Dear Sisters and Brothers.
Again this year I was privileged to attend Methodist Conference. There were two items which I found of particular interest.
The first is that Conference endorsed a suggestion from 3Generate that this Methodist year be designated a Year of Testimony. Local churches and local preachers may like to consider how this can be woven into the lives of our circuit churches. There are few things more powerful than stories. At Conference various presentations came alive when the figures and reports were set aside and a personal story was related. We each have a story to tell of our faith journey and this story is our testimony. Of course, if these take place in an act of worship, we will need to make these as concise as possible!
The second is that resources for a ‘Methodist way of life’ are being developed. As a movement within the Church of England Methodism began as a group of people who had adopted a particular way of living. Over the years our corporate commitment to a way of living and praying has fallen away. We expect certain groups to maintain a disciplined life, such as local preachers, deacons and presbyters, but our expectation of a disciplined spiritual life from other members has largely been ignored. It is hoped that a Methodist way of life would reignite the discipline of frequent worship, prayer and study for all those who call themselves Methodist. After all ‘Methodist’ began as a term of insult for those whose spiritual lives were methodical.
While on holiday this year in Northumbria we spent part of the time on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne and I read David Adams' book Aiden, Bede and Cuthbert: Three Inspirational Saints. I was struck by the disciplined lives these 'saints' of the Celtic church led, a discipline which was as much self-imposed as imposed by the church, and willingly entered into in order to deepen their relationship with God in Christ. A similar passion marked the lives of many early Methodists and was encouraged by the system of class and band meetings which gave a structure of mutual accountability and support.
I wonder what our circuit churches would be like if we were to gather in small groups of three or four to meet weekly for just an hour, to share our spiritual successes and failures, and to hold one another accountable for our commitment to worship, prayer and study?
Your brother in Christ,