Exminster Methodist Church
Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email exminstermethodists@yahoo.co.uk, Minister: Rev Ben Haslam, Telephone (01392) 256716

Letter from Revd Ben Haslam

We are coming to the end of this year's week of prayer for Christian unity and it strikes me that this year, it might be more relevant than ever. The theme, chosen by the monastic community based at Grandchamp in Switzerland, is John 15.5, a famous passage of scripture in which Jesus says, "Abide in me and you will bear much fruit". The problem with this idea of 'fruit-bearing' is that we can equate it with another common idea, namely, that our value and worth as people comes from what we achieve and what we do. Those who carry this assumption around with them, even if unconsciously, may have found the past year especially hard, particularly if they have not been able to do many of the things they used to do. Their sense of worth could well have plummeted, as they wrestle with feelings of redundancy. When Jesus talks about fruit though, He is not talking about good works, achievements, or actions. He is talking about an ever-growing, ever-flourishing, ever-deepening relationship with Him, out of which a fuller, deeper, richer life flows. Thankfully, this is something that no lockdown, no pandemic, no amount of restrictions can take from us. This gives us real hope. It may seem misplaced, even tone-deaf, given the present gloomy headlines, to speak of hope, but Christianity has always been audacious in that way. It has refused to abandon hope in even the bleakest situations, and has sought, and found, the presence of God where God's presence might least be expected.

I have been reflecting during this week of Christian unity. Many of us have used online services to worship, and not necessarily from our usual churches, or used written worship material drawn from different traditions, and benefited from doing so, has dissolved some of the differences between us and Christians from different backgrounds. It may well be that our lockdown experience, has at least increased our sense of being part of the church universal, members of a wider family. We may differ vastly in outlook and experiences, but nonetheless are people of 'one Lord, one faith and one baptism'. It will be nice to get back to meeting in our churches, but we will not be the same people who innocently went about our business in early 2020, whilst distant mutterings about a new virus went on in the background. We have all had time to reflect, perhaps assess our priorities, and some of us will have pondered the place of the church in the scheme of things. God's church of course has survived countless plagues, and wars, and revolutions in the past 2,000 years and will survive this. Times of testing stretch us, but they can bear unexpectedly positive fruit too. God is infinitely gracious, and some of these fruits may be seen in news of way of connecting with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and of reaching out to the wider world. There are, amid all the dispiriting headlines and alarming statistics, signs of God at work. There always are, even in such times as these.

God bless, Ben