The past year has flown by and I have enjoyed finding my way around the circuit and getting to know the churches. I am writing this having been with the Blairgowrie church where we more than doubled the congregation (for one Sunday) – this was as a result of the church meeting in the sheltered housing of one of the members. This is something we hope to repeat from time to time but it served as a good reminder of our Methodist heritage in that we are willing to go to where people are at. Likewise, we are working in partnership with the Church of Scotland to support a monthly evening service in the community of Gateside – the only public Christian act of worship in the village. The Methodist Church has been a strong supporter of the Solas festival and it was fantastic to participate in this, building model shelters alongside refugees. Wesley was very clear in following Jesus, going out to meet people in their need and that remains a strong example for us.
As we enter this connexional next year I want to encourage all of us to ask those questions about what can we do to engage with the communities around us – what are the needs of people in our communities – how do we find out? On this forthcoming plan each of the five societies has a Local Arrangement which reflects a reduction in our preaching resources. I am also aware that the churches face their own particular challenges. At such times there can be a tendency to turn inwards to try and ‘survive’ and we can become consumed in trying to keep the whole thing going. I want to encourage you all, however, to embrace and celebrate the local arrangements – to draw on what resources you have – after all we are disciples of the one who fed thousands with the meagre offering of a young boy, but it was an offering made freely and willingly.
As a circuit we are in the process of drawing up a profile for a half time presbyter (the other half being a District appointment to
develop and enable work with churchless Christians across Scotland). We give thanks and rejoice in the possibility this opens up for the circuit and therefore need to be mindful as to how this precious potential resource can help us to worship and serve.
As I have travelled in my ministry over the years, one of the acid tests for me is do I feel I belong here? Over the past year the answer has come through the warmth and hospitality of the churches. I very much feel part of the family, and this is something I thank God and you for. In an often divided world, the sense of love and acceptance displayed in our churches is very powerful and I encourage you to celebrate and keeping seeking opportunities to share that.