Dear brothers and sisters,
As a recent convert to the world of model railways, my eye was caught by a picture of a model railway on the Methodist Website. Railways at Romiley (methodist.org.uk). The Rev W. Awdry loved trains and millions of children have been introduced into model railways through the world of Thomas the Tank that he created. In his retirement he lived in Rodborough near Stroud and became the first president of the Gloucester Model Railway Club, so there is a link with this circuit. The Gloucester club holds an annual display at Hucclecote Methodist Church.
There is a Methodist model railway club in Romiley which puts a particular emphasis on involving children and young people in building a variety of layouts. They put on a show every year which attracts around 1000 people and holds weekly social sessions. They also take displays out to hospitals for children to play with.
A friend tells me that a lot of Methodist ministers like building model railways because it gives them a feeling of power and control. I prefer to think it's about developing a variety of skills ranging from electronics, engineering, and crafting to carpentry. Its also a hobby you can do on your own or in the company of others.
Since I started to build a layout I have been introduced to a different community of people from all kinds of backgrounds who share a passion in common and enjoy talking about what they are doing. They share their skills a get stuck into joint projects.
Some people will not understand this passion, which is fine. Most of us though do want a place where we can feel that we belong to a community. Sociologists say that to really feel they belong to a community people need to experience a sense of solidarity- sharing something in common, security- a sense of being accepted in the long term and significance- having something to contribute. The Methodist theologian, Deacon David Clarke, suggests that a Christian community should go further and be a place where people can experience, life, liberation and love.
Jesus was in the business of building community and shared a vision of human community that is rooted in God. Through the way he behaved and the stories he told he invited people into a community where every member is committed to the flourishing of others. We share in God's work when we contribute towards building healthy communities in our workplaces, and leisure activities as well as in the church.
With every blessing,
This Pastoral Letter has been published in the Winter Quarter Preaching Plan