ISSUE 34: DEC 2021 – FEB 2022
MESSAGE FROM OUR SUPERINTENDENT MINISTER:
During Cop26 I travelled to Edinburgh for the day to take part in an event organised by the Iona Community. We wanted to protest, like so many others have been doing, and speak up for the planet, but we also wanted to do so in a way that was true to the Community’s nature and values. We decided to have a Big Sing for the Planet outside the Scottish Parliament.
I did not know, but outside the Parliament is a plaza that was built specifically for the purpose of allowing citizens to gather and protest (imagine trying to do that outside Westminster!) and so with great ease the venue was booked. On the day about 250 people of all ages gathered to sing songs of protest and hymns that praised God’s creation. It was raining but that did not dampen our voices.
There is a long association with singing and protest. We think of slaves singing hymns of Exodus and freedom and the Gospel tradition that was rooted in the longing for liberation and emancipation. We think of the Civil Rights movement and those great singers like Joan Boaz who gave voice to a generation that dreamt of change. We think of our own Methodist tradition and how the early hymns from Charles Wesley became popular anthems to the newfound spiritual freedom discovered by ordinary working women and men.
Mariusz Kozak, an associate professor of music at Columbia University, has written about how music offers us an emotional connection with the cause that we are fighting for but also helps us to find a bond with one another*. Singing songs of protest helps us to join our heads and hearts together and bring passion and feeling to an intellectual and socio – political argument or cause. We may know in our heads that we have done untold damage to our planet but when we sing about it, we also know it in our hearts. Kozak also speaks about what he calls kinetic synchronism. Music allows us to move in time together. We know this from church – how we can all begin to sway and move together as we sing a lively song with a good beat. If we are protesting, we might be drawn from a diverse group of people with all kinds of different nuances of belief and opinion, yet by singing we can become of one mind and one body. Singing gives us a sense of oneness and unity.
We will soon begin singing Advent and Christmas songs and carols are perhaps unique in Christian music as they are loved and known by people who may rarely darken the door of a church. In their own way these are songs of protest as they articulate our unease and disquiet with the human condition, and they give voice to our yearning for God to come and make things new again.
So in “It came upon the midnight clear” we sing of our longing for a new beginning and how the angels bring a message of peace; in “Born in the Night” we sing of how Christ brings light to our dark world; and in that great Advent hymn “Tell out my soul”, we sing with Mary of how God promises to bring down the powerful and corrupt and raise up the humble and the hungry.
So, I leave you with words from a hymn arranged by the Iona Community but thought originally to be from the pen of Robert Lowry (1826-99) and set to the tune of O Waly Waly:
My life flows on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation.
I catch the sweet, though far off hymn
That hails a new creation.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
Peace and blessings,
*see an article in the Washington Post July 2020 How music and chants bring protesters together - The Washington Post
This time last year, our plans were shaped by the restrictions from lockdown and the isolation, loneliness and frustrations which it caused. This was a particularly difficult time for families who suffered bereavement and those who were not allowed to visit loved ones in hospital and Care Homes.
This year, many of us are anxious and worried that there will be another lockdown as our thoughts have turned to Christmas 2021. Be vigilant and try to keep safe and well.
Texts from the Bible inform us that we will face difficulties in our lives and yet, the Bible makes it clear that God does not always calm the storms in our lives, but he calms, his chosen people in the midst of the storm. Many of our sisters and brothers all over the world are struggling with storms raging in their lives due to the ill effects of wars, natural disasters and danger.
During this season of peace and goodwill to all mankind and as we celebrate the Birth of Jesus, let us remember that the real story of Christmas is about the difference which one child made to the world. We relive the story about the baby Jesus who at his birth taught us about love, poverty, humility and grace. This is the child who was worshipped by angels and mankind. This story is different because long after we take down the decorations, consume the turkey and other goodies, exchange gifts and celebrate, the story lives on. If we believe in that then we need to act. So I give the challenge to myself and I give it to you. What difference will you make this Christmas? Let us find ways to share our joys and blessings not just with family and friends but with our deprived neighbours near and far away.
Wishing you and your families a Happy and Holy Christmas and God's richest blessings for the New Year.
Message from Rev. Dr. Eleanor Jackson
The beginning of the new Connexional year 2021/22 has been busy at Clapham Methodist Church and we have been delighted to be able to meet each other in person more often, although some of our services and meetings continue regularly on Zoom for the time being, including our evening service, Bible Study and Young People’s Music Project. On Saturday 4 September we held a late Summer Fayre, with all the stalls outside the church on the frontage and down the side on Nelsons Row. It was great to see spend time together with friends, and we were surprised and gratified, not only by the funds which were raised but also by the warmth from those in the community who were glad to see us again and stopped to say ‘hello’. On Sunday 5 September we hosted the Circuit Service at which one of our own members, Ola Fadugba, was accredited as a local preacher, followed by a light refreshment. It was wonderful to be able to host the circuit at an in-person service and event.
We have had many funerals at Clapham over the last eighteen months as we have said farewell to members and friends of the church who have died. We will miss them dearly and all that contributed to the life of our church family. We were glad, therefore, to have two weddings in August of people connected to the church and also the baptism of two children in early October. Alongside this, having had a preaching series on A Methodist Way of Life from June to August, in some of our services in the autumn months we have been using the Social Action lectionary on the Lambeth Plan, marking Education Sunday and Prisons Sunday, as well as Harvest Festival; these services have provided the opportunity for members of the congregation to share in testimony and we were delighted to welcome Revd Gordon Ashworth to share his experience of being the first full-time Methodist Prison Chaplain.
Over this year, the managing trustees have been engaging with Studio Voltaire, an arts organisation neighbouring the church, which have been having a refurbishment during the lockdown and invited the Church Council to participate in their opening exhibition of the work of William Scott, an African American artist. This is the first time his work has been shown in the UK, and the Clapham Methodist Church agreed to have a reproduction of his paintings attached to an external wall of the church which can be seen from Clapham High Street. This is part of the public realm aspect of the exhibition which also uses the advertising hoards directly opposite the Hub. The managing trustees were invited to a Pre-view of the exhibition and the new Studio Voltaire on Wednesday 13 October and here is a picture of our Superintendent, Revd Andy Dart; Deputy Chair of District, Revd Faith Nyota and Revd Dr Eleanor Jackson in their lovely new courtyard garden. This link to the Studio Voltaire site provides information on the exhibition which is free, and the Circuit Education and Discipleship Team are hoping to arrange a trip as part of the Advent Activities. https://www.studiovoltaire.org/whats-on/william-scott/
In October we have also had two church tidy-up days at Clapham, one to empty our Choir Vestryafter the flood experienced in August, before it is refurbished and one, to add to the pile of things to be collected for refuse after our last clear out held in February 2020 just before the first lockdown. This time we were preparing to celebrate our 147th Church Anniversary on Sunday 17 October. We had an All-Age service of Holy Communion followed by a Bring and Share lunch. It was wonderful to share with each other over food and a beautiful cake baked by one of the members and as you can see, eaten with relish!
Rev. Dr. Eleanor Jackson
There are many times in the Gospels where Jesus teaches his disciples. We too need to listen to Jesus – and to others who have taught the faith over the generations. Our membership tickets state that one of our duties as members is to learn. Of course, we primarily do that week by week by listening to the scriptures being read and expounded on in sermons. No doubt some of you read Christian books or listen to radio programmes or watch TV programmes or attend Bible Study groups.
In the Lambeth Circuit we now have a Christian Education task group that plans and lays on learning and training events. During the autumn we have run a day on Crafting Worship and sessions on A Methodist Way of Life. In Advent we have planned some discussion groups to explore our faith alongside art and science and contemporary life.
The circuit Education group is not supposed to take over from local church/ecumenical groups that already exist for Bible study etc. It is to offer other and alternative opportunities. You can make suggestions about opportunities you would like to see organised by emailing me or Rev Dr Eleanor Jackson. If you would like to be part of the group, then please feel free to contact us as well.
As we approach Christmas we will hear once again the words of the gospel writer John. ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. Too often church people think of our Holy Scriptures as the Word of God. But it is Christ who is the Word – in eternity as the second person of the Trinity and incarnated in Jesus of Nazareth. In Matthew’s gospel – to spell out that Jesus is the ‘teacher’ sent by God, Matthew has Jesus fleeing with his family into Egypt after his birth to escape and to return from Egypt some years later – thereby revealing that Jesus is the new Moses. To reinforce this message Matthew places Jesus’s teaching in 5 blocks in his gospel – mirroring the 5 books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) that legend says Moses wrote. In the first block of Jesus’s teaching – Matthew 5: 1 – 7: 28 Jesus says: ‘You have heard it said (i.e. the teaching of Moses) but I say to you…’.
If we really want to know what the Word of God is, we will need to do a couple of things – firstly we must remember that The Word means all the creative speech of God – Genesis Chapter 1 ‘And God said’. Secondly, we will remember that we hear the Word of God not just in speech but in the very actions of Jesus – The Word – the creative, life-giving actions of God – are lived as well as spoken by Jesus. Jesus and the prophets and the other writers of the Bible did not speak about all the issues that confront us – but they did speak of the very nature and purpose of God – and Jesus – the Christian faith declares lived as one who was fully human and divine. His word is his life and actions as well as his teaching.
So, as we hear the words ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ we may begin to learn again the purposes of God, revealed to us in Jesus. May we all continue to learn to live the way of Jesus, our Saviour.
Revd Dr Andy Lyon
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