jesus and participates in his life giving practices. Being a community of belonging is more than simply saying ‘we are a welcoming church’. It means like Jesus, going out of our way – away from our comfort zones – away from our warn and cosy church buildings – into the heart of the community around us and connecting with the excluded. The future of our church lies not in maintaining the status quo but by breaking free from control, rigid theological mindset, deep attachment to building or old ways of being and doing a church. These and many such practices are not life giving practices and certainly do not create a community of belonging – the like Jesus want us to model.
What John Wesley is saying to us year in and year out in those Covenant words, is that in order to be truly a connecting and belonging community, we need a radical obedience, a covenantal obedience. This means, in the words of Methodist scholar John Newton, we ‘aspire to complete disposability in God’s service and authority’.
‘Obedience’ is deeply uncomfortable and suspicious word nowadays. Partly because we normally understand ‘obedience’ to mean ‘doing what we are told’ which of course is dangerous thing to do.
‘Obaudire’ is the Latin word for ‘obedience’ and it simply means ‘to listen carefully’. And so obedience is all about deep listening to what God is saying to us in the Spirit and through one another. Deep listening is about being changed and transformed (Rom. 12:1-2) because it always to leads love of God and love of neighbour. And that is what ‘Covenant obedience’ means.
So the covenant is not something we say in January and forget until next year; rather it set our spiritual agenda for the whole year, and indeed, our whole life. Faithful obedience is the term that fits – to love as Jesus loves and to let that love flow through us to the neighbour, especially the excluded around us.
‘Jesus, we thus obey
your last and kindest word;
here, in your own appointed way,
we come to meet you, Lord.’.
Charles Wesley (1707-1788)
Blessings in Christ,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
( a farewell message from Jeongsook Kim)
At this time of year numerous Methodist Ministers in the U.K. are preparing to leave for pastures new. Since coming to the UK to serve God as a minister 10 years ago I have only moved once, so I am relatively inexperienced compared to the majority. But moving from my familiar stationing in Nottingham to one in London is both a challenging and worrying time in my life’s journey, especially as I won’t have a manse to move into for a month or so. Life itself constantly changes, even though we often don’t realize it until we start to look back.
I leave with a sense of awe and expectation, having experienced the majesty and power of God whilst serving in the Nottingham East Circuit. I leave with a sense of thankfulness to God, and to all of you, for all the love and support I have been given through the years.
I write this last letter, not simply as a protracted goodbye, but to encourage and challenge you! During the years I have been here we have had several changes, circuit reviews and discussions – often wondering if some of the churches in our circuit could survive.
I remain convinced that if everyone of our church members counted themselves as treasured as Jesus sees them, and shared their faith with friends, neighbours and work colleagues with the passion that Jesus plants in our hearts, we could be having entirely different church reviews in the future. You all count; you all are part of the body of Christ, so don’t wait for someone more professional to spread the good news of the Gospel. God has called you, and will equip you for the task.
I pray that Moses will be guided by God as he prepares to meet the challenges and opportunities in the circuit as your new minister, and feel sure you will all give him the same level of support and encouragement that you have given me over the years.
In Philippians 3: 13 the Apostle Paul talks about ‘forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead’. Before doing so, however, I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to you all for the help and support you have given me. May God bless you all. May His Kingdom come and His will continue to be done in Mapperley Methodist church.
From the Far East to the East End via Mapperley
A Thank You to Jeongsook
By Roger Sexton
Christianity may be in decline in Britain, but worldwide it continues to thrive. Until relatively recently Christian ministers went out from this country to spread the gospel. But now, the reverse seems to be true. Ministers from all over the world come to Britain to spread the Good News that through Christ all mankind can be saved.
We in Nottingham East Methodist Circuit are already quite used to ministers coming from Africa, and we will soon be welcoming Moses Agyam, who was born in Ghana. But a minister from Korea, a country that has never been ruled by Britain, that is way out of the ordinary! When Jeongsook arrived nearly seven years ago we did not know what to expect.
Perhaps predictably, Jeongsook struggles with our Methodist bureaucracy. But her warmth of personality and her deep Christian faith shine through everything she does. She is extremely well-educated and very widely travelled. (As I write these words, she is enjoying a brief sabbatical in Peru!) Her knowledge of the scriptures is profound, and her sermons combine mainstream Christian theology with illustrations drawn from a wide range of sources (but especially cinema films). As someone once said to me, ‘Jeongsook brings scripture alive both through her words and preparation and through the use of innovative media and formats.’
Possible cultural differences have not proved a barrier to Jeongsook’s pastoral work. Her pleasant, polite and very warm personality is a crucial asset. The caring support she has given to many people and families (especially the housebound) has been very much appreciated. At a personal level I had one (brief) hospitalisation during Jeongsook’s ministry. She squeezed me into her busy schedule by visiting me at eight o’clock on a Sunday evening!
Jeongsook came to suburban Mapperley/Carlton from semi-rural Lincolnshire (near Scunthorpe). She is now moving on to a densely populated area of London just east of Stratford-upon-Olympics. (The area will get another huge boost in 2018 when the ‘Elizabeth Line’ opens.)
We say a very fond and grateful farewell to Jeongsook, and we wish her every blessing in her new and potentially very challenging location.