Letter from General Secretary

 

June 2018
The Methodist Church

The Revd Gareth J Powell

Secretary of the Conference

Email:  SoC@methodistchurch.org.uk

  

Sisters and brothers in Christ,

 

‘Communication is about the encounter between personalities who, whatever they gain by way of knowledge in the process, discover more about the other and themselves as a result’ Colin Morris (1929-2018).

  

Put in those terms, by one of the finest prophetic preachers Methodism has known, we might attend to the now famous proclamation of the word of God at a wedding in Windsor, and also to the tone of some of the less-than-courteous emails we send one another.  Both acts of communication within the household of the children of God.

 

Colin Morris had much to teach us, his fellow ministers, about communication – certainly much more than simply imparting knowledge about the mere theory of it.  He was, of course, a preacher, but a glance at his publications reveals that he was also shaped by his own definition of communication.  Being much more than a minister who happened to occupy roles at the BBC, our brother in Christ placed before millions of people, through ministry in pulpit, television and radio, something of the nature of God.  In communicating he knew that to communicate God was to involve discovery.  So, a sermon – the proclamation of the word of God – made known to an estimated two billion people thanks to contemporary methods of communication, and an email in an all-too-familiar confrontational style read on the same day, require some reflection when we remember that in communication we gain a greater knowledge about all those involved in the exchange – other and self.  

 

This attention to the way we communicate involves rather more than being polite, important as that is.  We sometimes allow the ease of using digits or dragging a pen across the page to get the better of us, and behave as though the recipient of our communication has no feeling, no soul, no heart.  As if a Twitter feed has no lasting impact on the human soul.  Contemporary patterns of communication do not remove the reality that the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communication.  That is as true about the conversations we have in our heart as it is about the conversations we hold publicly, in the courts of connexional life, in political comment and in prophetic utterance.  The grounding of our own communication and relating is found in the way that God communicates with the whole of creation through Christ and by the un-restrainable Holy Spirit.  Remembering that starts, perhaps, to offer us a more sacramental understanding of communication.  We hold before us a more human dimension to what is, at the heart of the matter, the business of relating to those who are also made in the image of God. Ink or iPad, 13-minute sermon or a momentary nod of compassion: each holds the capacity to conform to the image of Christ, who brings us back to God.  We take care in our use of words, for they are precious.  Public discourse, be it in our pastoral responsibilities with each other or in political life, must never be a mere reduction to a trading of slogans, because discourse between human beings is tarnished with a lack of attention.  Our life as a Connexion depends on communication that is itself a profound form of testimony which we, in turn, offer from our perspective as ‘stewards in the household of God’.

 

Certainly we have a relationship with God to proclaim and as Colin’s early, but powerfully prophetic, ministry in Zambia reminds us, sometimes we use words.  The reality of our exchanges with those to whom we minister is that words or silence, action or stillness, all, always communicate.   

 

With gratitude for our continued partnership in the Gospel,

Gareth J Powell

Secretary of the Conference

The Spirit send me from above,

Spirit of meek long-suffering love,

Of all-sufficient grace;

Endue me with Thy constant mind,

So good, so obstinately kind

to our rebellious race.

 

Be this my whole employ below,

Before Thy little flock to go

and in Thy steps to tread;

Shepherd of souls, I fain would be

their faithful pastor under Thee,

And feed as I am fed.

 

Charles Wesley (1707-88)

Sing out my soul,

sing of the holiness of God:

who has delighted in a woman,

lifted up the poor,

satisfied the hungry,

given voice to the silent,

grounded the oppressor,

blessed the full-bellied with emptiness,

and with the gift of tears

those who have never wept;

who has desired  the darkness of the womb,

and inhabited our flesh.

Sing of the longing of God,

Sing out, my soul.  (Luke 1:39-53)

 

Janet Morley

 

The following ministers have died since my last letter to you:

 

Presbyters

 

Eric Ball

James Bates

Malcolm Beech

Eric W Blennerhassett

Margaret AE Meakin-Collins

Colin M Morris

John Peak

John A Perkins

Sheila Purdy

Alan Skipsey

W J Brian Skinner

Alan Triffitt

Charles A Watson

Edna Wicks

 

May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Amen.

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