One of the delights of coming into a new circuit is uncovering unique bits of history, the bits and pieces that have helped to form us into who we have become. I knew very little about Methodism in N Kent before I arrived here in Maidstone last summer. Starting to work through some of the archives has been quite an eye-opener as I find hand-written signatures on documents from 19th century Methodist figures I had previously only read about in books on Methodist history! Within the next few years, several of our circuit congregations will be able to celebrate 200 years of Methodism in our area.
Along with those celebrations of 'who we have been' comes a reckoning of 'who we are now'. Over the past few years, I have worked on that question with a few others as we have developed a course on 'Methodist Identity'. Our work focussed on a growing realisation that Methodists today are a varied bunch: some have been British Methodists all their lives, but only in one or two locations, so that the Methodism they know has very local connotations. Others have been Methodists in other parts of the world – from Africa and Asia to America and other parts of Europe; the Methodism practiced elsewhere has often developed differently than British Methodism. Still others in our present day congregations have come to Methodism from other denominational backgrounds – or none! Each person, each group brings different expectations of what Methodism means in this time and this place – and there is much we each can learn from the other!
We will be offering this course in Methodist Identity in our circuit over five Sunday evenings in late May and early June. We will meet at a different Methodist church in the 'central' (Maidstone) area; the sessions will usually start at 7 pm and last for about an hour:
22 May – Bearsted -- Methodist Worship and Belonging
29 May – Union Street -- What Methodists Believe
5 June – Tonbridge Road – The History of Methodism in Britain and Beyond
(note: this session will start at 6.30 with Holy Communion)
12 June – Larkfield -- The Organisation of Methodism
19 June – St Luke's -- Methodist Social Outreach and Pastoral Care
For most, these sessions will be a good opportunity to explore various aspects of Methodism from different perspectives and a chance to recognise some of the unique contributions of Methodism to the whole Christian community. The course will also provide a sound basis on Methodism for those who wish to become members of the Methodist Church. An introductory session on Saturday morning, 14 May, at Union Street Methodist Church, recommended for those who are not yet members.
I look forward to sharing this special course on 'who we are as Methodists' with N Kent circuit!
Image courtesy of Martin Smith