Changing times

Whilst at the farm yesterday I stopped the tractor to chat with a local resident who regularly walks his dogs across our land. He’s a good guy, and we often attempt to put the world to rights together. However, on this occasion I was struck by the topic and tone of our conversation. We began with the condition of the crops and the promise of the imminent harvest, which was then followed by a negative comment concerning the recent, unseasonal wet weather. He then bemoaned the fact that the manager of our mutually supported football team Newcastle United had left. Eventually he made it to the topic of the day, Brexit and the political turmoil in which we currently find ourselves! ‘We’re in a bit of a mess,’ he commented, before adding ‘things seem to be changing all around us’.

Things are indeed changing, for the farmer spring has moved into summer and the joyful anticipation of another harvest is coupled with an understandable nervousness, as the culmination of another year’s work is almost upon us. In the political world, Brexit has almost been eclipsed (for the time being) with the race to No. 10 and a new Prime Minister taking centre stage. For many of us, however, the onset of summer is a time to take a holiday, relax, reflect a little and enjoy a well-earned change from the daily routine. ‘Change,’ as someone once famously said ‘is here to stay’!

The summer season can also herald a welcome change in the rhythm of our church communities, as we take a rest from the sometimes frenetic annual programme of activities with which we can easily find ourselves involved - even the children’s workers need a rest sometimes! A church I know of changed the format of their discipleship small group during the summer holidays to include prayer walks, fish and chips at the beach, a barbeque and even a treasure hunt around the ancient walls of the local town. Can I suggest that these changes, far from being a pale imitation of ‘real church’, offer us a wonderful opportunity to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus ‘the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2) in fresh and vibrant ways?

Wouldn’t it be good if, instead of wondering where everyone is on a Sunday morning during the holidays, we could creatively embrace the opportunities afforded to us to by this seasonal change and often smaller numbers attending our gatherings? Many of us are fortunate enough to live in beautiful rural areas, so why not take church outside and reflect on our unchanging God’s creative majesty? Perhaps take a walk around your local community, listening to God and praying as you go. Engage Worship have produced some wonderful resources to help and inspire us in their book Outdoor Worship. These include worship stations, a prayer hunt and a guided mediation on The Great Outdoors.

Finally, if you have time off planned for the summer it’s my prayer that the change of focus will be restful and enjoyable; rest is so important in our busy world. As for me, I’ll soon be in the midst of harvest season on the farm, so I’ll have to find my own creative ways to stay connected with the pioneer and perfecter of my faith. I also pray that the next time I meet my dog walking pal we’ll be able to focus on some godly, positive changes together!

Enjoy the season!

Alistair Birkett
Director of Pastoral Care: North