I’ve just returned from National Settlement Team (NST) and Team Leaders’ meetings. They take place over three days at the beginning of most months and we stay at Charney Manor, an old Quaker meeting house in Charney Bassett, Oxfordshire.
NST is the occasion when the Regional Minister Team Leaders meet from the different Associations throughout the country to help churches find ministers and ministers find churches. It’s both prayerful and careful and there is an appropriate seriousness, but also it has its moments of fun. This then runs into the Team Leaders’ meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
It’s something we look forward to: the task is a privilege, the company is excellent, the setting is picturesque, the food is exceptional, (especially the deserts: orange marmalade bread and butter pudding, syrup sponge pudding, creamy rice pudding with skin), and the village pub serves good beer and wine as well as providing a venue for live folk music on a Tuesday evening.
Over the three days we pray together and on Wednesday one of my colleagues, Phil, led us in a characteristically creative and inspired reflection. We thought about John 11 and the death and resurrection of Lazarus, and went on to explore together the strong sense that Jesus consistently seems to be moving to a different rhythm. Jairus pleads with Jesus to come to his house because his twelve year old daughter is dying, and yet Jesus takes his time with a woman who touches his cloak. And here in John 11 Jesus knows that his friend Lazarus has died yet he stays where he is for two more days.
We thought about our lives and ministries, especially in the crises, noting the difference in the rhythm that we find ourselves so often adopting. Phil went on to say a prayer that he had written which summed it up helfpully. It can be found on the Industrial Christian Fellowship web-site here:
Timeless God, at the dawn of our existence
you set the rhythms of the universe in motion,
day follows night as the earth spins her course,
heralding each new season as year follows year.
The mountain streams flow into rivers
that fill the oceans,
whose vapours are caught up in the clouds
to be poured out again
on the misty mountain peaks.
And the rhythms that we so often follow
seem so puny when compared:
the nine to five and morning rush,
the nightshift, day shift and working time directive,
timetables, tachographs and meeting plans,
the TV listings and appointments at the gym.
When you send us sunshine
we turn up the air conditioning
and the golden tones of autumn
make their apology as leaves on the line.
Help us loving Father
in the busyness of schedules of our own creating,
to seek out your rhythm
and live lives that pulsate to the beat
set by the one who holds this world together. Amen.