Monthly letter from our minister
Each month our minister Simon, or his assistant Hannah, writes the introductory letter to our Church News magazine. The latest letter is reproduced here.
Previous letters can be viewed by following the links below.
We are breaking our alternating pattern of writing the magazine letter this month, so that Hannah can write a farewell letter to us next month - as she and the family head off to a new pastorate in Plymouth. You will find details on page 5 about how we will be celebrating their time with us, and saying our goodbyes.
This month, I am writing about joy, which may seem a strange choice for a time when we are shedding tears of sadness, as we prepare for a parting. I know that I am only just beginning to realise how much I will miss Hannah’s journeying with me, in the ministry of Church and Chapel. Yet this time of parting is also a time of celebratory joy - we rejoice with Hannah, that God in his grace has enabled her to develop her gifts and skills; has deepened her knowledge; extended her experience, and has now called her to new opportunities. We are sad to say goodbye, but rejoice with Hannah that God continues to work through her - soon in new ways and places.
We rejoice too that God brought us together in the first place, and that a joyous friendship has grown between us. We give thanks for the joy that she and the family have brought into our lives. The bitterness of saying goodbye always reflects the depth of the happi-ness we have found in our relating.
Joy is perhaps one of the greatest gifts God has given us in Jesus; joy speaks of a deep-rooted sense of contentment and happiness, that is not reliant on our present circumstances, but is rooted in the faithfulness of God’s love. This joy expresses the peace, life and the hope we know in Jesus; the news of his birth is a message of great joy, and in Matthew’s Gospel the women in finding the empty tomb discover that great joy. In between, Jesus brings joy into people’s lives through the story he tells, the love he shows, and the kind acts of mercy he does.
The early church is characterised by joy, as God’s people are filled with the nearness of God through the gift of his Spirit. The kindness and concern they show one another leaves them with glad hearts, and the admiration of the community around them. In the Spirit of Christ, they bring joy to one another, and to the society around them. In the book of Acts, we see then that to bring a deeper contentment to people, is part of the vocation of the church. Through sharing joy, we both express the love of God, and we transform lives through practical caring, inspired by the love of God.
During June, churches in Exeter are being invited to take part in an intentional sharing of joy across the city. Through ‘Joyfest’, running from 4th to 10th June, Christians in the city are being asked to show through our actions that the church is alive in Exeter, and is a blessing to the city. The inspiration is the life and words of Jesus, who said, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5.16). Put simply, it’s about brightening someone’s day and in doing so, helping them to see that they are valued and loved.
As ministers and deacons, we feel this initiative could have real benefit in our Palace Gate Centre, which hosts a range of activities to improve people’s wellbeing. We are looking at ideas - such as giving out treats, as people arrive for their evening group; providing some entertainment at Dove Café, or offering tea and coffee on South Street. We hope we might be able to bring a few more smiles into daily lives, and to point to the One who is the source of unending joy. Of course, you can do this where you live, if you want to - how about buying a neighbour some flowers, giving them a call to say hello, or inviting them in to share a pot of tea?
Over the next few weeks, we shall be saying thank you to God for the joy he has brought to us through Hannah’s time among us. We shall be praying that God will bring new joy to her and the family, as they begin a new chapter in their lives; and that God will reassure us here at South Street and Brampford Speke, that he will guide and lead us, as we look ahead.
And through opportunities like ‘Joyfest’ in the city, we remember that our vocation to be followers of Jesus and bring his light to those around us goes on just the same. May God help us to brighten someone’s day, as we express the gracious love revealed in Jesus.
April 2018 Simon
March 2018 Hannah
February 2018 Simon