Fore Street Topsham, Exeter

Minister : Reverend Paul Collings BTh (Hons) : email : : 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.

Saturday, 29 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 22:2 Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all.

I have a feeling that this verse is pointing towards the problem of favouritism that places the status of one individual, or one society or even someone’s opinion over that of another. Here are two stories that illustrate such differences.

In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned, “If Christians have caste differences also, “ he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Saviour.

The second story perhaps gives us some help in the way that we deal with any notion of superiority.

Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favouritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a sharp letter. Stanton did, and showed the strongly worded letter to the president. “What are you going to do with it?” Lincoln inquired. Surprised, Stanton replied, “Send it.” Lincoln shook his head. “You don’t want to send that letter,” he said. “Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.” 

Almighty God, through your Holy Spirit you created unity in the midst of diversity;
We acknowledge that human diversity is an expression of your manifold love for your creation; 

We confess that in our brokenness as human beings we turn diversity into a source of alienation, injustice, oppression, and wounding. 

Empower us to recognise and celebrate differences as your great gift to the human family. 

Enable us to be the architects of understanding, of respect and love;
Through the Lord, the ground of all unity, we pray. Amen

Friday, 28 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 20:13  Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

This is a reoccurring theme throughout the Old Testament most famously articulated in the echoed in the New Testament letter of James 1:27 where it  says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

The basis of James pronouncement comes from Deuteronomy 10:18, where Moses says of God, “He doesn’t play favourites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing.” (The Message Paraphrase)

In our world today, these words from Proverbs, Deuteronomy and James stand in stark contrast to the way Governments, Societies and  Communities treat the vulnerable.

In one of Dr Seuss’ books there is a lovely story about Horton the Elephant. “One day, Horton the elephant hears a cry from help coming from a speck of dust. Even though he can’t see anyone on the speck, he decides to help it. As it turns out, the speck of dust is home to the Whos, who live in their city of Whoville. Horton agrees to help protect the Whos and their home, but this gives him nothing but torment from his neighbours, who refuse to believe that anything could survive on the speck. Still, Horton stands by the motto that, "After all, a person is a person, no matter how small."

There is the kernel of gospel in this story. A person’s a person, no matter how small. Here we find crucial element is God’s scheme of things. It is a basic idea in God’s kingdom. A person’s a person, no matter how small. Just scan the gospels and you will find how Jesus Ministry was riven reaching for the ‘Whos’ of society. Perhaps opening our ears to the cry of the poor is a good place to start our God given Ministry.

We thank you, God,

for coming to us as a neighbour, a stranger, an immigrant,

binding our wounds and carrying us to safety,

so that we might love you with all our heart, soul, and mind,

and welcome the stranger,

loving our neighbour as ourselves. Amen

Thursday, 27 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 20:15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.

It could be said of gaining Biblical Knowledge that the goal is not for us to just get through the Scriptures.  The goal is to get the Scriptures through us. Some churches give people the idea that the only way to transformation is knowledge.  There is an assumption that as people’s knowledge of the Bible rises, their level of spiritual maturity rises with it.

Knowledge about the Bible is an indispensable good.  But knowledge does not by itself lead to spiritual transformation.  When Paul urged the Christians at Rome to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds,” he was thinking of far more than just the acquisition of information.  “Mind” refers to a whole range of perceiving, understanding, valuing, and feeling that in turn determines the way we live

While knowledge is vital and should be prized, it also poses some dangers.  It often demolishes humility.  The sobriquet “know-it-all” is never used as a compliment.  The Bible itself contains some warnings: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

Both human experience and the Bible teach that increased knowledge – even knowledge of the Scriptures – does not automatically produce transformed people. 

Holy Father, you who are all-knowing and wise, teach me your ways. I seek your wisdom and insight, I want to have knowledge and understanding. I seek your wisdom, so I can walk in the path you lay before me, knowing right from wrong, protecting against temptation and deceit. Fill me with your knowledge, O Lord, so I may walk in the straight and narrow path, in faithfulness to follow you. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Wednesday, 26 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Time and again we find in Proverbs that advice on how we listen and speak. Here is another. Proverbs 18:20 “From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.”

Four priests met for a friendly gathering. During the conversation one priest said, “Our people come to us and pour out their hearts confessing certain sins and needs. Let’s do the same. Confession is good for the soul.”

In due time all agreed. One confessed he liked to go to movies and would sneak off when away from his church. The second confessed to smoking cigars, and the third one confessed to playing cards. When it came to the fourth one, he wouldn’t confess. The others pressed him saying, “Come now, we confessed ours. What is your secret or vice?” Finally he answered, “It is gossiping and I can hardly wait to get out of here.”

If you don't say it, they can't repeat it. Yiddish folklore offers a telling tale about gossip-makers. One such man had told so many malicious untruths about the local rabbi that, overcome by remorse, he begged the rabbi to forgive him. "And, Rabbi, tell me how I can make amends." The rabbi sighed, "Take two pillows, go to the public square and there cut the pillows open. Wave them in the air. Then come back." 

The rumourmonger quickly went home, got two pillows and a knife, hastened to the square, cut the pillows open, waved them in the air and hastened back to the rabbi's chambers. "I did just what you said, Rabbi!" "Good." The rabbi smiled. "Now, to realise how much harm is done by gossip, go back to the square..." "And?" "And collect all your feathers."

Father God, Forgive when I let careless words slip from my mouth; both knowingly and unknowingly. Help me to choose my words wisely. I pray Colossians 4:6, “Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (NASB) Thank You for this reminder. Holy Spirit, let my words be led by you. Give me grace toward those who have no regard for hurting mine or other people’s feelings. May they be convicted to treat others with more kindness. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that I pray these things. Amen. 

Tuesday, 25 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 18:13 To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.

I am sure that you have all come across the person who has asked you a question and before you have had chance to respond you sense that they are not listening but formulating their next question. 

Dana Visneskie tells the story of a Native American and his friend who were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square in Manhattan. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening.

Suddenly, the Native American said, “I hear a cricket.”

His friend said, “What? You must be crazy. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!”

“No, I’m sure of it,” the Native American said. “I heard a cricket.”

“That’s crazy,” said the friend.

The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes, beneath the branches, and sure enough, he located a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have super-human ears!”

“No,” said the Native American. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.”

“But that can’t be!” said the friend. “I could never hear a cricket in this noise.”

“Yes, it’s true,” came the reply. “It depends on what is really important to you. Here, let me show you.”

He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within twenty feet turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.

“See what I mean?” asked the Native American. “It all depends on what’s important to you.

In Matthew 15:10 we read that Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.”

May we actively listen today. Listening prayer centres around a clear request for God’s guidance. In making our request, we give God's guidance authority over the other voices we hear throughout our daily lives. Then we hit the pause button. We wait on God in a time of silence, giving the Lord opportunity to speak to us.

Monday, 24 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 17:14 Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Or as the Message paraphrases, “It is hard to stop a quarrel once it starts,[c] so don’t let it begin.”

What riles you, what causes you to become enraged. In letter of James we read, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.”

A group of American tourists were taking a bus tour in Rome led by an English-speaking guide. Their first stop was a basilica in a piazza, which was surrounded by several lanes of relentless Roman traffic. After they were all safely dropped off, the group climbed the steps for a quick tour of the church.

Then they spread out to board the bus, which was now parked across the street from the church. The frantic guide shouted for the group to stay together. He hollered out to them, "You cross one by one, they hit you one by one. But if you cross together, they think you will hurt the car! They won't hit you."

There is always much to be said for unity, especially unity of the Spirit and that unity starts with my attitude to another.

Paul writing to the church in Galatia said,  Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.“ Galatians 6:1-3

Heavenly Father,  let your Holy Spirit teach us how to put other people first just the way you put us first by giving up your only Son to die on the cross for us.  May we experience your love on a new and deeper level that we may be able to love one another with the love of Christ.  May we start putting the interests of others before our selfish interests from this day forward.  In Jesus’ name, I believe and pray, Amen. 

Saturday, 22 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 15:30 Light in a messenger’s eyes brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.

I guess we have all come across someone who, when speaking to us is anything but convincing. There is something about their demeanour, their intonation or their lack of conviction that belies the words they speak. On the other hand on occasions we sometimes meet someone whose whole presence in the way they communicate fills us with confidence.

The book of Proverbs is, in many ways, a treatise on talk. We could summarise it this way: words give life; words bring death—you choose. What does this mean? It means you have never spoken a neutral word in your life.

Our words have direction to them. If our words are moving in the life direction, they will be words of encouragement, hope, love, peace, unity, instruction, wisdom, and correction. But if our words are moving in a death direction, they will be words of anger, malice, slander, jealousy, gossip, division, contempt, racism, violence, judgment, and condemnation. Our words have direction to them.

A young woman confessed to an older man that she had a problem saying too much about people. He told her to go buy a bird and pluck out its feathers one by one as penance for her sin. When she returned and told the man that she had followed his instructions, he said, “Now go back and pick up all the feathers.” “I can’t do that,” said the girl.

“The wind has blown them in all directions.” “That is true,” said the wise man. “Neither can you recall the words that you have spoken.”

May my spoken words and unspoken thoughts be pleasing even to you, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen

Friday, 21 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 15:7  The lips of the wise spread knowledge, but the hearts of fools are not upright.

In one of Aesop’s Fables, a donkey walking through the woods finds the skin of a lion. Hunters had killed the lion and left the skin to dry in the sun. The donkey put on the lion’s skin and was delighted to discover that all the other animals were terrified of him and ran away when he appeared. Rejoicing in his newfound respect, the donkey brayed his happiness—only to give himself away by his voice. The moral of the fable was clear: fine clothes may disguise, but silly words will disclose a fool.

What we say comes from our hearts. We are accountable for what we say, and we are accountable for what is in our hearts. Jesus said that “by your words you are justified and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). He was not suggesting that by saying the right words people can be made righteous. Rather, He was explaining to the Pharisees that their words reflected what was in their hearts. Their words would either show that they were righteous, having righteousness in their hearts, or their words would show their unrighteousness. The Pharisees’ words were evidence that they had rejected Jesus. Jesus tells them that they can’t hide what is in their hearts. It shines through for everyone to see.

Matthew 12:37 is a good reminder for all of us to listen carefully and to be accountable for what we say, as our words reflect our hearts. Jesus exhorted people to let Him change their hearts and make them righteous. We are similarly called to be born again by believing in Him. As we grow in our knowledge of Him, the way we think, feel, and talk will change. The Pharisees refused to learn that, and they needed to hear that “by your words you will be condemned.”

As I go through this day, dear Lord help me to praise you for your goodness and trust your guidance. Teach me to  speak words that build up instead of tearing down. I ask that any conversations I have will bring joy and honour to you, God. In Jesus name, amen

Thursday, 20 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

Proverbs14:33 “Wisdom reposes in the heart of the discerning and even among fools she lets herself be known.”

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux was an abbot, mystic, co-founder of the Knights Templar, and a major leader in the reformation of the Benedictine Order. He wrote a number of sermons on wisdom. In one he illustrates Wisdom this way:-

“The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself…Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare…You too must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”

One preacher once said, “God grant me the serenity to delegate tasks when necessary, the courage to say no, and the wisdom to know when to go home."

It is discernment that is the key to wisdom and holding that key in our hearts.

Billy Graham once said, “The Holy Spirit gives liberty to the Christian, direction to the worker, discernment to the teacher, power to the Word, and fruit to faithful service. He reveals the things of Christ.”

Grant me, Lord, the wisdom to understand the difficulties along my path and allow me to feel and see Your comforting hand in the midst of these troubles. Bless me with a faith that gives me the confidence to face difficulties unfazed, knowing that Your plans are always perfect. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 April 2023

Pondering Proverbs

For the next few weeks we return to pondering Proverbs

Proverbs 14 29  Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.

I’ve often heard the throw away line that says, “Lord give me patience, but hurry up!” 

How are you in the patience stakes?

A man was walking through a supermarket with a screaming baby in the shopping cart. A woman nearby noticed that time and again the man would calmly say: “Keep calm, Albert. Keep calm, Albert. Finally, in admiration for the man’s patience as the child continued to wail, the woman walked up to him and said: “Sir, I must commend you for your patience with baby Albert.” To which the man replied, “Madam, I am Albert!”

In this proverb, Solomon addresses the subject of controlling one's temper. Patience is the ability to think before speaking or acting is a sign of great maturity. In the context of the book of Proverbs, "patient learning" leads to "knowledge," which allows a person the ability to use "wisdom." Well-developed wisdom becomes "understanding," which can then be passed on to others. A self-controlled person demonstrates this refined, advanced form of wisdom.

The great baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Patience is a grace as difficult as it is necessary, and as hard to come by as it is precious when it is gained.”

Lord, give me patience for today, so that I may overcome any difficult tasks ahead. Nothing is impossible with You by my side, and I pray that Your Holy Spirit showers me with grace and patience to see the end of the day with my head held high. I lift up everything to You Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 April 2023

Witnesses to the Resurrection

Glory to you, O Christ.

O Christ: by your death you have destroyed death

And by your resurrection you have brought lice and immortality to light.

Jesus appears to James, his brother 

The one who witnessed with his death

Risen Lord, though we are surrounded by testimonies to your love both in life and in death - help us when it is hard to witness within our families and when it is difficult to speak about you in our communities.

Alleluia. Christ is risen 

He is risen indeed. Alleluia

A brother’s love, a kinship shared.

From childhood into older years

Leaves its own mark upon the heart

Surpassing trivial frets the fears.

Such tenderness and kindness trace

A deeper sense of lasting grace.

And so to sibling James appears

His brother Christ, so loved, so dear.

And from that moment here we find

Servant of Christ, of selfless kind.

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.