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Minister's Letter

From Rev Andrew Brazier

January/February 2020
Dear All,
Happy New Year - well, and possibly, maybe, depending on your perspective - the start of a new decade. (I know some are waiting for 2021!)

A time of hope? Change? To some extent we know that every new start comes both optimism and fear. In another sense, the New Year is just a meaningless line in the sand. It isn't so much a religious festival anymore and, if you were working, the clock probably ticked over with little more than a greeting to colleague, and a tea break.

In my first sermons this year I am talking about what I am calling the ‘new puritanism’ and our history as non-conformists. That sounds a lot heavier than it is in reality. What I will be encouraging us to think about, as we disciple our way through the 20s, is what happens after. There is always an after, and it is usually the result of a very large before. There was an election - now there is after.

There will be a Brexit and then there will be after. There was a building project, now there is after. There was Christmas, there was a year full of events - and if nothing else the arbitrary line says, "Hey folks, it’s time for after."

So as you face the heap of recycling, hoover up after the last guest has gone, or hide the empty wine bottles at the bottom of the bin, it is natural to start saying what shall we do next? As we get older the temptation is always to think that
that next maybe not so exciting or hopeful. The best could all be in the past. In our house we are learning about a future in which the children have moved out. What does that mean to us in the new year?

Whatever happened previously our faith tells us we need to stand up for certain things. In following Christ we are by definition trouble makers, reputational risks, and what my Aunt Win would have called 'occer'd cusses.' As disciples we
know that the establishment, whoever they are, must be reminded of the equality of humanity under God, the beautiful nature of His creation - and that we are all spiritual beings imbued with love. There is a lovely word/phrase for
this. We must as a church remain counter-cultural.

What I am trying to say at the start of this new year is that we need to remember that there is constantly a new start in Christ. The world tries to teach us to be cynical, to fear life, and to think ourselves beyond hope. Christ’s consistent message was that at every stage of a voyage we should be ready to kick the dust off of our heels and move forward. Our lives are not bound by human limits. There is always tomorrow, and we know that in this world or the next that tomorrow has hope, joy and wonder. In conclusion then I remind myself and you all, that we are to enter the Kingdom of God like a child - with open hearts, minds and doors. What might that look like? Well Greta Thunberg sat outside a school ......

Looking forward to many adventures with you all.
God bless
Rev Andrew

December 2019
Dear All
So the truth is out. Something important is going to happen in December. Sadly it turns out that from the national news, it isn't Christmas. At the time of writing the election for the 12th had just been announced. Probably by the time of reading they'll have moved it to the 25th - after all nobody works then - well apart from ministers of course. 

It's worth remembering that Jesus was born into a similar time of political chaos. A Jewish nation under foreign rule, an imposed census and plenty of trouble between religious and political leaders. Jesus birth represented then the idea of stability under a powerful Messiah. Instead they got a baby who caused even more issues. 

We now know what wonders Jesus represented - but we know it in hindsight. This year let us make a pledge to pray for all the people who find themselves affected by the instability of nations and leaders. Jesus taught us through his life to ignore the division and speak of love and light. He taught us that good words and acts of kindness can change the world for the better. 

I think that is what Paul meant when he said Christians are above the law. Not that we are lawless, but that we must always hold up the message of Christmas, hope, in the face of those who only have the law. I have no idea what the situation will be by Christmas - or whether we will all be living on the moon - but I do know that our leader is strong and stable. Also thankfully he isn't up for re-election.

God bless
Rev Andrew

October 2019

Dear All

 Ah yes, October. Must be time to start worrying about Christmas. We have a passing dig at the commercial word for bringing out the Christmas tat just after Halloween, but the Methodist church is worse. Our dates for the preaching plan have to be in by September. I don't know about you, but I am still working out what happens this week – let alone what happens early next year. Oh I know that planning is good, and that the Spirit can work through the organised and the spontaneous, but there is a risk in our way of doing church.

Whilst we are always grateful to those willing to assemble rotas and be on them, the truth is that constant conversations about the next thing sometimes preclude us being ‘in the moment'. The Martha and Mary debate, as it were. Part of being God's creation is to experience the nature of God in the world. You know what I mean; that buzz, that tingle, that joy in being loved and in love. The Bible assures us that we shouldn't worry. That our lives are in his hands. Sometimes we need to take time to enjoy what we have right here, right now.

Last month I asked you to think about your contradictions. This month I am adding the question, ‘are you a planner or a blagger?’ I think it’s really important to both leave space for others who are different to ourselves, and to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.

To sum up here is an example. Imagine that you are – as you may well be, or have been – a young parent. Your child is at an age when feeding routines and nappies dictate the parameters of your life. You'd like to be involved in church life, but don't know until the day what time is available. How, as a church, do we plan so that there is space for those who can't plan?

God bless 




September 2019

Dear All

As I sat in the traffic Jam on the M25 I pondered what I could write to you, by means of an introduction. Facts? Age 54, married (to Ruth) and with two 'growed' up children; Ben and Beckie (21 and 18 - yes, it has been an expensive year.) I am not sure if the facts help. I could tell you stories. At school I was asked to write an essay describing myself. I put, 'I am seven feet tall, bright green and have a vivid imagination.' Whilst I am shorter and less green now, I still have a vivid imagination.

The best description I ever heard of me was during the candidating process. My then mentor said, 'Andrew is a bundle of contradictions.' It was meant as a criticism, but I think it was brilliant. If nothing else I think it is a good description of all of us. Give me a person who is entirely consistent and I'll show you a robot. As Christians we often find ourselves wearing a multitude of hats, and dealing with a variety of situations. Each one of which may bring out something contradictory in us.

We are in good company. The disciples were living examples of how to be in a muddle. The Bible itself contains some wonderful contradictions. I've heard it argued many times that the Bible isn't the truth because of the anomalies. For me it is exactly the opposite. One of the reasons I can refute the conspiracy theories and defend the Bible as the word of God, is that no human built organisation would leave the anomalies in. The Bible is not a corporate document. It challenges us to wrestle with it and to seek the truth. My anomalies are God given - as are yours.

For myself, I am a creative writer who can't spell or punctuate, an actor who eschews being on stage, and a Methodist minister who likes to robe and wear pretty scarves. My fun challenge in this welcome letter is to ask the same of you! When we meet I'd like to hear about your contradictions. Try scribbling down a few statements in that format - I am “an X” who does “Y”, I am “a this” who does “that”. To know ourselves, and each other better, is to know God better.

I am looking forward to getting started properly here. Ruth and I love the manse, and even the rabbits are looking less confused. See you soon.

Love and God bless
Rev Andrew

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