March 2021: From The Minister’s Fireside
As I start I would just like to update people; my bags have been unpacked and all being well I will be living at home as normal. Hopefully vaccination will make a rapid change to everyone’s life. I am so grateful to Sweetcombe cottages; the two ladies who made properties available and a church family who were willing to give me the use of a house they had available. It has been an odd time but it’s come with great kindness
Some of you may be aware the Church Hall heating has failed, it is not that old and the four units are all independent. One might expect they would take it in turn to ‘leave the building’ but no, all four have gone together or rather they were all condemned in the same inspection. Another bill to deal with; it is proving to be an expensive year.
A vicar had a church with a terrible boiler and when he passed away he left in his will the instruction ‘if the church is still open and still has ‘Betty’ (the name of the Boiler) I will leave money to upgrade the heating. Betty was still there and the congregation was still frozen. The work was done, new radiators and a gleaming boiler etc all went into the little church. It was noted the workmen came out sniggering on the last day. First Sunday and January as well the place was toastie warm, the flock couldn’t believe it. At the end of the service they were asked to go and look at the heating plant which was in the church by the bell tower. Soon laughter could be heard and when people went in they saw the boiler had two plaques which the vicar had prepared. The first one said Big Ben which was obviously the name of the new boiler. The second in smaller print said ‘in memory of Bruce’, (the old vicar)’ another great provider of hot air.
There are a number of items around these premises that have been given in memory of people. Not everything has been marked with a label or plaque but their generosity has benefitted us all. The last time the heating went every single unit in the place failed at the same time. Unbelievably we had the money ‘under the bed’ so to speak because there had been a number of legacies, we had more members and there was incredible generosity. The church was also open for services and for lettings. Recently the fire alarm and the fire audit have been taken care of by donation and legacy. Plugs, cables and lights may not ring your bell but they are a necessary part of the structure and some of ours needs work promptly. And if filling holes attracts anyone there is one here called the deficit. This has been caused by a year of service interruption in the Pandemic. With spades of building work thrown into the mix.
I never write this sort of letter, especially in the minister’s slot.
However, we stand at a moment in time when a number of problems have arrived in our midst all at once. A lot of churches in every denomination will not be able to weather such showers let alone the gale that’s blown through here in recent months, ( this is a metaphor) This essential work on the building and prolonged closure has been a great strain on the accounts. A fall in numbers by relocation etc has contributed to the matter. But there is generosity and we can solve this problem together. We also stand in a moment when a number of exciting opportunities are being given to Sidmouth Methodist. The audit offers new opportunity with two people to deliver them. There will be more on this with a Church Council which is to be an open meeting, 17th of June. We are hopefully looking at reopening the church for services in the near future and soon lettings and activities may resume.
Did you know Jesus spoke about money more than prayer, I didn’t believe it when I heard that detail, but it’s true. I feel uncomfortable talking about money to churches. Jesus didn’t seem to have that problem. The man with the barns had plans in Luke 12:13-21. And his plan didn’t include God but he did get to meet him briefly. I read a piece on this parable recently which said ‘ Jesus is asking people to identify the barns in their lives, where extension after extension has been bolted on for the rainy day. That day never comes for many before their time is up, or worse they are gone with the first crack of lighting. A large barn will sustain anyone, but harvest is an annual event so refill the barn. Replace what has been needed and then use the plenty that remains for God and the community. If wealth comes at the expense of generosity then in Gods eyes something has gone wrong’. Whoever wrote that had no difficulty fund raising for Christianity. They probably were unpopular for saying it. Indeed it may upset some people but when you look at the Gospels it is a challenging statement in scripture. I know some will not be in the position to help strengthen the finances, but help, prayer and serious invitation to others to share our services and events will all help taking us forward. After all churches are supposed to grow. Working together we can deal with this challenge. Finance and Property have done a lot of work already to get things moving and Ken Rothwell, the Circuit Treasurer has given them a lot of support. Ken did an incredible job leading us through a complex set of business at our Church Council last night on the 11th February which was held on Zoom without a cat in sight.
So pray about this issue and remember those churches that may be closing after the challenges proved too much. Rejoice in what we have and what can be accomplished. Honour and remember those who built and donated for the future. Take joy in the Resurrection I have not toddled off to a cottage yet for more lockdown living but I am ready should it be needed.