I am writing this letter from my bedroom study at ‘Gladstone’s Library’, where I am on a 24 hours retreat with the Superintendent Ministers of the Manchester and Stockport District. It is an important time for me personally, as I hope to find space, possibly in a quiet corner of the library between sessions to pray about my future ministry whilst away from the Circuit.
Gladstone was a controversial political figure, who Queen Victoria described as a “half- mad firebrand”, whilst to a large part of the British working classes he was the “Grand Old Man” (G.O.M.). His rival, Benjamin Disraeli, rather unfairly described him as ‘God’s Only Mistake’. As a four times prime minister, Gladstone provoked strong reactions.
He was elected Tory MP for Newark in December 1832, aged only 23, with ultra-conservative views. In Parliament he spoke out against the abolition of slavery, because his family used slaves on their West Indian plantation and he also opposed democratic electoral reforms. However, Gladstone began his ‘rescue and rehabilitation’ of London’s prostitutes in 1840. Even whilst serving as Prime Minister, in later years, he would walk the streets, trying to convince prostitutes to change their ways! He even spent a large amount of his own money on this work. He was a passionate campaigner.
As we prepare for a General Election, I cannot imagine any of the Political Leaders of today engaging in such social outreach. We do need to prayerfully consider how we exercise our right to vote for the future leadership of our country and I do encourage you all to also pray for all involved in the political life of our nation at this time.
I would like to thank you all for your prayerful support as everyone prepared for the recent Stationing Process; and for all of our Church and Circuit Stewards who handled this whole process so sensitively. It is good to be able to report that after being successfully matched with our Circuit, Rev Alan Bradley and his wife Carol have accepted the Circuit’s invitation to begin ministry here in September 2020.
Rev Neal Stanton, Vicky Royle and I were recently invited to participate in the consultation at Methodist Church Hall Westminster, to help in the preparation of the future strategy for Evangelism and Growth ‘God for All’ which is to be discussed at next year’s conference. This was a very positive, stimulating day of envisioning and testimony. It has also been good to see the article about ‘Zac’s House’, with our very own ‘poster boy’ Neal featured in the latest edition of our national magazine ‘Connexion’.
Another interesting report to be discussed at next year’s conference is ‘God in love unites us’, which is the Connexional discussion about the future of marriage and relationships within the Methodist Church. We will be hosting a number of spring discussion evenings in the Circuit, which I encourage you to attend, and then we have the privilege of hosting the Spring Synod at KMC when this issue is discussed more formally. Please do pray that there is sensitivity and unity as we share in these discussions. We will also have a special Sunday celebrating marriage on Sunday 16th February which I trust you will make a note of in your diaries.
Also, in the New Year, we are likely to be running another Alpha Course on a Monday evening which, for those of you who have never attended such a course, I would encourage you to attend. We have a wonderful meal and fellowship together, followed by an excellent presentation and discussion. Please do book a place at the Church Office firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01565 652251.
Currently, we are preparing for Christmas and our celebrations of the birth of the Christ Child, during the season of Advent. There will be many wonderful opportunities to prepare our hearts and minds spiritually for the significance of the coming of Christ into our world and into our lives. Bishop Mike Hill will be making a welcome return for our morning services on 15th December, which includes our Nativity Tableau. Carol and I are certainly hoping that this will be our best ever Christmas in Knutsford and particularly as we host ‘Journey of the Magi’ with the whole church family. How we need to know the Hope of Christ in our world and our lives at this time and to be prepared spiritually for the future challenges.
It seems incredible to think that a few years ago we were prayerfully preparing our ‘2020’s Vision’ and now as we approach 2020, much of what we envisioned is either in place, or being realised! How good to see our new church doors welcoming the whole community to our church and to know that ‘Zac’s House’ in Northwich is developing so well. But, we now need to ensure that we, as a church and individuals, all grow in our discipleship and mission.
I would encourage you all to consider forming a prayer pod with two or three friends to pray for each other, the church and the local community as we seek God’s will for the future and a new decade beginning in 2020. There is now also a prayer tree, to hang prayer requests, as leaves upon the tree, in our prayer ministry area to the rear of the worship area.
Carol and I look forward to celebrating the birth of the Christ Child with you and I count it a real privilege to wish you and your family a joy filled, very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.
Your friend and minister,
Rev. Rob Cotton