Fore Street Topsham, Exeter

Minister : Reverend Paul Collings BTh (Hons) : email : paul.collings@methodist.org.uk : Telephone : 01392 206229 : Mobile : 07941 880768

About Us

St Nicholas Methodist Church has existed on the present site for over 150 years since it opened in 1867.

We are a friendly community of believers where all are welcomed. We help each other to worship God, and strive to live more like Christ in service beyond the walls of our church building.

Part of the
Exeter Coast and Country Circuit of the Methodist Church.

Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Prayers for Christian Unity Day 8


“They left for their own country by another road”

(Mt 2:12)

Beyond the familiar routes of separation to God’s new paths

Readings

  • Psalm 16 - You show me the path of life.
  • Matthew 11:25-30 - Because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent, and have revealed them to infants.

Reflection

We do not know what the wise men thought – they who were experts in astronomy and navigation – when they were warned to return by another road. They may well have been very confused, but the same light that illumined their journey showed them that there was another road, another possibility. They were called to change direction.

We often find ourselves bound by our familiar ways of doing things and of seeing the world. When these ways or ‘roads’ are closed, we wonder how to proceed and continue the journey. We have to trust that the everlasting One who gave us the light, can always find a way forward when our ways and paths are blocked. A fresh start is always possible when we are willing and open to the work of the Spirit.

As churches we look to the past and find illumination, and we look to the future in search of new ways so that we can continue to shine the light of the Gospel as we journey by another way, together.

Prayer

Gracious God,

when we only know one way

and we think we must return to it,

when we think that all roads are blocked,

and we fall into despair,

we always find you there,

creating a new unexpected path before us.

If we search our maps and find no route,

nonetheless we always find you,

who lead us by a yet more excellent way,

trusting that you will always lead us back to you

and forward in unity together. Amen.

Meditative Response

Journeying on parallel paths

or often in opposite directions

We are called by ‘another way’

to become pilgrim companions

the people of The Way

Compasses and maps orientated

route finding and navigating together

our backpacks not burdensome

our boots crunching on,

rediscovering ancient paths,

walking humbly together with our God.

Questions

  • Global: What other ways of journeying together could we explore that would lead us into a better future?
  • Local: What do we take for granted about our daily rhythms? What blessing might someone of another tradition receive from the worship in your church? How might the worship of your church be perceived by someone of another tradition?
  • Personal: How does it feel when your familiar ways or traditions are challenged?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Find out how communities from all over the world joined in pilgrimage for climate justice in 2021. Plan as churches together to continue the journey to a better future for the planet and for us all. Find out more at christianaid.org.uk/campaigns

Local: Organise a local pilgrimage between the churches in your area, for example, you could walk to each of the church buildings or find your nearest pilgrim route.

Personal: Journey familiar routes by another way, for example walk 50% more slowly on your errands today, what do you notice? How do you see things differently?


Monday, 24 January 2022

Prayers for Christian Unity Day 7


 “Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh”

(Mt 2:11)

The search for unity

Readings

  • Hosea 6:1-6 - (v6 For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice)
  • Matthew 6:19-21 - (v21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also)

Reflection

The prophet Hosea is known for his cry for justice and love to override religious ritual and regulations. We are called to make a treasure of our expression of love and our work for justice and to let that be the offering that we place before the manger. We know that God does not want our riches or burnt offerings, but rather that God’s power works through our poverty: “I have no silver or gold”. The Lord desires our loving hearts, filled with mercy, truly penitent and desiring change.

Let us then prepare the gift of a heart full of love. Kneeling in worship requires hearts that are contrite for the sin that divides us and obedient to the One we serve. This obedience revives, heals and reconciles everything that is broken or wounded in us, around us, and among us as Christians.

Unity is the gift offered to us by Christ. We grow in communion as we share the graces our different traditions have received, acknowledging that the source of all our gifts is the Lord.

Prayer

God,

through your prophets

you have called us to do justice,

to love mercy,

and to walk humbly with you.

In Christ,

you have shown us what that looks like.

Through your Holy Spirit

you continually enable us

to hear your words,

to follow Christ’s example,

and to live as his disciples.

So, as we gather at the manger,

heal our wounds,

reconcile our divisions

and hold us together in your love.

Amen.

Hymn Verse

Vainly we offer each ample oblation;

vainly with gifts would his favour secure;

richer by far is the heart's adoration;

dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,

dawn on our darkness, and lend us your aid;

star of the east, the horizon adorning,

guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Reginald Heber (1783-1826)

Questions

  • Global: Climate justice is being recognised as an expression of social justice with which churches can act together on a global scale. Why is this the case?
  • Local: Sometimes we talk of Christian Unity being advanced more easily when local churches work together on a specific project, often one involving an expression of social justice. How have you experienced this in your local area?
  • Personal: How do you consider the importance of church as a place for offering worship and as a place from which to call for social justice?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

  • Global: Take time today to campaign for global justice. Visit the websites of CTBI agency partners (see https://ctbi.org.uk/membership/) to take part in their current campaign actions for social justice.
  • Local: Identify projects in your local area that need more support, and work together as churches to assist them.
  • Personal: Consider an issue of social justice that you’ve not been involved with previously and take time to find out more and take action.

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Prayers for Christian Unity Day 6


“They saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage”

(Mt 2:11)

Gathered in worship around the One Lord

Readings

  • Psalm 84 - How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
  • Mt 28:16-20 - When they saw him, they worshipped him.

Reflection

When the Magi from their far-away countries arrived at Bethlehem and saw the child with his mother, they worshipped him. In the presence of this revelation of God among us, eyes were cast down and knees bent. Similarly, when the disciples saw the risen Christ on the mountain in Galilee, they were amazed and troubled. Yet they worshipped him.

Do we see? Are we amazed? Are we truly worshipping? How many times do we remain blind to God’s presence? How can we worship in truth if we do not really see first? In our narrow vision, too often we see only our tangled disagreements, forgetting that God’s saving grace is to all, and that we share in the one Spirit who draws us into unity. Often in our pride we follow human laws and traditions, disregarding the love we are called to share as one people justified by Christ’s blood.

As communities enlivened by the Holy Spirit, we are called to walk together towards the Christ-Child, offering homage as one people. The Spirit of compassion guides us to each other and only by following this guide will we be able to “worship in spirit and truth”.

Prayer

Compassionate God,

in your mercy, remove the scales from our eyes

and lead us to repent and to worship you.

In the midst of our sorrow and despite the depth of our sin,

give us the capacity to love you with all our hearts.

As we journey together with one heart and mind,

may we glorify you in the Spirit’s fellowship,

and witness to those around us.

Amen.

Hymn Verse

Finish, then, Thy new creation;

Pure and spotless let us be;

Let us see Thy great salvation

Perfectly restored in Thee;

Changed from glory into glory,

Till in Heav'n we take our place,

Till we cast our crowns before Thee,

Lost in wonder, love, and praise.

Charles Wesley, 1747

Questions

  • Global: What are you doing as part of your own pattern of worship to pray for the worldwide church?
  • Local: Within your worship as a local Christian community what are the barriers you face to greater unity and how might they be overcome?
  • Personal: Can you remember a time when you were able to worship “in spirit and in truth”? What was it like?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Use the ecumenical prayer cycle to pray with communities across the global Church - https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/prayer-cycle 

Local: Partner with churches in your area to participate in a biblical dialogue to learn with a church community across the world. Visit Just Scripture to find out more - https://www.christianaid.org.uk/pray/join-in/just-scripture 

Personal: Find and join an online service from a church of a different tradition. Join in this act of worship and reflect on what riches God has shown you through this different experience of worship together.


Saturday, 22 January 2022

Prayers for Christian Unity Day 5


“Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising”

(Mt 2:9)

Guided by the one God

Readings

  • Psalm 121 - I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come?
  • Matthew 2:7-10 - Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising

Reflection

Again and again, the scriptures tell us how God walks with us. The path may not always be straight: sometimes we are led to retrace our steps, sometimes to return by a different route. But in all our journeying through life, we can be confident that God, who neither “sleeps nor slumbers”, is with us when we slip or fall.

Even in the greatest darkness, God’s light is with us. Most perfectly, in the fullness of time, God sends Jesus Christ, who is the guiding light for all nations, the glory of God in the world, the source of divine light and life.

The way ahead into unity with one another, into closer union with Christ, is not always clear. In our earnest attempts to build unity ourselves it is all too easy to lose sight of this fundamental message of the scriptures: that God does not abandon his people even in their failures and divisiveness. This is God’s message of hope for the whole world. As the story of the Magi reminds us, God guides people of all kinds, by the light of the star, to where Christ, the light of the world, is to be found.

Prayer

God our Guide,

you sent the star to lead the Magi to your only begotten Son.

Fill us with the confidence that you are walking with us.

Open our eyes to your Spirit, and encourage us in our faith,

so that we may confess that Jesus is Lord,

and worship him as the Magi did in Bethlehem.

Amen.

Hymn Verse

Hope of my heart, strength of my soul,

Guide Thou my footsteps and keep me whole;

My grace and fortress, Thou wilt be,

Oh, let Thy mighty hand ever lead me.

Barney E Warren, 1893

Questions

  • Global: As a global community we continue to face many challenges. How do we seek God’s guidance in our response to those challenges?
  • Local: How is God guiding your Christian community at this time? Where are you being called to act?
  • Personal: Reflect on a time when you have felt or seen God’s guidance. What was that like?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Start (or continue) a conversation around your Christian community about how you are responding to the challenges of climate justice. As churches, take part in global prayer and action for climate justice (https://www.prayandact4climate.org).

Local: Plan a Climate Sunday service between the churches in your locality. Visit climatesunday.org for resources and inspiration.

Personal: Seek out a community to be part of to support you in your action responding to global challenges. For example if you like craft you could turn your skills into activism in community with the craftivist-collective.com.

Friday, 21 January 2022

Prayers for Christian Unity Day 4


 “And you, Bethlehem… are by no means least”

(Mt 2:6)

Though small and suffering, we lack nothing 

Readings

  • Micah 5:2-5a, 7-8 - From you shall come forth … one who is to rule in Israel
  • 1 Peter 2: 21-25 - Now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls
  • Luke 12:32-40 - Do not be afraid, little flock

Reflection

Today we consider why God chooses to act in and through seemingly insignificant places and people, and what God does with them. These are not new questions – in fact they are the favourite paradoxes of preachers in the Christmas and Epiphany seasons – yet they continue to challenge us. The prophet Micah speaks directly to Bethlehem and predicts its greatness as the home of the shepherd who will defend God’s people. The First Letter of Peter tells people who have already begun to identify Jesus Christ with the Messiah that he is the shepherd who willingly suffers to save the flock. The Gospel of Luke reassures the ‘little flock’ of Christ’s followers that they need have no fear, because God has promised them the Kingdom.

We receive these messages of consolation, directed to particular people at a particular time, in the context of our own concerns and longing for consolation. They invite us to take part in God’s transformation of inequality, violence and injustice, not to wait passively for these things to happen. They call on us to be politically aware; to be locally ready to make our churches little Bethlehems where Christ can be born in generosity and hospitality; to recognise ourselves as a ‘little flock’, unimportant perhaps in the world’s eyes,  but with a value and a vocation in the great mystery of salvation.

Prayer

Good Shepherd,

the fragmentation of your ‘little flock’ grieves the Holy Spirit.

Forgive our weak efforts and slowness in the pursuit of your will.

Give us wise shepherds after your own heart

who recognise the sin of division,

and those who will lead the churches

with righteousness and holiness, to unity in you.

We ask you, Lord, to hear our prayer. Amen.


Magnificat

Every Sunday night, back in the day,

in Church,

there we would be, my Dad and I, chanting:

He hath put down the mighty from their seats,

and exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things

and the rich he hath sent empty away.

(Well, in William Morgan’s words, more starkly.)

And then I learned

that this wasn’t about people, and sustenance, and things, and capital, and nowt,

that they were just symbols, spiritual things, nice.

Is God that thick?

Questions

  • Global: This material was being prepared as violence once more raged in Jerusalem and  Gaza. How can the worldwide Christian community best support those Christians who share this contested place to be light in its darkness, transformers of fear, agents of peace?
  • Local: How might our local churches become “Bethlehems” – places where Christ can  be born, welcomed and honoured?
  • Personal: When have you recognised the life of God growing in people and places to which you have previously paid little attention?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Visit Amos Trust (https://www.amostrust.org) to find out more about how to create peace with justice in the Middle East.

Local: Plan as churches together to pray for peace in the Middle East on the 24th of every month. You can use these resources from Christian Aid to aid your prayers - https://www.christianaid.org.uk/resources/worship/ecumenical-prayer-vigil-peace-gaza .

Personal: Bring the fears that keep you in division from other traditions before the Good Shepherd in prayer. Meditate on the words of the Good Shepherd – ‘do not be afraid, little flock.’


Thursday, 20 January 2022

Prayers for Christian Unity Day 3


“When king Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him”

(Mt 2:3)

The presence of Christ, turning the world upside down

Readings

  • Psalm 2:1-10 - Why do the nations conspire…?
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 - But the Lord is faithful, he will strengthen you

Reflection

Christ’s coming disturbs the ways of the world. He comes in humility, denouncing the evil of injustice and oppression that accompanies the ambition for power, wealth and status. Jesus calls for a change of heart and a transformation of life, which will bring liberation from all that dehumanises. This creates disturbance precisely because he rocks the boat of those who seek only their own interests and neglect the common good. But for those who work for peace and unity, Christ’s coming brings the light of hope.

We are invited to commit ourselves to act constructively to make justice a reality, acknowledging where we have strayed from God’s ways of justice and peace. Then the answer to our prayer for Christian unity becomes visible as others recognise in us Christ’s presence in the world. We can bring the light of hope to those living in the darkness of political unrest, social poverty, and structural discrimination. The Good News is that God is faithful, always strengthening and protecting us, inspiring us to work for the good of others, especially the victims of oppression, hatred, violence and pain.

Prayer

Lord, you led us out of darkness to hope in Jesus.

Unite us in our commitment to establish your reign of love, justice and peace,

bringing light to those living in the darkness of despair and disillusionment.

Shine your light upon us and surround us with the warmth of your love.

Lift us up to you, so that our lives may glorify you,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Amen


Verse / Poem

In the school Nativity Play

they cast the class bully as Herod.

Inspired.

No acting required.


Jesus, you ask

which role shall I play

in my world, your world, today.

And you will me to seek first

your holy inspiration

that I might be just

myself.


Questions

  • Global: Where have you seen the values of the Church disturbing society’s values for the common good?
  • Local: Is your church or group of churches too comfortable in a discomforting world? How could your church or group be disturbed into more meaningful action?
  • Personal: When have you been disturbed into doing what was right?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Covid-19 turned the world upside down and provided an opportunity to reimagine how things could be. Find out more about and get involved in the campaign to crack the crises (https://crackthecrises.org) and ensure this opportunity for transformation is not lost.

Local: Consider as churches together what situations of injustice or exclusion exist in your locality, work with others in your community to challenge and change the systems that need turning upside-down.

Personal: Take time today to sit in stillness and discern what injustice most disturbs your conscience, spend time praying, researching and planning how you can take action about it (if you are not already involved in doing so).


Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Prayers for Christian Unity Day 2


Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? (Mt 2:2)

Humble leadership breaks down walls and builds up with love

Readings

  • Jeremiah 23:1-6 - He shall reign as king and deal wisely.
  • Philippians 2:5-11 - Who… did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.

Reflection

True Leadership

Jeremiah denounces the bad leadership of the kings of Israel who divided and scattered the people, a leadership that destroyed nations and drove their citizens into exile. In contrast, the Lord promises a shepherd-king who will ‘execute justice and righteousness in the land’ and gather the flock as one.

Only in Christ have we seen the example of a leader truly after God’s heart. In him we encounter a loving, humble servant who does not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. He comes to serve, rather than be served, and his followers are called to do the same.

Today, the Middle East is experiencing the loss of its people to exile as ‘righteousness and justice’ are becoming scarce commodities, not only there but throughout the world. Yet leaders, both in the world and in the Church, have a responsibility to bring together rather than to scatter or divide. The more faithfully Christians emulate the servant leadership of Christ, the more division in both the world and the Church will be overcome. As we work for righteousness, justice and peace for all, we witness humbly to the shepherd-king, and draw others into his presence.

Prayer

Just and righteous God, we confess before you that we often covet worldly models of leadership. Help us to seek our Lord Jesus Christ not in the palaces of the powerful but in the humble manger. May we emulate him in his meekness and become servants to each other in obedience to you. We pray in the name of Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns forever in glory. Amen.

Verse / Poem

It was the day of the strong men

the day when truth retired, redundant

because lies had more glitz,

and justice disabled, mocked,

in the name of a golden god

cast from melted down lives.


And then came the pestilence

and the day of the servant

ubiquitous, anonymous,

in nursing home and ICU,

and the temple profligate with treasure

in cylinders of breath.


Questions

  • Global: How have you seen the Church follow Jesus’ pattern of leading through service?
  • Local: What Christian leader (either local or national) do you admire for the ability to inspire unity and a concern for justice? What qualities enable that person to lead effectively?
  • Personal: When have you been inspired to take the lead in seeking justice or working towards unity?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Focus on a number of examples of where you consider good leadership to be evident. Try to identify the shared principles of leadership in these examples and consider how they can be encouraged in the work of creating unity.

Local: Invite a local leader to a gathering of the churches in your area to hear more about their work and to find out how you can best support and encourage them.

Personal: Find out about or refresh your memory on the circle of concern and circle of influence (https://www.habitsforwellbeing.com/the-circle-of-concern-and-influence/) and consider how you can best exercise your personal leadership this week to help the cause of unity.


Community Groups Regularly Usiing the Church


Regrettably, due to the current restrictions, there are no community activities at the church premises.

Watch this space for news of when activities will restart.