Pastoral Letter - 23rd August 2020

Dear friend from Bridport United Church, Uploders Methodist Church or Hope and Radipole United Reformed Chruches,

If as I set off last February to fly to Australia to visit family there, despite the fact that transcontinental flight is hardly an everyday event, it all seemed normal.  When I returned to work in the the UK three weeks later, any semblance of normality had evaporated however!  If you had told me as I set off that it wouldn't be until mid August that I would be leading my first live service and that in between I would be hosting Zoom Services, editing video ones and having had to endure weeks of lockdown, frankly I doubt if would have believed you?  

The uncertainty and the change have been staggering but, you know they have shown us new ways, different ways of being church and, what is more, have revealed an amazing resilience and level of mutual support.  Folk have phoned each other, dropped food supplies, done shopping for each other or collected medicines and demonstrated care and Christian compassion.  

I was only talking this morning with a lady who doesn’t feel she can come back to ‘live’ church yet but who has massively appreciated having the Written Service every week, which she has read though several times during the week.  

However, for most of us, I suspect that we are missing physical presence as much as physical worship and it is good to be edging backwards gathering together in fellowship once again.  Indeed as I started that very service I mentioned earlier, at United Church Dorchester on Sunday I was ready with a jolly and cheerful greeting … but then I looked around at those familiar faces which I hadn't looked on for over 5 months, and I was overcome with a deep feeling of emotion.  It was so wonderful to be there amongst them in a service of worship and to be engaging together.  

It wasn’t normal, it wasn’t the same but it was special and I look forward to to more such services as we move into this new normal, and I realised once again what a privilege it is to be a Minister amongst you special folk.

It has been a tough old time for the last couple of years, with Steph’s illness meaning we have been particularly stretched Minister-wise and I am enormously grateful for the leadership and wisdom that Rev'd Gwyneth Owen has been able to offer to keep the churches across the Circuit and Pastorate not just ticking along but developing and advancing.  It has been a privilege to have worked alongside her and I am very pleased that we will be blessed with one more year of her (part-time) input as, she will be focusing completely on developing the ‘Mixed Economy’ of Lay and Ordained Staff to take us forward to face future challenges.  

Additionally we will have two new full-time Ministers - Rev'd John Yarrien will be the new Superintendent, based in Dorchester plus Rev'd Ruth Lownsbrough (already known to many of us of course as the daughter of two of our Bridport memebrs) who will be based in the Portland and Weymouth end of the Circuit.  It is an exciting time even in these strange times!   

Now I started with reference to a past holiday when we crossed the globe and as I write I am planning to be away for the last of my annual leave weeks this coming week. After that we will revert to weekly services under the conditions we have worked under at Bridport United Church, starting at 10:30am  However they will be live services, with the first one on 6 September led by me. Also, all things being equal, it will conclude with a form of Holy Communion - something else we have been missing out on!

Every blessing from your Minister,

Peter