There are some really helpful and affirming thoughts below from Kathryn for those of us who are trying to take the next step in following Jesus. Life is not always black and white and it can be difficult sometimes to understand the way forward. Sometimes we just have to travel onwards and ask God to guide us to where He wants us to be and trust in Him to reveal His will to us in His own good time. Please pray for all who lead and make decisions impacting our Christian journeys, that they may listen to and wait on our Lord in all they undertake.
About 18 months ago I was asked if I would become a Circuit Steward but I have to admit I didn't really know then what a Circuit Steward does. Fortunately I was able to attend a valuable online training session where I learned that we have a responsibility to care for our Presbyters and Lay Staff, serve on the Circuit invitation committee, oversee the maintenance of our Manses and to get involved in the life of our local churches. At this point I did think 'am I really the right person to be doing this?'
Perhaps you too have had times in your Christian life where you felt not up to the task? I was privileged to be brought up in a Christian home on a farm on the North Yorkshire Wolds. All of my Dad's family & friends were farmers and staunch Methodists and quite a few were Local Preachers who would speak simply but eloquently about their faith. Although I always believed that Jesus loved me and died for me, throughout my twenties I was waiting for that moment when I would become a 'real' Christian. I thought a real Christian would be aware of their spiritual gifts and have an understanding of what God wanted them to do. I gradually realised that instead of waiting for an amazing spiritual transformation, I was simply called to be the person God made me, to carry on with my everyday life – to do small things with great love, to serve God where I was.
During lockdown my husband Neville and I watched Sunday services from Aylesbury with Richard Atkinson and then joined one of the Circuit Fellowship groups. Meeting every week with people from other churches helped me look beyond our own fellowship in Princes Risborough to the wider circuit. I discovered lovely Christian people and learned more about the churches where they worshipped. This in turn led Neville & I to volunteer to take Reader Services and it really is a joy to experience Christian fellowship amongst other churches and is always a great encouragement.
If you look on the national Methodist Church website, you will find this statement:
"Good stewards are: praying people; visionary; practical; caring, supportive and mindful of others' needs".
I now know for myself that we are fortunate to have a dedicated team of Circuit Stewards in Keith Wallace, Chris Sara, Lynn Bernstone and Cathy Whiteway who live out their faith serving the local churches in our Circuit. We welcome Anne Parker as the newest member of the team and thank you for your continued prayers.
###Sunday, 19 March, was the turn of Karibuni Children to be the focus of our Circuit Prayers.
This week we share the inspiring and moving story of Dalsey and we are reminded just why we support Karibuni Children as a Circuit Charity. Please support this amazing organisation where you can and pray for all who are touched by its work.
Dalsey is one of the alumni of Karibuni Children's partner project at Njoro in Kenya. Trustees had the pleasure of meeting her in person during their annual visit to the projects this February. As you will read, she is a bright and impressive young lady with a wonderful future ahead of her. We are extremely proud of her and delighted that we have been part of her journey.
"My name is Dalsey. My journey with Karibuni began following my father's passing when I was three. My mom, who had ended her high school education without work or experience, was left to provide for her five children. My mother was forced to find work, and with no experience, the only job she could get was on the farm as a casual labourer. The job was not guaranteed, and when she could not find work, it meant sleeping hungry. I would not like to dwell on the hardships I have experienced, but I will focus on the light and hope that Karibuni brought me.
You have been part of me for 21 years; this is how your generous heart has helped me develop into the lady I am now. I remember being given clothes and toys donated to us in nursery school. I was always elated every time I got the gifts. I never lacked school attire in primary school because you ensured we had the proper fitting uniform every year. When my KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) results came out in 2011, I qualified to join a boarding school, which in my country is highly regarded as the best school. Although you could only support me for day school, I fought for your support in boarding schooling. You heeded my wishes, and although the cost of joining a boarding school was high, you held my hand. I was not once sent home for not having cleared my school fee in high school. You made sure school fees would not limit my abilities.
My high school was relatively smooth because I never lacked the necessities. I completed my high school education in 2015 and was also qualified to join the university. You catered for all my campus fees, books, and house allowance. In 2020, I completed my college education and graduated with a BSc. Horticulture, second-class upper division position. I was among the top students in my class. After graduating in April 2021, I got my first job two months later. Currently, I am working as a farm clerk at a local farm, where I manage farm records. My employer exports garden peas to first-world nations.
I also have a second job that I do during the evening, which is online-based. With these two jobs, I have elevated my home. I can now say that meals are no longer an issue at my home because we can afford them. I have managed to do renovations at my home, which has been my goal as a way to give back to my mother. I want her to live the life she deserved and not be despised by the community for being poor.
You smoothened the road for me to live up to my potential. You allowed me to express my capabilities, and I ensured your efforts yielded positive results. I am an empowered lady who is ready to conquer the world. As an alumnus of Karibuni, I intend to help others like me. Therefore, I joined the alumnus group, where we get to pick a child and support them where we can. I know I have the tools to better my life with all I have accomplished. That is why I intend to further my studies and do a Masters degree. Although costly, I know I have the potential to get there. I have so many goals to achieve, and I know with time, I will realize them if I put in the effort."
###Sunday, 12 March, the focus of our Circuit Prayers was Fairtrade.
Rod reminds us below of the emphasis that Jesus placed on caring for those less well-off than ourselves. As followers of Jesus we must be aware of those around us and share the bounty of God's gifts with all. Please remember in your prayers this Sunday all those who work so unselfishly for the benefit of others.
Most people have heard of Fairtrade and recognise the symbol. However, that hasn't always been the case and for some there remains a mystery about what it means. In short, I take it as representing 'People caring about people, avoiding exploitation, giving hope and providing empowerment.'
Feeling hard done by can be an uncomfortable experience, as can seeing others face the same experience. It was certainly a driver for me to become involved in Fairtrade, initially buying products and then, for the past 25+ years, promoting sales.
I was brought up in in an area where households used their skills and gardens to boost minimal incomes. It was harrowing to witness how market vagaries meant efforts could give a low reward for endeavours. On occasions the costs for packaging, transport and auction fees exceeded income, particularly for time-critical perishable goods, causing discomfort and losing money intended to support a family. Hopes to improve circumstances were thwarted.
Fortunately, witnessing similar events inspired Christians to take action and develop the Fairtrade movement. The continuation of Fairtrade and the development of Foodbanks, could suggest I am not alone in thinking that there is a place for supporting those who are facing adversity, regardless of what form it takes or where they live.
Jesus was very good at noticing what was happening around him, taking action and providing for needs. May we too remain observant to situations around us and pray for strength to give or receive as our situation requires.
###On Sunday, 5 March, the focus of our Circuit Prayers was on our Preachers.
This week we get an insight into the thoughts of David Neville as he shares his experiences over the years. Please remember in your prayers all who lead worship with us this Sunday.
As a Local Preacher of long-standing, I still feel it a privilege to take services around the circuit and really appreciate the warm and loving reception I receive from the different churches. Perhaps this is wrong – should I be more challenging so my reception might be more one of trepid anticipation! I feel all services should be a combination of praise, good news for all and a challenge to each of us including myself.
Obviously over the years everyone's attitudes change. When I started the Methodists didn't use a lectionary and the practice was to construct a service and sermon at the beginning of the quarter and 'take it round the circuit'. Today most of us base our services around the lectionary and prepare a new service and sermon for every appointment. This is a great improvement as it means, hopefully, each service is fresh and is adapted to a specific congregation.
Theology and church practice has also changed. Now we expect our services to be completely inclusive including both men and women and folk from other cultures where appropriate. Our communion table is open to all who wish to participate. They can decide – not the church!
Methodism to me is a very liberal denomination, but with a wide range of acceptable interpretations and our new acceptance of different sexual orientations, not only into worship but into office and marriage shows how different we are from a generation ago.
This doesn't mean 'anything goes' as we preach the love of God for all and the challenge for all to follow the way that Christ demonstrated.
I hope to continue preaching as long as I am able or until I am told I am past it!!
Pray for all who take your services and look out for the good news and the challenge.