I wrote a piece yesterday, Is Methodism Dying? and some have, I think, misunderstood. Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of the Methodist Church (and it has plenty of both) I’m confident that there will come a time when the Methodist Church metaphorically breathes its last. Not because it has failed. Death is not a failure, but an inevitability. There’s no empire, state, nation, organisation or any other human endeavour that has an infinite lifespan. Why would the Methodist Church be different?
The issue is not whether or not the Methodist Church is dying, but how we will live while knowing that one day there will be an end?
Can I share a story?
Some years ago, after concluding a graveside service, I was introduced to a gent in his 80s. Let’s call him Mr Jones. Conversation turned to what he had been up to and it transpired that he had just returned from a solo trip to Australia and Singapore. When I expressed surprise, he said “Oh, I go every year. Sometimes twice in a year.” So I asked him why. His answer stuck with with — 20 years or so later I’m pretty sure I still have it more or less word for word:
“When my wife died suddenly, I realised that I didn’t know how much time I’d got. I decided then that I should make the most of every opportunity. My cousin lives in Australia, and I really like Singapore, so while ever I have the money I’m going to visit them as often as I can.”
A week or two later I made a pastoral visit to an elderly widowed lady. We could call her Mrs Smith if you like. Conversation was a bit of a struggle, so I tried asking her if she had any plans for going away.
“What’s the point in me making plans or spending money booking holidays? I could go anytime. It would be a waste.”
Two people in similar circumstances, both realsing that their time was of limited but unknown duration. One decided to enjoy every moment and spend the resources available while they were available. The other, not so much.
One of these two was much better company than the other. And I know it isn’t a perfect analogy. Analogies are never perfect. But I wish the church was more like Mr Jones than Mrs Smith and could decide to enjoy whatever time we have left.
Who knows? People might decide they want to spend some of their time with us.
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