Letter from the Minister.
Rev Phil Summers
Holy Habits - Making more Disciples
St Aidan didn’t ride a horse like so many other nobles in the 7th century. Instead he walked the tracks and lanes of Northumberland. Which gave him the opportunity to engage with those he met. The same was true as the early leaders and preachers of the Primitive Methodist movement. When sharing with others on his journeys and travels Aidan would ask, at an appropriate point in the conversation, if the person knew about or indeed put their faith in Jesus. If they didn’t then Aidan would ask what they did believe and then chat to them about his own faith. And the Primitive Methodists did the same. Often, people would put their faith in Jesus and Aidan would baptise them by the roadside.
It all sounds so simple, but I know for myself, and many others, it sounds like a terrifying prospect. But I’m becoming more and more convinced that the time is here, indeed it probably arrived a while ago, when we need to speak to our friends, neighbours, work colleagues about the faith we live by. As church communities we try to practice what we have explored over the last nine months. Our Holy Habits. A practical expression of the love we find in Jesus – fellowship, gladness, generosity, worship, sharing, praying, serving, eating together. But there comes a time when we must tell others about the belief that burns within us. To be open about the person we call on as ‘Lord’. To be upfront about the one who is our reason and our life.
To be honest, I’ve just read what I’ve written back to myself and by heart sinks, and my palms become a little clammy. It scares me. Over the years I’ve convinced myself that it’s not something I’m good at; but recently I’ve become more convinced that it’s something I need to be doing. And surprisingly people don’t run a mile, or verbally abuse me, or think I’m weird – they just accept that that’s my faith. For faith is something they hear about everyday in the news and on TV. And for many they are glad to meet a person of faith who they find approachable, for they have many questions.
My problem is, I have a limited number of friends and the people I meet know I’m a person of faith because I have my shirt on backwards. That’s why the time has come for each and every one of us to be open and encouraging about our faith to the people who make up our world. I’m not saying that we should be inviting everyone to Sunday morning worship. In very many ways that should be the last experience of church they have. Ultimately people need to be shown Jesus by the people they live alongside. And that means you. Yes. You. No, not the person next to you. Not the minister, or the Local Preacher, or the worship group but you. Each of us are they only people who can speak to our friends about the love we find in Jesus. No one else can do it.
I’m aware that it’s not something that we can just get up and do tomorrow morning. We clearly need to talk about it more. We may need new and accessible ways of living the holy habits, of being church. We’ll definitely need to support each other, to stand alongside and build each other’s confidence.
Now this is a bold statement to put into print and I may well regret it, but unless we open our mouths as well as our lives; unless we share the love of Jesus by deed and word, then we will not survive. Not Cam Methodist Church, not Dursley Methodist Church, not Wotton United Church. We will love each other, work ourselves into the ground, we will live the Holy Habits in ever decreasing numbers. And then we will be no more.
It is time to talk of Jesus: all of us. Do I truly believe that? I’m not sure – because I’m still frightened. But as John Wesley said, “Preach faith until you have it”. We need more disciples and they’re more likely to join us if we ask them to. As it says in Romans 10:14: how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?
We need to talk more,