Our minister is the Reverend Kim Stilwell

 August 2018

Dear Friends

 

Our Superintendent Richard is on sabbatical and his absence has highlighted for colleagues how much of a well-deserved break that will be for him. I was delegated the task of chairing a Circuit Meeting and, by association, have over recent weeks been asked to help with interpersonal difficulties that have arisen in the Circuit. Reading some of the email trails between brothers and sisters in Christ left me shocked at how brutal we can be, and unsurprised that individuals have been left in tears as a consequence.

When people meet over a coffee, they approach a problem together. When they speak over the phone they are more likely to have a full and frank exchange of views. When they email, there seems to be permission for their deepest frustrations to be vented on a computer keyboard, and before they know it the send button is hit and someone gets hurt.

This failing in communication is exacerbated by the inherent ambiguities of the written word. To illustrate, and at the risk of offending someone, I’ll share with you a phrase taught me on a training day at Methodist Church House recently: “I didn’t say she slept with him.” Try reading the phrase several times, putting the stress on a different word each time. The received meaning is totally different –as are the critical comments in a letter or email we think we have phrased so carefully and gently “in love”.

So, brothers and sisters, I wonder if I can use the flawed written word to share some guidelines we might agree upon? If we have something difficult to say, let’s say it face-to-face. If we’re to telephone let’s be friendly and respectful. Let’s keep emails or letters for less sensitive matters. Let’s be careful about who gets copied in, and let’s pause, read, re-read, reflect and re-read before sending - next day is often best. Perhaps you have other suggestions.

Let’s take the good advice of Paul (what would his emails have looked like?) “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5.11) and “let your gentleness be known to all”(Philippians 4.5) and above all let’s take seriously the words of Jesus: “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13.34)

Finally, lest there be any doubt, I have absolutely no person or group of people in mind as I write this! And I am very sorry for the times when I have failed to follow my own guidelines.

With love in Christ

Kim 

 

July 2018

Dear Friends

 

One of the things that struck us in moving to Ludlow is how insular (island-like) the town is. To access services that are not available in the town (eg McDonald’s!) requires a considerable journey, impacting on the time used travelling as well as the costs involved. The temptation is to be more and more local, which can be a good thing, but can mean to narrow horizons, to lose the wider perspective.

As a Circuit Minister I have responsibilities not just to one church building but to five from September, to the South Area of the Circuit, to the Circuit itself, to the District and the Connexion. It can feel like switching into completely different worlds which know little of one another. The Circuit communication – The new format Green Sock – is caught in the vicious circle of being narrowly read and therefore encouraging few people to contribute. To our members, the Circuit and District become “other organisations - out there” who make demands upon us and sometimes get in the way. One symptom of this is that it’s hard to get enough people to fill our allotted places on the Circuit Meeting.

I wonder if we can see instead Circuit and District (is Connexion asking too much?) as our family – there to encourage and support us through demanding times by sharing insight and support, and challenging us when we need to be. Our Circuit is actively engaging with questions about how to refresh our worship for a time when the number of preachers is rapidly diminishing – how to use resources available to help us discover and worship God together without sitting down and being told.

Our amazing District Chair is using themed years to encourage the 7000 or so members to be a “praying” people, a people with “vocation” – discovering what God is calling us to be, and in her coming third year, a “courageous” people - those who like Mary hear God’s voice and say “be it unto me according to thy will” instead of doing a Jonah and heading in the opposite direction!

I hope we can feel that we truly belong to a wider Methodist family who don’t just communicate by the annual Christmas card and round-robin news, but actively pray for, learn from, encourage and inspire one another. I hope we can put behind us old resentments, and recognise that if we are to be a movement that survives and makes a difference, we need to be one whole body and not trying to survive as a severed limb.

Blessings

Kim

Big Bike Ride 2018

Kim & Stella will be donning their Lycra again on 11th and 12th July with the challenge of cycling from Ludlow to Holyhead for Christian Aid over 2 days, staying overnight at Barmouth and returning by train. They would be very grateful for your sponsorship - forms in Wesleys.

 

June 2018

Dear Friends

 

We recently visited a couple we know in Shrewsbury and commented on the abundance of plants growing in a border in the middle of their lawn. There was a blend of colour and height that suggested considerable thought had gone into its planting. Our friends pointed out the amazing fact that only two months ago the whole area appeared to be bare soil. What a difference the warmth and sunshine we have been blessed with has made!

Meanwhile, at the Manse, the removal of rotten decking has revealed a sizeable area of heavy-clay soil, not a single plant or weed surviving the dark conditions underneath the boards. My ever-enthusiastic gardener-wife has seen an opportunity! Compost has been purchased in large quantities and mixed into the dug-over clay. I am confident that vegetables fresh from the new patch will before long be finding their way to the dinner table. Perhaps our successors in years to come will continue to enjoy the fruit of what has been achieved by “our” efforts.

At a recent staff meeting my colleague spoke of the opening of the “Red Shed” in the grounds of her Manse in Minsterley. The outhouse is a humble construction but has become a place of pastoral encounter, presence, personal reflection. In the same tiny space, hand-made and Fairtrade items can be purchased, encouraging visitors to think about their impact on the world economy.

These are three stories of creating and transforming from unpromising beginnings. Perhaps we can consider the landscape of our time, talents, energies and opportunities in a similar vein. Jesus told a parable of a mustard seed (Luke 13.18-19), planted and growing into a tree where the birds could perch in its branches. What abundance of life and love can we see in our rear-view mirror, bathed in the sunshine of God’s blessing?

Happy planting

Kim 

 

May 2018 

Dear Friends

 The walk of faith involves living with many contradictions - the God who is Creator of the Universe but loving Father, the Jesus who is fully human yet fully divine, the Spirit who is person yet force, the God who is three yet one, merciful yet just, loving and omnipotent yet permissive of suffering, the kingdom that is here but not yet, and at Easter the triumph over evil that isn't yet defeated.

 It was for me a memorable Holy Week and Easter - the message itself, together with a packed church, joyous singing, sunshine and the floral cross left me with a deep sense of the privilege of serving a church and a God who fills our hearts with praise. But it's impossible to be ever smiling when the reality of life for brothers and sisters in the human family is suffering - knifings, chemical weapons attacks, bombings, wrongful detention and deportation, lies, pain, poverty, disease and hunger. The contrast is stark, yet both the Easter worldview and the one we gain from our newspapers are valid. It is wrong to dismiss either.

 Some will try to find immunity from distress by narrowing their horizons - switching off the news, connecting only with like-minded people, convincing themselves that there is nothing they can do to make a difference in the world "out there". Others have found that shocking world events have paralysed them with despair. Yet they crave to be shocked more - shocking headlines sell papers! And unable to see a way forward, their only hope is a speedy end to it all.

 As we look forward to Pentecost, we are reminded of a Spirit who sets us on fire with a passion to share the Good News that God is love and mercy, that God has a future for Creation that is good, and acknowledging we're not there yet, God has a mission to work with us to make that future a present reality. That to me is God's hint at an answer to living with the contradiction of being a resurrection people in a world where there is so much tragedy.

 A contradiction is a reminder that answers are seldom easy, but there is real hope for creativity and the work of God in abiding with the "on the other hand."

 The Peace of the risen Jesus be with you

Kim