Yesterday Martyn and I certainly knew that the new year had started. We spent the day in Central London, at Wesley's Chapel http://www.wesleyschapel.org.uk/ in the morning and Westminster Central Hall http://www.methodist-central-hall.org.uk/ in the evening. Both were very vibrant services with diverse congregations made up of regulars and visitors. Martyn preached at both services and was excellent (Thought I should mention that as he probably wouldn't) and I led the intercessory prayers.
In the morning Martyn preached on the theme of "All Planned Out", an excellent start for the new year. Ermal Kirby, District Chair in the London District presided over Communion and the Superintendent minister, Leslie Griffiths led an Act of Commissioning for their stewards. That was a real boost for me, to see 22 lay people make their commitment for the next year and have it recognised by the congregation -6 Church Stewards, 7 Offertory stewards and 9 Communion Stewards. There was a link back to the Methodist Conference for me as we sang both "And are we yet alive" and "Captain of Israel's host" which traditionally begin and end the Methodist annual Conference. We had an informal international lunch in the gardens afterwards with about half of the congregation staying on. The food was fabulous with people originating from different continents having prepared a range of hot and cold foods. There was the opportunity to look around the Chapel and the Museum which are both very interesting.
In the evening a very different experience at the service of Healing and Holy Communion at Central Hall. Again we had warm hospitality with a large tea provided (there may have to be major dieting take place in 2008/9!) before a prayer meeting with the healing team which Martyn and I joined for the evening. The Superintendent minister, Martin Turner, led the service with other ministers from the team there. Martyn preached on "Jars of Clay" linked to the theme of the healing service and presided over Communion. During Communion people were invited to stay at the Communion rail for short prayers of healing or to go to one of the specially designated prayer points for longer prayers. It was a quieter but very moving service with a mix of new and older hymns linked to our theme. Afterwards more refreshments and the opportunity to share with people before Martyn had to rush off for his 9.30pm train to get him home in the early hours of this morning.
It has been a privilege to share with people in this way and to listen to people's stories who have talked to us just because of the office we hold.
This week we are also speaking at New year services with the Connexional Team staff, Martyn today at Manchester and me tomorrow in London. Once again it is a privilege to meet with people who contribute to the life of the whole Church and to share in worship with them.
New starts, time to think about what the year ahead has for each of us and to give thanks for the thoughts and prayers which we know are being offered up on our behalf. We hope that those who read this will also face this new year knowing that whatever it brings, God is with them and they are a special person known and loved intimately by God.