Newsletter Nov. 15th 2020

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Dear Friends,

The BBC news this week was full of hope!

There was new hope to be found in America with the election of the President Elect Joe Bidden. It was a nail-biting finish, dragged on long into extra time (may yet be settled on penalties!) but as the news broke people in the United States were out on the streets celebrating!

There was also new hope to be found in the appointment of the Vice President Elect, Kamala Harris. She is the first female, first black and first South Asian to hold the post — a bold statement of equality. In an historic speech she commended her supporters by saying:

'You have sent a clear message of repudiation against the last four years of Donald Trump's chaotic leadership, and signalled a message of hope for the future of the United States...
You chose hope and unity, decency, science and the truth... you chose Joe Biden as the next president.'

The BBC news was full of hope!

Perhaps even more important than the presidential election was the message of hope that came later in the week.
The Pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that its coronavirus vaccine was more that 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 in a major trial. It is hailed as an amazing breakthrough. Politicians tell us that should its authorisation be finalised it will be ready for use in December for those most vulnerable.

Nichola Sturgeon said:
The new vaccine development is the 'best news' that gives the UK 'real hope'. It is the best news that gives the world 'real hope'.

Alongside such news we also have the development of much faster and more widespread Covid testing being rolled out with mass testing in Liverpool and rapid tests for students wanting to go home for Christmas.

In the darkest of times we all need hope.

I was reading this week an article by John Piper (Theologian and Baptist Minister). He was asked what he would like painted on the new church sign where he had taken up his post as pastor.

He chose words from Psalm 42.5 — Hope in God!

The Psalmist writes:
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise him,
My Saviour & my God.

Do you ever talk to yourself?!
Well, you are not alone, the Psalmist did too!

He was wrestling with his feelings. He was disturbed and despondent. He was feeling down.
Do you ever feel like that?

The Psalmist acknowledged that he was struggling, he did not pretend, he was honest with himself.
Yet we note the way that he wrestled and fought and struggled to maintain his hope in God.
He talked to himself, he reminded himself of the great promises of God. God was his rock, and he would renew his trust in him.

Rock of ages cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee...

The Psalmist draws strength from his deep reservoir of knowledge and understanding that God was with him in the darkest of times.

Ordinarily, we use the word hope as wishful thinking, uncertain longing, cross your fingers (!) and yet the bible's use of the word hope is full of confidence and certainty because we know the one in whom we trust. We can depend on him.

John Piper says: The best sermon you preach yourself this week may only be three words long: 'Hope in God.'

Christmas Cards
This year we will be selling Christmas cards in aid of Alton Methodist Church funds.

They have the greeting inside 'Wishing you a Peaceful & Blessed Christmas'.
They cost £2.25 per pack of 10 cards and you can pay by cheque or bank transfer to Alton Methodist Church. We will deliver them to you!
Please contact Debby Bridger

On-Line Worship
The recorded on-line service this week is led by Pam Jones. To access the service go to www.altonmethodist.org.uk

Pause for Thought
This continues on-line (uploaded for Wednesdays) with our series on the Fruit of the Spirit continuing. This week it is on 'Gentleness'
.
Next week (Nov. 22nd) the on-line worship service is led by Anna Carrington who is at present candidating for the Methodist Ministry and this will be assessed as her trial service to that end. Please hold Anna in your thoughts and prayers.

The Bible Course
This runs on a Thursday evening 7.30-8.30pm on Zoom. We have a group of 9 people signed up to the course.
I hope to be able to offer a different course on Zoom in the New Year.

Alton Church Council News
We met on Zoom — congrats. To Janet M. for her maiden and successful appearance on Zoom!
Lin Fitch, who has served over 6 years as our steward is stepping down. She has done a fantastic job and we will miss her enthusiasm and care in that role. Thank you, Lin!

The finance report from Graham offered much appreciation for peoples ongoing generosity at this time. We recognised that the coming year will be challenging financially with restrictions on worship, activities, fundraising and lettings.

Discussions were had about arrangements for Christmas Services. We plan to have an on-line and also on Zoom Carol Service on Christmas Eve at 7pm when we can greet each other, re-live the Christmas story and sing along at home
Also, a Zoom Service/Greeting on Christmas Morning (still in your PJ's?!)

Please do let me have any news updates for this newsletter from around our churches.

Blessing
May the God of Hope sustain and strengthen you. Amen.

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