Along with celebrating Her Majesty’s special birthday recently, at Thackley Methodist Church (TMC) we have also been celebrating our Junior Church Anniversary – and working out that the Queen has being reigning for around half the lifetime of the church!
So what has the church been doing for all those years? Back in the day, besides being a big, busy church, it was the major social hub of the village, with all sorts of regular meetings and concerts – even spectacular productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, with magnificent costumes hired from D’Oyly Carte! Also, did you know Thackley Football Club grew from small beginnings made by the church?
Nowadays, besides hosting well attended special seasonal services, weddings, baptisms and funerals, TMC continues to serve the community by providing a safe, warm and welcoming community centre for a number of groups and organisations to call home. We happily share our premises on Friday evenings with ‘Sorted’ youth church, a Church Army initiative, which is reaching and transforming the lives of numerous young people. We estimate around a thousand people cross the threshold – every week! TMC also regularly supports a number of local, national and international charities.
As you can imagine, this all takes a lot of hard work from the church family members who voluntarily look after the buildings, organise the room bookings, take care of the administration and finances – and lead worship. There is a commitment in terms of money too - each local Methodist church has to be both financially self-sufficient and make a contribution towards the paid ministers and other costs of the larger Methodist organisation.
But we’re coming to realise that where we perhaps fall down as a church here in Thackley is that we’re not always very good at explaining why we do what we do.
There’s an old joke. Three Christians are waiting at the pearly gates to be admitted into heaven. St Peter asks them why they think they should be let in.
The Catholic replies, “Look – I’ve got my rosary – I’ve always prayed regularly.” St Peter lets him in.
The Baptist is next and says “I have my Bible – I’ve read the Bible every day.” St Peter lets her in too.
That just leaves the Methodist. “Why do you think I should let you in?” asks St Peter.
The Methodist holds out a covered dish saying, “Well, I’ve brought a casserole…”
Methodists tend to be practical people with a down to earth attitude and it has to be said, we do enjoy sharing food - hot drinks and biscuits as a minimum featuring at virtually every service and church meeting – but the reason we undertake all this work is for love.
We believe that God is love and wants us to share that love with the community around us. God walked the earth in human history in his son Jesus, who taught us about God’s loving character and gave us an example of service to follow, all recorded for us in the Bible. Then, by his self- sacrificial death on a cross, Jesus, by some glorious, mysterious means, tipped the balance between good and evil once and for all – good shall prevail – and love wins!
Right now, Jesus’ own Spirit is in the world, helping us along, pointing us towards God. For example, think of that feeling, when you hold a new born baby, see a beautiful sunset, hear a wonderful piece of music? That’s him. And you must have come across people who are so good, so loving, generous, kind and understanding that you feel better just for being with them? They are Spirit (not spirit!) filled.
At TMC we meet Sunday by Sunday (10.30 – 11.30 am – quite civilised) to pause, take time out of busy lives to think about God, to reflect on who he is, to thank and praise him, to learn more about him, to say we are sorry for the things we’ve got wrong, to ask for his help and to work out what he wants us to do next, both as a church family and in our lives as individuals. Some might argue that you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian – and that’s true – but is an hour a week really too much to give back to God, when he gives so much to us? The time it takes to watch two episodes of Coronation Street? Together, as a church community, lovingly helping and supporting each other, learning from each other, we can achieve so much more than as separate believers. God loves each and every person and has given us all individual talents and attributes that fit together like a beautiful jigsaw. If you choose not to bring your pieces along, the picture, although still recognisable, cannot be complete.
Talking of talents, if you like music, play an instrument and/or sing, you might really enjoy ‘Take a Second,’ from 6.00 – 7.00 pm on the second Sunday of each month, a reflective time where people bring along their musical instruments – and voices - to praise God and share together.
I’m sure others might be reading this who find it hard to believe in God at all, especially when they look around the world at the terrible things that happen, or who have experienced personal tragedy. Yes, we still ask why, too - often. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but we trust that where love is, there is God also. Don’t feel for a moment that any lack of faith would exclude you – we really mean it when we say all are welcome at TMC.
Also, through the summer, we’re hosting coffee mornings from 10 -12 noon each Saturday, with pretty china and cafetiere coffee (and biscuits of course) to offer a little treat to the community – do drop in.
Going back to those pearly gates – they’re not there anymore – Jesus took them off their hinges and stands there himself, arms open wide to welcome us in when we get there – but he’d very much like us all, with the help of his Spirit, to work together to make this part of his world a bit more heavenly, before we get there! Please come along and take your place in your church in Thackley, part of God’s Church.
Every blessing to you and yours, from everyone at TMC.
Jackie M, Local Preacher