Our minister is Reverend Kim Stilwell

June letter

 Dear Friends

I write to you in the aftermath of the Manchester Arena bombing atrocity. Many of us will have felt moved to tears by the tragedy of the loss of young and beautiful life. We have longed to comfort the parents and friends who lost loved ones and are devastated. The shock we have felt has been exacerbated by the fact that this all happened so close to home.

It is hard to fathom the mind of a terrorist, but it is clear that there is a group of people who are ready to bring their ideology of hatred to bear on innocent children enjoying themselves.

I find myself as moved by the immediate, generous and profoundly human response of those who have shown their solidarity with the victims through actions and declarations of support.

The contrast is between on the one hand those who see others – in this case, mainly western girls – as a legitimate target, and consequently of no intrinsic worth, and on the other hand those who identify with the suffering of any human, regardless of ethnicity, gender or age, and will do all they can to relieve it.

Tragically, some are already using the tragedy to sow further seeds of division and take people down a path toward equally despicable attitudes of hatred and acts of violence in the name of nationalism.

As Christians it is always helpful to reflect: what would Jesus do?

We need only to turn to the parable of the Good Samaritan to see human behaviour as it should be, serving the needs of whom we meet, whatever their origin, whatever our differences, whatever the cost – for they are all our neighbours. This was precisely the actions of, among others, the taxi drivers, many of them ethnically Asian, who responded to the urgency of the need in Manchester by repeatedly offering free lifts home. These acts are as moving as the candlelit vigils – all signs of our determination not to surrender to evil but to show what we have the potential to be.

We have an election this month. Whoever we vote for, can we make sure that they hear our demand that we as a nation be known not by our strength, security and safety, but by our “love for our neighbour” (as Jesus understands the term)? May we be known by the love which drives out fear.

Blessings

Kim

 

May letter

Dear Friends

 For a Minister, Easter brings many different responses, from feelings of anxiety and weariness because of the busyness of Holy Week, to the sheer joy of the Easter Day celebration, to the bitter sadness of Good Friday.

Looking back, perhaps the most moving service for me, and I know for a number of others present, was the reading of the Passion of our Lord according to St John on Good Friday morning. It was simply the retelling of familiar words interspersed with familiar hymns and music and some appropriate images - and yet there was a real feeling of the Spirit at work as the events seemed to unfold in our presence. It reminded me of the post-resurrection story of the two disciples meeting Jesus on the road to Emmaus who reflected: "Didn't our hearts burn within us while he opened the Scriptures to us!"

I am frequently struck by the way that a bible passage that I have read or even preached upon many times before can carry a fresh "punch" - the real experience that the words are a "Means of Grace" as Mr Wesley would have it - a vehicle for God to speak to, and to bless God's children.

This month we move steadily towards Pentecost and will shortly be delivering the "Experience Pentecost" programme. This is a fantastic opportunity as some 390 children from 13 different schools will come through our church (as well as the Elim church and St Laurence's) to hear the story of the coming of the Holy Spirit. How blessed we are to have so many local schools open to helping children learn about the Christian faith! And what a great testimony to our oneness in Christ that the churches are working enthusiastically together on this project!

Please pray that the Pentecost story comes alive for those children as the Passion story did for us on Good Friday. Pray too that we all may experience a fresh and personal sense of God's life-giving Spirit at work in our lives as we come to celebrate Pentecost ourselves. On that occasion morning worship in Ludlow will be led by our District Chair, Rev Rachel Parkinson - so there is much to look forward to!

 Every blessing

 Kim

 

April letter

Dear Friends

It was Ludlow's "turn" this year to host the twice-yearly meeting of the District Presbyteral Synod - a time for Methodist Ministers to gather, to rededicate ourselves to following our calling, to share in Holy Communion, and among other work to remember those who have died in the last 12 months.

This year with great sadness we remembered the ministry in our Circuit of Rev Chris Hardy, a young man who, after just a few months in appointment, collapsed and died. It was a great tragedy which was reflected upon in a subsequent Memorial Service at Pontesbury.

In the morning worship at Synod, our Chair of District Rachel Parkinson asked the question "How do you spend your Holy Saturday?" Not many rushed to give a response, quietly and ashamedly thinking that it's a very useful day to draw breath between the frenetic activity of Holy Week and Easter Sunday. It's time to polish off a sermon, or catch up on a bit of shopping. But perhaps that day more than any other symbolises our human condition - that state of being in the in-between times.

We witness tragedy, loss, decline, destruction and injustice and find ourselves exactly in the place of Jesus' followers as he is taken, a lifeless broken body to a tomb, and dreams are shattered. Why did it have to happen this way? What hope have we now?

Chris's churches and his colleagues have no answers to the 'why?' question. And the emotions are still raw.

And yet, as is heard in the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, there is the germ of a thought that God's work isn't over yet - there are rumours that the tomb is empty.

For Chris's churches there are ideas of his still to be taken forward, and there's a new sense of urgency and perspective as his death upturns their priorities and old ways are challenged. God has not abandoned them. There are blessings to come if they remain faithful.

All this reminds us that we are on a timeline - of which we glimpse only a small part. God is with us - whether we feel in the midst of Good Friday suffering, Holy Saturday doubt and confusion, or the beginnings of Easter Sunday resurrection. The Easter story prompts us to revisit the truth that the timeline leads to a renewed heaven and earth where every tear will be wiped away and God will be known in our midst!

May God bless you with a fresh confidence in Him, all through this Easter

Kim