Are we at the beginning of a year or the end of one? For schools ad colleges it is the beginning of the year (the academic year, that is) and or the Methodist Church September 1st was the start of the 'Connexional' year, but for the farmers, as their harvests are all gathered in, it is the end of the year and for most of the Northern hemisphere the end of the growing season. The Jewish and Islamic New Year (Rosh Hashanah and Al Hijra) began at sunset on Wednesday 20th September but for most of us we are a little way into the last quarter of the year - Autumn.
As the year winds down and nature begins preparations for winter, despite the distancing from it that modern life has brought, for many of us in the developed world I still feel a sense of completion, relaxation and satisfaction that has nothing to do with what is actually going on around me and within the life of the church. In m frequent glances out of the window as I write this I see bright sunshine, blue skies and trees swaying in the brisk breeze which brings a not to the air and presages the colder weather yet to come. The bright red berried on the rowan tree and the aples which I have yet to harvest seen to echo the old saying 'God' in his heaven and all's right with the world.'
In the churches though it is all go! At a Curcuit Service at Lord Street West on 17th September, when Peter Lyth and I were formally welcomed to the Methodist Circuit as we took over pastoral care of the congregation on behalf of the URC, following Peter Hughes' departure, the superintendent monister Marie-Anne Kent remarked that it was like the Mad Hatter's tea party. As Peter and I and the lay worker, Nigel Mawdsley were welcomed, Rev Ian Fraser was commissioned as a hospital chaplain, and Marie-Anne, Patrick Evens and Micheal Ogwuche were reaffirmed in their roles as circuit ministers none of us were actually 'new' but we all 'mover round a place' as our respective roles had changed.
The theme of change and travelling forward is going to be a constantly recurring one over the coming months as we all adapt to new circumstances and challenges. We will have to revise our priorities, review what we do, what we need to keep dondg and what we can do withour, and seize our opporunities to show that we are Christ;s followers wherever we are. However this is nothing new for the church. From the very beginning Jesus' discples had to change their perceptions of who they were and how they were called to be the faithful people of God. It was hard enough when Jesus was with them but after his death, resurrection and ascension it was even harder. However they were not left totally alone. The Holy Spirit was with them to guide, inspire and encourage them, and to equip them for whatever challenges lay ahead.
A hymn by the Methodist writer, Fred Pratt Green (636 in R&S), says,
"The Church of Christ, in every age
beset by change but Spirit-led
must clain and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead."
We are not dead yet although the URC is shortly to embard on a new way of looking at Christian descipleship and mission. It is called 'Walking the Way: Living the life of Jesus today.' Over the next few months information and resources will become available to help us deepen our understaning of what it means to be a Christian - to quote the introductory leaftlet, 'Walking the Way is not about picking up another book, it's about being Christ-centered and seeing our discipleship lived out every day' And to borrow another phrase.
'It's time for change. It's time to walk the way'
Let's walk it together, in Christ!