Winter 2019 Pastoral Letter from the Superintendent

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Working Together

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I must begin with a word of gratitude for the welcome and generous hospitality that Mary and I have received since we moved from the South-East District to the Gloucestershire Circuit. Many people were involved in preparing the manse so we could make it our home and there was a wonderful fridge full of food waiting for us. People have been patient and generous in introducing us to Gloucester, where we are already enjoying living, and helping me as I look, listen and learn about this Circuit, its context and its multiplicity of stories.

Having the break between appointments over the summer gave me time to do some reading for relaxation. Encouraged by the TV series I decided to read Margaret Attwood's novel, The Handmaid's Tale, which is about a dystopian future in which an authoritarian regime run by men using fear, violence and propaganda values women only on the basis of whether they can bear children. Its a chilling and prophetic account of what happens when people cease to recognise and value one another as unique human beings. Both the oppressor and the oppressed are dehumanised in the process.

Contrast this with the themes that run through the Bible of God's purpose for all people. The prophet Micah spoke of people fulfilling their full potential when they do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God. In John's Gospel, Jesus is reported as saying that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. This is surely about God's intention that we should all reach our full potential as human beings and the invitation to discipleship is to share in God's project to make this a reality for others and to enjoy it for ourselves.

In the coming months and years I look forward to being alongside you as we work out together what it means for us to be faithful to God's purpose in a world where the things that dehumanise people are all to evident. If we are honest we sometimes do it to each other in the church as well in the way we handle conflict and disagreement. The call to recognise and affirm the humanity of others means we have a contribution to make in facing up to the big issues of our time. Our confidence in God means that we bring the perspective of hope and the steady conviction that God purpose will be achieved. I have always been attracted by the prayer from the Iona Community that says "In us, through us and if need be despite us, let your Kingdom come." which sets us free from the idea that it all depends on us.

A good starting place is to treat one another, and all our neighbours with a generosity and hospitality that reflects all that we have been given by God in Christ.

May God continue to richly bless us.

John Hellyer (Superintendent)

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