At the moment I am away on the bi-annual District Ministers retreat at the Swanwick Hayes conference centre. I thought you might like to see the view from my bedroom window. Lovely isn`t it ?
We`re having a very thoughtful time led by Rev Martyn Atkins, General sec of the Methodist Church. Beginning with his reflections of 34 years in the Ministry and what he feels he has learned during that time there have been some interesting observations; some I can understand and others which I might want to challenge.
This afternoon he spoke of the marks of Methodist discipleship, covering areas such as fellowship, connexionalism, scripture, prayer, an awareness of Gods prevennient grace, and much more. It’s quite fascinating, but I`m so aware that it might come over as boring to my readers so I won`t go into detail.
However I have spent some time today reflecting on why we actually do this. When I was at college one of my friends from my former life complained that Methodism was wasting its time “pumping unnecessary theology” into its students instead of simply giving them a Bible and letting them loose !! At the time I was knee-deep in theological essays, worship reading, counselling training and I was tempted to simply agree with him.
So why do we do it ? Well, I`ve come to a position of realising the truth behind the words of Albert Einstein who said “the mind is like an umberella; its only of use when it’s opened”. The Bible reminds us that we have been made in the image of God, and he expects us to use everything he has given us to his glory. Well if we don`t use our minds and stretch them then we`re not fully giving everything to God. If I didn`t try and stretch myself and give my mind regular exercise it would go a bit like my belly !! Flabby and not a lot of use !
Secondly, a closed mind is the first step towards fundamentalism; the failure to listen or study the other persons point of view disrespect them as a person created by God. It doesn`t mean we have to agree with them but we should at least hear them. Over the years I have softened my stance on various things, taken up a new stance on some and become more hardline on others. In other words I have changed as a result of God speaking to me through scripture, prayer, fellow Christians, dialogue and good quality reading.
Thirdly, whilst I believe that Scripture is God speaking to us, I sometimes need a hand understanding it. That comes through exploring with others rather than casting anything I don`t understand to one side.
And so I look forward to another day tomorrow of listening, discussing and reflecting and I pray that I and my Ministry will be all the better for it.