Holland Methodist Church

Pastors Corner

Good Stewardship

Sisters and Brothers,

Through God’s never-failing grace, we have arrived at the fourth and final quarter of the Connexional Year.

Indeed, it has been a year of challenges, mostly those ushered in in the era of COVID with its demanding protocols. Challenging as these might have been, we must admit that it has been a year of learning. We went through a steep learning curve, discovering that we can continue worshipping together while inhabiting different spaces.

This is something that should have seemed obvious to us, a people who profess that God is everywhere and with God’s people everywhere; yet it took a pandemic that forced us to be physically distant from each other, to learn that in spite of not being able to dance and sing together, we can still pray and praise ensemble.

The pandemic increased the reality of human need everywhere- material, psychological, social and spiritual. It showed us clearly some needs that we might have missed or not realised how serious they were. While we were in lockdown, the telecommunications media showed us real needs that call for our attention. These are instructions for our future in ministry as we serve God in a COVID and post-COVID world. We will be without excuse if we continued to plan without paying sufficient attention to the needs that we have come to see clearly.

It is really time for a rewind. While I do look forward to my earned sabbatical rest, I know that, together, we must all approach the tasks of ministry with new fervour in the new year. Let us near that in mind as we wrap up 2020-21. But the year is far from over. I anticipate that you will have a refreshing experience under the leadership of Rev’d Damien E. Hughes during the fourth quarter.

During this quarter, even as we return to physical buildings for worship, we will miss the third Sunday worship in Dutch which is usual for Rotterdam since they do not have access to the sanctuary on first and third Sundays. This absence will allow us the time to review and come to a clear understanding of what we hope to achieve in these services. We have been catering largely to our children and young persons baptised into the faith as Methodists. Should we broaden our outlook and seek to cater to more children and young persons in general? If this is our desire, then we need to plan deliberately.

The Mission and Evangelism Committee, when it meets in early September, then, will not only be seeking to guide the implementation of initiatives we discussed during the Discipleship programme Reaching New Persons for Christ. We must also give organise more concretely for the online congregation that we have been considering.

As we look forward to relaxation of some anti-COVID regulations, we are encouraged to think, not of going back to normal in the sense of going back to life as it was before the arrival of the 2019 novel corona virus. Good stewardship requires us to focus on a new normal in which we apply the lessons we learned during the past year and a half. Only in so doing will we fulfil our calling to serve the present age.

Yours in God’s service,
Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor

Trusting God In Difficult Times_2

Sisters and Brothers,

We are well into the penitential season of Lent, a good time for theological reflection and deepening of our spirituality. Although we do not have in-person gatherings these days, I do sense, from your communications, that we are making the effort, both individually and corporately, to draw nearer to the Lord and to stay in love with God. That is commendable.

This is indeed a challenging time as the COVID-19 crisis becomes protracted and such measures as physical distancing will continue for longer than we had hoped. However, we must always bear our District theme in mind- Trusting God Through Difficult Times: Transforming Obstacles into Opportunities.

Just as the health challenges provoked by this crisis stimulated the efforts of governments, benefactors, medical researchers and technicians to develop a family of vaccines, the first of their kind, to address current needs, so too must we respond and put our resources to work for good in God’s world. Let us, as we are led by the Spirit of God, be on the lookout for opportunities and new possibilities for Christian service. As we look inward this Lent and seek improvement in our spiritual fitness, let us not forget that service in our changing context remains the best avenue for working out our faith in God. Yes, let us pray more. Yes, let us give more- (I hope that someone new took up the challenge to tithe). But above all, let us serve God with all we’ve got; and that means serving others.

Let us not allow our spiritual muscles for praying, giving and serving to get rusty while we wait for things to “get back to normal”. Remember, a new normal awaits us. Things will never be the same again. The lessons that we are learning now are for our guidance into God’s future. Let us learn well and be prepared to act on what we learn.

Do the best you can as a Class Leader or Assistant Class Leader, or in whatever office you hold. Only do it better because you will now apply the sensitivity, skills and confidence you have acquired through life with COVID-19. This month, we start a round of statutory meetings. Maybe you have been newly appointed to an office / a committee. Come prepared to share. Come prepared to approach your task with the confidence that our God who has called you, is with us now, enabling us through the present difficulty to serve better than we did before. Let us trust God and be available to learn more and to serve better; and there will be no telling what God is going to do. The hymn writer, William Cowper (1731-1800), had this to say:

God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.
He plants his footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs and works his sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take. The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on your head.
Voices in Praise # 266

Look up, even as you look around at the harsh realities we experience, as we encounter those grieving the death of their loved ones who were hurriedly taken away by death, as we meet those whose employment situation is worse that it has ever been, as we are questioned by those who believe that God had forgotten us.

Look up, I say, Sisters and Brothers, let us expectantly await God’s future; and even in the era of COVID-19, that future remains bright to the glory of God.

Yours in Christ’s service
Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor.

Trusting God in Difficult Times

We have lived through the first month of the “New Year” so that 2021 looks now, like just another year to travel with God.

Now we travel through the liturgical period of “Ordinary time”- a break between Epiphany and Lent, a period which will continue after Pentecost. During the Season of Epiphany, we continue to reflect on the appearance of God in Jesus through such events as his baptism; his calling of and revelation to the disciples; his ministry of miraculous healings and deliverance from demons; and his transfiguration. When we resume ordinary time, we shall ponder again God’s activity in the ordinary things of life. But we shall take a break starting 17th of February, Ash Wednesday, the start of the Penitential Season of Lent, when we deliberately pay greater attention to practical spiritual disciplines such as fasting.

Last year, we covenanted to enter Lent with a period of fasting, with persons sharing in a Daniel Fast, as they are able. The idea is to take a break from some of the things like food that we ordinarily feast on, and rather to feast on God. This year, you will receive a prayer schedule, so that we can all be praying together with a common purpose.

Given our District theme Trusting God in Difficult Times: Transforming Obstacles into Opportunities’  there are two things that I invite you to put on your priority list for Lent, as we seek to trust God in giving and in sharing.

  1. One is Faith-sharing. In this time of uncertainly, one thing is certain. If we are anchored in God, we shall be sustained, and even triumph in the difficulties we face. How about sharing faith through inviting your friends and acquaintances to church? Their participation now is easier since they do not have to pay the transportation costs but can join in worship from home. Concerns about being dressed appropriately will not arise. This is the best time to invite others to worship. They have the option of leaving the gathering without any disruption should they choose to, so why not ask them to join. I ask you to invite others to the Dutch language services especially, as we can also reach those who prefer to worship in that language. Based on the response, we may be able to cater for a whole new online church that worships mainly in the Dutch language.
  • My second appeal to you is to consider tithing for Lent. “Give one tenth during Lent.” The church’s (MCCA) position on tithing is captured in a position paper posted on the website. Give tithing a try, and note the effect it has, not just on your wallet, but on your life; and then you can decide from there. We may just find that in a season of economic hardship, we begin to see God’s wonderful transformation of our financial situation. Let us resolve to trust God for this.

One more observance that falls in February is, as usual, MCCA Men’s Lord’s Day observed on the fourth Lord’s Day of February, every year. Let us show our support for the active men in our congregations, and let us also use the opportunity to invite the men who are not actively involved to participate in the life of the church. I invite each man to bring another and each class to bring an additional male. If we act on this together, there will be more men, and the truth is that we do need more males sharing in the service of the church.

Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor

Renewing Our Covenant

Sisters and Brothers,

Another year has gone by, a year like no other. Our wildest imaginations could not have prepared us for the events that we lived through during the past year, and yet, through grace, we have had passage through COVID-19 and more and have arrived at 2021. A Blessed New Year to you; and may the rich blessings of our God continue to be our experience this year.

If we have learnt well, we certainly recognise that life is God’s gift to be valued. And we can show that we place value on our lives by taking care of ourselves in the different dimensions of life – seeing to our physical, emotional and mental health as well as that of others (especially in the continuing COVID era); celebrating the social aspects of our life together ( even when virtual reality takes over) and engaging in helpful political activity ( as lockdown has shown us more of what we can and must change); nurturing our spiritual life and enriching that of others (for only in grace we do survive); and so on… Life is valuable! Let us treat it that way. Right living together is our best way of saying thank you to our Life-Giver.

While we may be hoping and praying to return to our communal gatherings, meeting together physically for worship and fellowship, let us resolve not to ignore the lessons we learnt during the 2020 pandemic. We need each other to survive. Our mistakes harm others, and not just ourselves. We have learned the importance of small gestures that show we care. We have found ways to communicate our loving concern even when we could not be together in the same space.

Let us not forget the valuable lessons learnt. Let us not expect to go “back to normal” if normal means not making the effort to show each other that we care, to communicate our love, concern, and respect for the other persons whom we had probably taken for granted. If “normal” means going about our own way in small selfish circles, without deep regard for those whom we tended to forget, then God forbid that we should go back there!

What this means, is that when we do congregate again, our coming together must bring warmth. Those who join us must feel special and welcome for being among us. Let it be said again that Methodists are “people of the warmed heart”. For when the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, it warms those around us. Our encounters with others can be avenues through which they come to see God’s love alive in humans. Let us show thanks for our survival to 2020 by showing more people what it means to know God personally.

Indeed, we can give real meaning to what we sing when we renew our covenant with God this year, praising the One “who kindly lengthens out our days” whose “providence has brought us through another [truly] various year”, when we let the following be our motto

“Our lips and lives shall gladly show
The wonders of thy love,
While on in Jesus’ steps we go
To see thy face above”.

And we make Charles Wesley’s prayer our very own:

Our residue of days or hours
Thine, wholly thine, shall be,
And all our consecrated powers
A sacrifice to thee.

Charles Wesley, 1707-1788, VIP# 503

May the Lord’s name be praised even in and through us.
Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor

Advent

Sisters and Brothers,

For Christians who observe the liturgical calendar, Advent marks the start of the liturgical year. The word advent comes from the Latin for coming. During this season, the church focusses on Christ’s coming. The four Sundays before the Nativity are the four Sundays of Advent which are a time of preparation for the Nativity, the birth of the Christ child, often referred to as Christ’s First Coming or Advent. The Old Testament readings from the prophets relate to the expectation of a promised Messiah.  Advent is also a time to focus intensely on preparation for the Lord’s return at the end, often referred to as Christ’s Second Coming or Advent.

Two words are key to the church’s observance of Advent. They are wait and hope. We wait on the Lord, waiting actively, by being engaged in God’s mission in the world. That, in essence, is how we prepare for Christ’s coming as King and Judge. We live in the hope that Christ will come again, and Advent draws this to our attention.

It is usual to celebrate Advent, marking the Sundays by the lighting of the Advent candles. We share in liturgy that has been prepared for the season.

This year, as we are worshipping at home, it is a good idea to make your own Advent wreath (if this is not already part of your family tradition). You can find ideas and inspiration on the internet to make your own wreath; so you’ll be able to light your candle(s)- at home during worship on the first, second, third and fourth Lord’s Days of Advent, as well as on Christmas Day (Festival of the Nativity) when we light the white Christ candle.

One of the four candles in the advent wreath is lit on the first Sunday, two on the second (beginning with the one that was lit the previous Sunday), and so on. The individual Advent candles symbolise hope, love, joy and peace. The four are usually purple; but in some wreaths the peace candle is pink. The fifth candle, usually in the centre, is white- the Christ candle representing Jesus the Light of the world.

Joan Delsol Meade
Pastor

Focus on Youth

Sisters and Brothers,

I greet you in the name of our triune God.

What a varied time the month of November is! We start with the solemnity of All Saints, mark the Feast of Christ the King and end at the start of a new liturgical year – the Season of Advent. In between these festivals, we observe the third Sunday of November as MCCA Youth & Young Adults Lord’s Day.

This year, November is less crowded as we omit Harvest Celebrations and joint worship service with our hosts at Rotterdam. Nonetheless, there is still much that makes November a month of celebrating God’s presence among us.

What we do learn more intensely as we continue through the challenges brought on by COVID-19, is that the Lord’s abiding presence is our stabilising anchor. Let us all be part of the ecumenical prayer which believers are invited to start the month with – 1st to 7th November, God is indeed our Refuge and Strength, our very present help in trouble.

Let us also support our youth and young adults in their celebration, and indeed in their whole life. I invite all members worshipping online to post online the evidence of their support during the worship celebration on  15th November. Let the young people know that we value them. Resisting Spiritual Distancing: Unmasking The Struggle is their theme for this year.

These are very challenging times for our youth; but with the support of the wider church family, they can continue growing in grace, growing in self-acceptance, growing in the service of our Lord. As I write, I am reminded that there are quite a few high school teens who have not been enlisted in Church School Classes. I invite parents to share their contact details so we can invite them to a forum where they share with other teenagers learning together and sharing the love of God. Parents and other significant adults, I’m depending on you to do your part. Just give us the details and God will lead us in the best way to reach them and win them for the Lord. Never forget that God loves them more than we are capable of doing.

Let us continue to live out Operation Andrew then, not only with adults but with our children and youth, for the Kingdom of Heaven is indeed, promised to them too.

May the Lord’s richest blessings be ever yours.

Joan Delsol Meade
Pastor

Call To Minister

Sisters and Brothers,

I greet you, my partners in Christ’s ministry which has been handed to the church.

The MCCA observes the month of October as Ministries Month. Our focus is on the whole ministry that Jesus passed on to us declaring, ”as the Father has sent me, so I send you”.

St. Paul, in his writings, makes it clear that ministry is for the whole people of God. In Ephesians 4 he writes “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” And then he states: “Each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gifts”.

Clearly then, each one, every one of us is called to fulfil a specific ministry – service to God. What our specific area must be, is something we should constantly pray about so that God’s Spirit can indicate what we must do, where we must spend our energies in building God’s kingdom. Sometimes, our inner passion- the things that constantly call our attention as needing improvement, are clues. Sometimes our gifts and talents, the things we do well and sense God’s nearness while we purse them, can be clues too. Sometimes, the successes we experience while helping others grow in faith, are indicators of the work that we can do for Christ. It is true that others can often detect our strengths and can prompt us towards exploring with our leaders in the Christian faith, and with God, what our service might look like.

Some of us have answered the call to be Preachers, Stewards, Church School Teachers, and Ushers in the Circuit. All of us are called to pray and among us, some fulfil a ministry of constant intercession that goes on behind the scenes. Some of us will be as effective as Andrew was, bringing new persons to Jesus. Operation Andrew, then, needs our energies.

And there is also the call to be full-time ministers, either presbyters or deacons in Christ’s church. There are, indeed, many services to be done. Let us live in constant dialogue with our Lord that we may discover and fulfil our calling in God’s sight.

May the Lord richly bless you as you seek to pursue your calling according to God’s will.

Yours in God’s service,

Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor.

Life’s Changing Scenes

Sisters and Brothers,

All praise to Our Redeeming and Sustaining Lord whose providence has again proved sufficient for a truly varied year.

We could not have anticipated the events of the past year, and the pervasive effects of COVID-19 when the year started. However, what we affirmed as we usually do in the Annual Covenant Service, is that God’s grace will prove sufficient for all that we are required to undertake. And so, while we look back through the stresses and sudden turns, the pain and discomfort, the doubts and tears and fears of the year behind us, we can say from experience that we have come through by grace.

With this assurance from lived experience, we can commit ourselves to the Lord’s service in this Connexional year, even though we cannot predict it. Our confidence comes from knowing that God is faithful who had promised. And so, with hope-filled excitement, tingled with concerns about the new normal which surrounds us, we can look ahead to life’s changing scenes, affirming like hymnist:

Round the corners of the world I turn,
More and more about the world I learn.
All the new things that I see
You’ll be looking at along with me.

As I travel through the bad and good,
Keep me travelling the way I should.
Where I see no way to go
You’ll be telling me the way, I know.
(Sydney Carter)

We can be very sure that the Lord will supply the courage we need for rough situations, and God will remain the source and ground of the love which we are called to share wherever we are. If we are determined to travel with God into the unknown, then life will be worth it, not just for ourselves but for those whom we will encourage in faith and influence to trust in God.
Difficult situations are not ones in which we should give up the fight, but rather the times in which we work more determinedly to help others know God’s love.
So then, while the onset of COVID-19 may have thwarted our ministry plans as we presented them last year, let us know for sure, that the all-knowing, all-sufficient God equips us for what is necessary in the new normal. Let us, Sisters and Brothers, invest ourselves in ‘what the Lord calls us to do, even as we defiantly proclaim:

Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy
The praises of our God shall still our hearts and tongues employ.

Yours in God’s service
Joan Delsol Meade, Pastor

Mission Lord’s Day

Sisters and Brothers,

Through grace, we have made it, almost to the end of another Connexional Year. As always, the course of events has been unpredictable. This year, however, we witnessed in unprecedented fashion, how changeable life’s situations can be. And we have, hopefully recognised how God’s provision surfaces at the turn of every change.

Yes, in the past, we have had services recorded and replayed on our website. Sure we have had a few livestreamed; but who would have guessed that with the quick notice of discontinuation of worship at Rotterdam (from where we had hoped to stream from 22nd March) that our make-shift altar at Zoetermeer would have served through Holy Week and every Lord’s Day, until the end of July, to keep us seeking together God’s face, receiving God’s word, sharing in the Lord’s Supper, and building each other up in faith?

It should not surprise us then that we can improve on the promise made last month to livestream only on certain Lord’s Days. We can improve on the promise that we could join the Amsterdam Congregation online two Sundays per month. Thanks be to God who has enabled our technicians to use the means at our disposal. Although we do not have the most sophisticated videography equipment, although we do not yet have what we need to livestream from Rotterdam, through grace we’ve upped the promise to deliver livestreamed services every Sunday of the month! The first four Sundays, worship will be streamed from Amsterdam and on the fifth Sunday, our closing Anniversary Service will be streamed from Rotterdam.

We’ve come this far by faith, knowing that God will not fail us. Let us respond in faith by dedicating all that we have and are to God’s service. Let us invest our trust, our talents and our treasures in the things of God.

It is only fitting that we observe Missions Lord’s Day this month. Let us avail ourselves to be partners in Missions. The Lord who has brought us thus far awaits requests our partnership in showing and telling of God’s love, using all the means at our disposal. May we be faithful to our stated mission.

To improve the life of the community by strengthening the commitment of our members to become mature and fruitful disciples who spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others, leading them to become productive Christian disciples.

As we endeavour, together, to embrace and to live out this Mission, may the Lord’s name be ever praised.

Yours in Christ,
Joan Delsol Meade
Pastor

Moving Forward

Sisters and Brothers,

I greet you in the name of our Triune God.

It is July. The year 2020 is half-way gone! And for most of it, several elements of contemporary living were, in a sense, prescribed by coronavirus. For the last three months, communal worship was a virtual affair. Hopefully, we have found virtue in our virtual experiences, and will include, for the future, some of the virtuous things we have learned during lockdown.

Now we prepare to return to meeting in physical settings, but this will not be a universal affair, not for all members of our congregations or other interested persons who have shared in virtual worship experiences.

When we return to chapels in August, it will be according to government guidelines. In each congregation a User Plan has been prepared to guide our operations so that we can worship together while complying with the guidelines that have been set.

This means that our most senior members, those seventy and older, will still be at home. We will, therefore, continue to stream services, though this will not always be through livestreaming. Our Classes, too, will ensure that there is some monthly physical presence with members, even of by way of just two persons carefully observing rules, but still showing our love to those whom we do not see at worship.

A schedule will be posted so that persons at home will know when to follow live and when a pre-recorded service will be offered.

On Sunday 2nd August, Divine Worship with the Lord’s Supper will be streamed from Amsterdam so that housebound members from both congregations can follow that service and share in Holy Communion.  On the last Sunday, 30th August, the closing Anniversary Service will be held at Rotterdam, and this too, will be carried live as it will not be possible for everyone to attend.

Staggered attendance at worship, online Discipleship Sessions and meetings will be part of the new normal. But what we must have learned during this crisis, if not before, is that the church is a community beyond walls. It is a movement that, through thick and thin, gives expression to the compassion that we learn from our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the new normal then, through grace, we will find the means to care for each other and for some others who had been previously neglected. We will give what it takes to show our thanks to God who has kept and guided us through tough times. Let it be obvious from the way we live hereafter that our lives sing the song:

Through all the changing scenes of life
In trouble and in joy
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.

Let us look confidently to the future, difficult and uncertain as it might seem, for we certainly know who holds the future. We know that we are going through aided by the almighty hand of God whose goodness and wisdom never fail.

May the Lord’s richest blessings be ever yours.

Yours in Christ
Joan Delsol Meade
Pastor.