Chapel Street Methodist Church

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Minister's Letter, 26 May

From the Revd Alastair Bolt

Dear Friends,

Sifting through some old papers, I came across a table telling car users what kind of oils they should use in their cars. So, all the different makers of oils, (Castrol, Esso, Texaco), have different types of oil for different kind of engines and transmissions. If you have read this far, it is the title of the table which caught my eye; RECOMMENDED SERVICE LUBRICANTS. Perhaps this should be compulsory reading for all Methodist Ministers and Local Preachers! In normal times our worship services need lubricants. Traditionally this has meant standing up for a good hymn after a long, dull reading. Serious sermons needed jokes, even visual aids. The preacher needs to avoid giving offence to anyone, and must organise the various participants so that everything goes ‘smoothly’.

In these unusual times when so much worship is on-line and where participants are nowhere near to each other physically, ‘Service Lubrication’ has added meaning, and we can learn from this. Firstly, we have much to learn about good ‘delivery’. Churches with the technology are striving mightily to get their services, either recorded or live streamed from lots of people’s homes, to come together seamlessly. These days a lot of effort is put into making everything work smoothly. This involves technical excellence and good organisation. It also implies that worship should be seamless. When we get back to physical gatherings in physical buildings, we might look again at how well our services do work. If you cannot hear someone speaking on-line, you try and do something about it, punching commands into your computer. In church we often accept the fact that we cannot hear very well. If the text on your screen doesn’t relate to what the speaker is saying, it is a serious failure. But if in church, the Bible reading is from a different translation to the Bible you have in front of you; it’s just one of those things. We are trying very hard to get our worship flow smoothly in difficult circumstances, and in future we should try just as hard, even when circumstances become easier and there is less challenge to make a big effort.

More important we are recognising that our worship is really held together by the work of the Holy Spirit. His ‘spread’ across the spaces between us has never been more critical. We have had to depend on Him as never before. The ultimate lubricant in all our worship is an anointing of the oil of the Spirit. He joins every word together. He draws the efforts of distant participants and uses them to make a whole.

In the ‘New Normal’, the Spiritual realities we have rediscovered whilst being dispersed, must not be lost from our services where once again the physical closeness of friends, chapel buildings and traditions crowd in upon us, drowning out a dependence on the Holy Spirit alone.

As I said last week, we do not have any firm directions or dates as to when churches can re-open and in what guise. As soon as we know more, we will let you know. If you are feeling a little impatient, I have found this helpful: Psalm 37 v5,7 ‘Give yourself to the Lord: trust in Him, and He will help you... Be patient and wait for the Lord to act.’

Warm regards to you all,

Alastair's signature

Published at 20:20 on 26 May 2020

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