The theme chosen by this year's Methodist President and Vice-President is 'Radical Grace, Transforming Love'. The following lines are the opening words from the small booklet of prayers and reflections that has been produced to encourage the Methodist people through the sharing of our stories during the year.
"GRACE and HOPE are themes that weave together through Scripture and through the Christian experience of God's love. At the heart of the Christian understanding of grace is the belief that God loves everyone and longs for our well-being and flourishing. We cannot earn our way into eternal life; our salvation is possible only because God loves us and, through Jesus Christ, has shared in our sufferings and joys. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus transform the covenant relationship between God and human beings, from an understanding of duty to an understanding of grace. In this is hope — that God makes no distinctions but loves all of us.
"God's grace is radical! It does not fit with the world's understanding that to be saved you must first become holy. God's grace says, "All are welcome, come, sit at the table, share in the feast, feel loved because you are." When we know ourselves to be loved, then we can grow and learn to love others. This is hope for the possibility of a transformed world — when motivated by love, we cannot fail to recognise and respond to our neighbour in need."
The underlying invitation is to join in with God's longing for a world transformed by love. Whilst that may seem an enormous task for individuals to contemplate, we are not asked to do it on our own. The membership tickets that will be distributed to members shortly set out the four themes of 'Our Calling' — the framework for our life together, both within and beyond the church. The recent Circuit Meeting began to look at how we might take those four themes of worship; learning and caring; service and evangelism and think of them, not as programmes to follow for a specified period of time, but as the basis for a Methodist Way of Life which would inform every part of our lives.
You may like to think around the questions for yourself and then to talk to others about your responses...
What is the pattern of your prayer life?
How easy or hard do you find it?
What has recently spoken to you in worship or Bible study?
When has God been close to you? Has God felt distant?
LEARNING AND CARING
How and what are you learning at the moment?
Who or what has God given you to care for?
How have you practiced generosity and hospitality since we last met?
How are you serving your neighbours?
What issues of justice are you involved in? Are there any you need to take up?
How can we support you in your commitments?
How have you witnessed to God's love?
What opportunities have there been to share your faith since we last met?
Are there any particular people you should pray for or invite to consider Christian Faith?
As we continue to develop and grow as a Circuit, these themes will underpin much of our discussion and decision-making.