All posts by pamjw

About pamjw

I am a Methodist Minister, currently unable to be in active ministry due to chronic illness. This is, I hope my opportunity to interact with the world. Of course anything I say here is my own opinion, and not endorsed or reflective of anyone else.

“It’s Not Church Without The Singing”

This is meant to be an encouraging post for all those who are worried about worship without no singing, or feel that it just is not church without some element of singing. After all, Methodists especially are known to be ‘Born in Song‘. As churches start to go back to the buildings, at least in part, but without being able to sing – how can that be worship?

Music, and particularly singing, have always been a big part of my life. Indeed my mum’s pearl of wisdom to my husband when we got married was, “If she’s not singing within a couple of seconds of putting her feet on the floor in a morning, you are in trouble! She’s either grumpy or ill”.

Music has always been a major element I used in leading worship. So often a song can say what you have been struggling to. Picking hymns/songs always took the longest part of preparing a service, to ensure that they carried and enhanced what was being said and offered to God.

So, I can understand the feeling of people who cannot comprehend worship without music, and cannot imagine what it will be like, and how it can be true worship at all. But, we are having to find new, meaningful ways of doing so many things – and different does not always mean worse, we can find a new worth and value.

When my illness first took hold fifteen years ago, and probably the thing that initially immediately stopped my ministry of preaching and leading worship, I lost all power to my voice. As anyone who has heard me speak will know, my voice goes hoarse very quickly when I start talking, especially at any volume, and my struggle with breathing makes it very difficult to regulate even talking. If I need to talk for any length of time, even in conversation, my throat aches so much for days afterwards. Pre-recording at my pace, with lots of gaps no one else sees has become an opportunity for me to do some small parts of worship again, but it is not something I could do live, or frequently. Singing therefore is impossible.

Hence why this is, I hope, encouragement to those who are struggling with worship with no singing. At first I hated not being able to sing. It wasn’t me. Singing was how I expressed everything in my life (if we could have Pamsperambulation – the Musical, we would!), including my worship of God, and I was bereft without it. But I am here to tell you that it is possible, you can get used to it, we can find other ways to share our worship with God. It may take time and effort, but the new ways that we discover may offer a different slant to our worship, a new facet to our relationship to God.

One of the things I have found is that the less noise I can make, the more I can listen and hear God. God get’s a chance to speak, because I am quiet!

I am certain there are other people for whom singing is difficult, or uncomfortable for varying reasons, or actually it is just not their thing.

So, please don’t despair, don’t think this is the end of worship – we may yet discover a richer seam and a new encounter with God – because after all, worship is about God and not the method.

Basically, what Matt Redman says:

Be a Blessing

This is the transcript for my post for today on our circuit ‘Going Deeper’ daily posts.

I’m just going to go straight in to the reading today.  It is ‘one of those’ passages in the bible.  You might have a knee jerk reaction to it, but we need to look further than that, beyond the first sentence.  Anyway, here goes.

Wives and Husbands

In the same way you wives must submit yourselves to your husbands, so that if any of them do not believe God’s word, your conduct will win them over to believe. It will not be necessary for you to say a word, because they will see how pure and reverent your conduct is. You should not use outward aids to make yourselves beautiful, such as the way you fix your hair, or the jewelry you put on, or the dresses you wear. Instead, your beauty should consist of your true inner self, the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of the greatest value in God’s sight. For the devout women of the past who placed their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful by submitting themselves to their husbands. Sarah was like that; she obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are now her daughters if you do good and are not afraid of anything.

In the same way you husbands must live with your wives with the proper understanding that they are more delicate than you. Treat them with respect, because they also will receive, together with you, God’s gift of life. Do this so that nothing will interfere with your prayers.

Suffering for Doing Right

To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. 10 As the scripture says,

“If you want to enjoy life
    and wish to see good times,
    you must keep from speaking evil
    and stop telling lies.
11 You must turn away from evil and do good;
    you must strive for peace with all your heart.
12 For the Lord watches over the righteous
    and listens to their prayers;
    but he opposes those who do evil.”

1 Peter 3:1-12

“Use today’s set reading from the Prayer Handbook” the Superintendents said.

Nothing controversial to see here – at all!  When I had stopped laughing, I did look more closely.

Perhaps the most important part are the first four words, “in the same way”.  Before we get our chunter on, we ought to find out to what Peter is alluding.  This is not the start of the letter, but part way through.  We are not reading this passage in isolation; it follows on from the chapter before.  He has been giving instructions to different people about how to live out their Christian faith.  This is new to all of them, they are all working it out, and so Peter is sharing some helpful reflections on how that might be, based on how Jesus lived, and died.

So, in the same way as what?  He is pointing to Christ’s suffering, all that he gave for us, and that being our model for Christian living, especially amongst those that do not have that faith.

It would probably surprise most people to know that when Paul and I married 35 years ago, I opted to have the “honour and obey” vows in the service.  It was an option, but I deliberately chose to do that.  I think I shocked most people at the time doing that!  Perhaps it is especially because I am, and always have been known to be  a ‘Strong Yorkshire Woman’ that it seemed important to me to make that point, that we were in this together, it was not, and is not my show.

The rationale Peter gives behind this instruction is that it is about your conduct, how you live.  This passage is actually written in the context of a believing woman being married to a non-Christian husband.  She is not to use her faith as an excuse to pull against the marriage or her husband, but by quietly getting on with it, working together, she will bear testimony to that faith.  Living in the kind of way that makes someone else ask questions about why you behave as you do and seeing God in that, is a powerful lifestyle.

The next part becomes is equally as contentious – don’t use adornments to make yourself beautiful.  I do not live in the world of false everything and the latest high fashions, but I do like to look nice.  Something we have all stressed about during lockdown is our hair, and I have certainly been glad to get mine mowed and back into some sort of tidiness, if different.

I take this advice to pertain to not wasting time, energy and resources on all manner of ‘improvements’ when your life is not right.  We know the saying that true beauty comes from within, and I think this is what Peter is getting at.  True beauty comes from doing the right thing, living a good way – God’s way, sharing, loving, and seeking to bless others.

The advice does eventually turn to men, and how they should live as husbands.  In the time it was written, this would have been quite revolutionary news to men.  They would have been used to treating women as possessions, required to do their bidding.  But if a woman is being asked to obey her husband, he has to be acting the right way for that to be safe and sensible. 

So man are asked to treat their wives with respect.  Life is a joint effort with God.

The whole premise of this is then widened out much further – love one another, be kind and humble, don’t pay back evil with evil, but with a blessing.  All a very sound sensible way to live for all of society – essential if you are a Christian.

So from anger, frustration, despair at how outdated this advice is, perhaps we have managed to glean some important things for human, Christ based, living for today.  And that can never do us any harm!

Lord,
you ask us to love,
to live beautiful lives,
to live your way.
To live together
in mutual respect.

Teach me
to learn to live your ways,
to be a blessing
with those I live amongst,
may my behaviour point
always
to you.

Today’s song suggestion: Love God Love People by Danny Gokey

Fire on Holy Ground

In the wilderness
far from anywhere,
when
out of the corner of my eye
I catch sight of something.

A bush on fire,
not that unusual
in the blazing desert heat,
but there was something odd about this.
It was well ablaze,
but not actually turning to ash,
it was still intact,
despite the flames.

This needed investigating.

As I turned aside to look,
when God saw
my full attention captured,
God spoke.
My interest had been piqued
and now God could say
what I needed to hear.

God called to me,
by my name.
I was to come no closer,
for this was holy ground,
a special place
where God and I
were going to meet.
I took off my shoes,
for this was an occasion
for standing on solid,
feeling the earth beneath my feet.

And God revealed Godself.
The God of my ancestors,
all those people
so special to me.

I hid my face
for I was afraid
to look God in the eye.

God knew.
God saw
the way we were being treated,
how Egypt has made us suffer.
God has heard our cry
to be rescued.

Now God is going to rescue us,
to bring us to a good place,
somewhere rich,
fertile
and free.

But God is going to do this via me!

Has God gone mad?
Does God think I am someone else?
Is God confused?
I am a nobody,
how can I go
and speak to the king,
never mind
lead a departure
from the land.

Who am I,
that I could do that?

God assured me
there was no mistake,
I was the one,
we would do it together.
God is with me
I am not alone in this.

But when I go to my people
they will want to know
what this is all about,
who has told me,
in whose strength
are we going.
What shall I say?

I am,
it is I,
the God
of all that has gone before.
That is what to call me,
how I shall be known.
I am the God
who has been with generations past
and I am the God who will go forward with you now.

Thank you Lord,
that you call me,
but do not call me to go alone.

Thank you that the God
who has always been with us,
is still with us
in this part of the journey.

Thank you
that as you call me,
you equip me.
I do nothing in my strength,
poor as it is,
but everything in
your power.

I stand
on the Holy Ground
of your presence
as you equip me,
fill me
and guide me,
us on.

God Calls Moses

One day while Moses was taking care of the sheep and goats of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock across the desert and came to Sinai, the holy mountain. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him as a flame coming from the middle of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire but that it was not burning up. “This is strange,” he thought. “Why isn’t the bush burning up? I will go closer and see.”

When the Lord saw that Moses was coming closer, he called to him from the middle of the bush and said, “Moses! Moses!”

He answered, “Yes, here I am.”

God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So Moses covered his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Then the Lord said, “I have seen how cruelly my people are being treated in Egypt; I have heard them cry out to be rescued from their slave drivers. I know all about their sufferings, and so I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of Egypt to a spacious land, one which is rich and fertile and in which the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites now live. I have indeed heard the cry of my people, and I see how the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 Now I am sending you to the king of Egypt so that you can lead my people out of his country.”

11 But Moses said to God, “I am nobody. How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

12 God answered, “I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you.”

13 But Moses replied, “When I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ So what can I tell them?”

14 God said, “I am who I am. You must tell them: ‘The one who is called I Am has sent me to you.’ 15 Tell the Israelites that I, the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have sent you to them. This is my name forever; this is what all future generations are to call me.

Exodus 3:1-15