September 2020 – letter 2
Dear sisters and brothers,
When I was a 2nd year (year 8) pupil at the boy’s school I was chosen to play Mrs Peachum in the school production of “The Beggar’s Opera”. I was picked to play her as the Girls School refused to take part as it was a play about 18th Century ‘low-life’. We were about 8 weeks from opening when the LEA stopped us performing it for roughly the same reason.
We had the venue booked and so on so we then switched to perform ‘The Pirates of Penzance” and the Girls School joined us.
One of the best-known characters if ‘The Major General’. One of his songs goes like this:
“I’m telling a terrible story,
But it doesn’t diminish my glory;
For they would have taken my daughters
Over the billowy waters,
If I hadn’t, in elegant diction,
Indulged in an innocent fiction;
Which is not in the same category
As telling a regular terrible story.”
Basically, he is saying that as he is a ‘respectable’ and ‘titled’ person his lying is not as bad as that of other ‘lower’ people. He has a ‘better’ reason than they could ever had. Truth becomes a socially related negotiable. The more ‘respectable’ you are, the more you can act with impunity.
I served as a prison chaplain in two prisons for five years at the beginning of my ministerial life. It was always interesting to hear various people’s views on those incarcerated. People have very strong views, often misguided, about life in prison. Still there are anomalies. ‘White collar crime’ such as fraud was seen as ‘less’ evil than a mugger or a burglar. Thus, if you stole an old ladies’ purse, or broke into their house and took their purse it was worse than stealing all their savings by fraud, even if the latter took more money and more of their future.
If we take those two central issues to us, lying and breaking the law, we find that most people have the same view. They are both wrong. We may be able to ameliorate the ‘gravity’ of the situation to ourselves, but to those looking in from the outside, lying and breaking the law are still both wrong. They cannot be subject to social manipulation, that is a dangerous path to go down, one that could lead to anarchy and even tyranny.
If we do not consider that to be so then where do we stand as Christians? Where do we stand as those who seek to instruct others? Where do we stand as those who seek to educate our children and young people as school teachers, Junior church leaders, Church youth leaders and as parents, grandparents and family relatives. When do we stand in being able to protect the most vulnerable in our society.
At times we all may lie, but we confess and seek forgiveness from God and often from those whom we have lied to. We each may at times transgress the law, speeding perhaps. In each case we do acknowledge our wrongdoing, we accept that any punishment is just, we seek to be better.
To do either deliberately, knowingly and for our own benefit and own ends is not the way, the truth or the life.
As we read in the Bible:
A Tree and Its Fruit
“Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit .A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.
Rev. Mark Barrett
Superintendent Presbyteral Minister of the North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit.
Presbyteral Minister for Bath Road, St. Andrew’s and Rodbourne Methodist churches.
September 2020 – letter 1
Dear sisters and brothers,
The beginning of a new year. For many a new school year with all that holds at the present moment with concerns mixed with expectations and hopes.
It is also the beginning of the Methodist year. All the meetings start up again, though at this moment not in the same way. We begin the cycle of meetings, we begin the cycle of the process of governance.
We begin again. I always feel ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
We begin again in that the year starts. We begin again in that some churches have their Covenant Service in September and some in the New Year. This year I feel as we cannot sing, nor take Communion in the usual way that perhaps it is best to leave Covenant until the New Year, things may have changed.
We do not, however, begin again with God. We continue with God, continue with the task we are called to, continue with the work of the Kingdom. We continue where we left off.
We continue with the failures and foibles still there. They are forgiven and God has forgotten, but we have not. This is not to make us always feel bad about ourselves, but to remind us of our frailty and to help us to learn from our past mistakes. It also enables us to walk alongside others who have made similar mistakes and not lecture them, but to encourage them with our empathy.
As we begin this new Methodist year, let us continue the work of the kingdom. As we start our round of meetings, let us see them as tools for mission and reshape then if we must.
Let us put what in the past has not helped and has not worked, well and truly behind us.
Let us begin to continue the work in our fellowships amongst our communities who especially at this time need to meet with the loving God we worship. May they encounter that God is Christ in us.
NOTE: As the business of the Methodist Church, District, Circuit and churches pick up, I am now having more meetings and more business come my way. My pastoral letters will continue, but will become fortnightly as weekly is not possible.
May God bless you,