Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I am writing to you as your Pastor at a time of deep adversity as we all come to terms with the new and more stringent conditions on our collective life together. Much of what we hold dear as citizens of a liberal democracy is being stripped away and we are all being asked to live our lives more simply and on a much reduced footprint. The scientific and medical evidence for ‘social-distancing’ is of course compelling and necessary if we are to eventually overcome the worst effects of the CV-19 virus pandemic. Again I want to implore you as people of faith and reason that we seek to abide by these measures for the common good of our wider society – I know that through the grace and strength of God you will!

Recently we took the decision to cancel the Presbyteral Session of the Synod in order to be safe and responsible – it is very likely that we shall take similar measures in relation to the Representative Synod in April too. If we had met for the former I would have preached from the Gospel of John and specifically the calling of the disciples from John 1:35-42. In this passage the call to discipleship seems to be an invitation to come and abide with Christ as the disciples are encouraged to come and see and then to remain with Christ. As they learn to abide with Christ; so they will develop the capacity to see and understand the nature of Christian discipleship. I suggest that from the perspective of the tradition of John; we might look upon our life together as the compelling invitation to keep company with Christ!

Keeping company with Christ implies three things; firstly that we endeavour to keep the closest company with Christ in our life of faith through all the means given to us by God. We take time to read the scriptures, pray, share in silence and contemplation and worship by whatever means possible during this difficult time. Secondly it implies keeping company with Christ’s people in the community of faith – for a season this will be done through phone, post, email and social media and not through personal contact. Thirdly and perhaps most importantly it implies that we keep company with the people that matter to Christ himself. In his excellent book entitled ‘Being Disciples’, Rowan Williams says;

‘Being where Jesus is means being in the company of the people whose company Jesus seeks and keeps. Jesus chooses the company of the excluded, the disreputable, the wretched, the self-hating, the poor, and the diseased; so that is where you are going to find yourself.’

It is very clear that whilst the measures of ‘social-distancing’ are of paramount importance; it is also very clear that these measures will create the greatest pressures on the most vulnerable members of our society whether that be single-mothers, looked after children, the elderly, the sick, the homeless and many others.

I do hope and pray that as Methodists we will do all within our power to watch over one another in love and in particular to express the deepest practical compassion for the most vulnerable members of our community. In so doing we are fulfilling the great commandment, living the life of holiness and keeping company with Christ our great shepherd.

Keep the faith and love much!