Chapel Street Methodist Church

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Minister's Letter, 20 March

From the Revd Alastair Bolt

Dear Friends,

At the Wednesday Zoom Communion service, we include a couple of streamed hymns or songs with the words on the screen. Everyone can sing along, but the time lag on Zoom makes the resulting sound like a cacophony. So, before the hymns are played we say “Please mute yourselves, then you can sing!” This sounds a strangely ironic thing to say. Sometimes in days gone by when we could all sing in church, the sound desk has left my microphone on during a hymn and everyone has had to endure my not-very-good-singing amplified. Our congregations may well include those members whose enthusiasm for singing loudly exceeds their vocal talent. How would it be if we could mute people at will when we just ‘don’t want to hear’ something, or we need some quiet or someone is very boring? You might find it useful in some of my longer sermons! We can be so thankful that Jesus never puts us on mute. If I were having to listen to some of my prayers I would mute me! Jesus always listens to His children. So, let us pray with confidence, and imitate Jesus by really listening to one another.

Watching worship from some of the big national churches, I find that if I am a little late the streaming allows me to join in at the beginning even if that was 10 minutes before. I could also watch it mid-week, or I could watch just the sermon, or pick out a song to hear again. Watching something ‘live’ is only a small part of modern media. We can watch BBC iPlayer when we want, and we can watch recorded sport when it is convenient to us. So I was intrigued by an advert on Pay-TV to watch something as it actually happened. It said, “You can only watch it Live once”. That is so true, it will never happen again. Jesus was only crucified once. We weren’t there to see it, and it doesn’t need to happen again. This Easter is not a repeat, nor is it just a recording. This Easter is a live event in its own right, an unrepeatable opportunity to meet with the Risen Lord, on Freeview by His grace.

I suspect we are all looking forward to a progressive loosening of lock-down. Almost from the time about a year ago when this all started, the media have been talking about the so-called New Normal which would take the place of the old normal once the crisis is over. We shall have to see. I shall emerge from lockdown with a moustache that wasn’t there before. It will be my ‘new normal’ look. In society, although some people will continue to work from home some of the time, there is a huge yearning to “Get back to normal” meaning the old normal. As I have mentioned before, this question of newness will apply to church life. The new normal may see the continued use of the internet for meetings and fellowship. It may mean that some of our ‘live’ activities will never re-start. We may soon be sharing the Gospel with a society less confident about its control of its own destiny. I was struck by a slightly different slant on this in my latest copy of the magazine Modern Railways. Its headline proclaims ‘Planning for a new reality’. The challenge to the disciples at the first Easter was that they were faced with a new reality, where a dead person was alive with all the drastic implications that that brought with it: Jesus was definitely the Son of God, the Cross had been a triumph rather than a disaster, He was going to be with them permanently, and ‘fishing for men’ was their long- term destiny. At Easter, we too are faced with this New Reality because Christianity involves a completely different reality from the secular, material reality most people assume to be true. As we prepare for Easter, let us remember it was not just an extraordinary event in history but it defines a new reality for the entire history and future of the world. The Resurrection changes everything, it is a new day, and we need to live in the new reality of Jesus.

With warm regards to you all,

Alastair's signature

Published at 19:12 on 20 March 2021

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