Pastoral Letter (December 2017 / January 2018)

from Revd Catherine Bowstead

Dear Friends,

We are fast approaching the end of our 200th anniversary celebrations.  It has been a good year of celebration and thanksgiving, but amongst our celebrations we have endured a tough year as a church.  During this year eleven members of our Church community have died, and others have suffered bereavements, endured serious illness or surgery, or faced other challenges.  It's important to acknowledge that this is a lot of sadness for our church community to bear, so it's good that we can help and encourage each other, pray for one another, and bear one another's burdens.  In addition, the ongoing building work in the town centre and issues with parking continue to be challenges to us, as well as the day-to-day creative tensions caused by a diverse group of people with differing priorities and gifts trying to work together for God's Kingdom.

And yet there are plenty of signs of hope too.  Our anniversary celebrations, particularly through the excellent exhibition, have reminded us of the vision and courage of our forebears, who founded our church community and who have nurtured and passed down their faith tradition to us.  The visits of Linda Woollacott and David Lawton to lead our worship were times of inspiration and encouragement, as they encouraged us to look back at the past with thanks but also to look to the future with hope.  We had positive and delightful occasions when we baptised Beatrice and Arthur, and one of the highlights of the year must surely be the occasion on 5th November when we received eleven people into membership of our church.

So what is our hope as we look forward?  We look forward to the time when the work on Peach Place is finished for this marks a new chapter in the history of our Church and will give us exciting new mission opportunities.  To help us with this, we've invited Adrian Roux to lead our thinking on Sunday 4th March.  Adrian is a highly skilled facilitator with particular experience in helping churches see the potential of their buildings for mission.  He will help us to listen to one another carefully, and so enable us to articulate our vision for the next few years. It promises to be an exciting and significant event in the life of our church, so please save the date and make every effort to attend.

Meanwhile, we celebrate Christmas with our usual opportunities for Worship, and the beginning of a New Year with our Covenant Service.  May I encourage you to look back at the past year and thank God for the blessings he has shown you, the strength that he has given you in difficult times, and the signs he has given that he is at work in your life.  Can you reflect on how your personal faith has grown this year and the opportunities that you've had to share that faith with others?  And then ask God to guide you forward into next year, to show you how your gifts can be used in the life of our Church and for the purposes of his Kingdom.

We remember at Christmas time that God came to dwell with us in the form of a tiny helpless baby, to be the Light of the World, the Prince of Peace, God with us, Emmanuel.  We thank God that he is always with us, and we recommit ourselves to our Covenant relationship with him.

With every blessing

From the Methodist Prayer Handbook:

Lord Jesus, as we face an unknown future, help us to recognise where your hand has been at work over the years, bringing us to the place where we find ourselves today.  Be our rock, Lord Jesus, a foundation on which to build. Help us to be faithful to our calling and to trust you in the years to come.  Amen.

Richard Hall, Isle of Man District Chair 

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