A full and buzzing Church greeted Reverend Fraser Smith, with extra seats having to be found as more people came in. The Service started with the singing of the Hymn 'Jesus is King'.
As the young people left for their Sunday School classes, Reverend Smith said that he'd attended Churches with no children, but who'd still had a Sunday School Anniversary Service because 'they'd always done it that way', and how pleasing it was to see so many children here.
Our Prayers and the Lord's Prayer looked back at the week gone and forward to the coming week, with Jesus leading.
We then had our readings, which were Psalm 139 verses 1-12, read by Brian Smith and Luke, Chapter 22 verses 14-23, read by Dennis Kirkham. The second Hymn was 'O God You search me'.
The Sermon followed, entitled 'A Sacramental Approach'
Fraser Smith opened by saying he was having a bit of a moan - he's retired, so he can! Sometimes he can be unimpressed when sitting in Congregations, but not today. First impressions are important and if they are below expectations, or the welcome is lacking this connects with the sharp decline in the numbers attending Church Services throughout the Methodist Church in this country.
He then spoke about the two great Sacramental Services in the Methodist Church: Communion and Baptism.
Communion reminds us that the Church celebrates God's communication to us through words and actions. The symbol of the Cross is central to this, and here Fraser Smith told of his liking for the simple wooden cross, telling us of God's love for us in Christ.
Holy Communion is basically a meal, where the Keyword used is 'whenever' - this means whenever each day we sit down to eat our main meal we should remember that Jesus is with us. For those who eat on their own they can know that Jesus is there, sharing their meal and their worries.
In Baptism there's a lot to be said for the way Baptists practice of total adult immersion - it symbolises a raising up to new life - washing clean. Making the hopeful assumption that the congregation all wash every morning, by this simple act we are making yourself clean for the day - the same can be said for washing at night.
Yesterday Fraser Smith cleaned out his garden shed, which took him hours. Afterwards, his three-year-old granddaughter told him that he 'looked scruffy'. Having a shower made him feel better, then he put on clean clothes. Here he reminded us that St. Paul talks about putting on new life - putting on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Adopt a Sacramental approach to life through simple acts - putting on new clothes is like putting on Christ and letting Him shine through us for the day.
John Wesley said that we 'should be employed in righteousness' - we can follow our Faith in the simple ways, but sometimes this can lead us to places we would rather not go; This led us into our Prayers of Intercession for others and ourselves, which was followed by the Offering for the work of God and the Hymn 'An upper room'.
The children joined us for Holy Communion, which followed the Service that Fraser Smith gives when giving Communion in prisons. Before beginning he told us of the time he was broadcasting from Pebble Mill and the producer, Michael Shoesmith put red lines through the long theological words in his 30-second slot and said that Jesus gave His message to the people in simple words.
Our final hymn was 'God whose love' followed by the shared Benediction.
After the Service, I sat for a few moments and thought what a pleasure it was to sit and listen to someone whose gift from God has made them an expert, in the Reverend Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones words, 'so that the listener is moved to feel the Truth and pursue a desired course of action'.
Kindly written by Joe Leighton