A message from the Revd Jonathan R. Hustler – Secretary of the Conference
Brothers and sisters,
We are living in strange times and as so often we find ourselves pulled in different directions. As those called to pastoral ministry, we are committed to doing the best that we can to care for people at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty. As responsible members of and representatives in our communities, we need to follow the advice of the Government to keep people as safe and free of the risk of contagion as possible.
For those reasons, the Connexional Team yesterday issued advice that all worship services and business and fellowship meetings should be suspended. We have cleared the diary for meetings at Methodist Church House until Easter and will review the situation on a daily basis from now on. Our social outreach work needs to continue as well as it possibly can, so please be mindful of the guidance around good hygiene in running (for example) foodbanks, night shelters, or drop-ins for the homeless. Again, we balance the care that is essential with our need to fulfil our mission to those who are (as in all situations) the most vulnerable.
The guidance on public worship affects the occasional offices. Whilst it is not appropriate to hold large public celebrations of Baptism, the current situation might lead parents or others not to want to delay a Baptism and we need to be willing to offer an appropriate pastoral response and if need be Baptism with a much smaller gathering. Similarly, we are assuming that all weddings will be postponed but that there might be exceptional circumstances in which a marriage can be solemnized with a small number of witnesses. Those who have weddings in the diary will need to speak with sensitivity to the couple concerned about their options.
In the same way, we need to think about our funeral ministry. Local councils will have guidance around what is possible or permission in crematoria and cemeteries. We will want to offer the pastoral care that we can for grieving families and the reverent committal of the deceased to God whilst putting off the holding of large memorial services.
Our guidance on pastoral visits is on the website. You might want to consider what can be offered by telephone rather than face to face, and perhaps a telephone cascade system to enable prayer requests, pastoral news and the need for practical help to be passed on.
There will be financial implications for some churches and circuits. In the first instance, can I ask that any church’s concerns be raised with the circuit and that circuits that feel they are going to run into difficulties speak to their districts? If district treasurers are concerned, they should contact the Finance Office in the Connexional Team. Please be assured that we shall keep our finance operation (including the payroll) running. Our HR team is also on hand should any advice be needed about paid staff whose work may be affected.
The calling of the Church is to respond to the Gospel of God’s love in all circumstances. These trying times are both a challenge and an opportunity to proclaim the faithfulness of God through our continued care for God’s people. We shall continue to update the website with guidance and with ideas about how our mission and our pastoral ministry can continue and we would welcome any examples of good practice that you are following or have seen.
It is important in all this that we do not fail to look after ourselves. Beyond that, supervision and spiritual direction can be offered by telephone or video conference as well as face to face; this might be a time when those who are supervisors need to ensure that they are available more frequently and those who are supervisees need not to be afraid to ask for additional help. And, of course, our physical wellbeing matters and we all need to be alert to the medical advice.
As always, we watch over each other in love. Those of us who work in the Connexional Team have been grateful for the many promises of your prayers that we have received and please be assured that we are praying for you and the communities you serve.
Yours in Christ,
Jonathan R Hustler
Secretary of the Conference
A Prayer by the President of the Conference:
If we are ill, strengthen us
If we are tired, fortify our spirits
If we are anxious, help us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
Help us not to stockpile treasures from supermarkets in the barns of our larders!
Don’t let fear cause us to overlook the needs of others more vulnerable than ourselves
Fix our eyes on your story
And our hearts on your grace
Help us always to hold fast to the good and see the good in others.
And remember there is just one world, one hope,
One everlasting love, with baskets of bread for everyone.
In Jesus we make our prayer,
The one who suffered, died and was raised to new life,
In whom we trust, these days and all days. Amen