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Making Connections.

By Marcia Hardy in All Sorts

exploring connections bewteen hearts, minds and opinions and 'the social gospel'

A number of issues come to mind. We were shocked by the recent news items about the mountain of plastic bags revealed by the West Coast storms and high tides, after 25 years buried in a disused dump. We had already been aware of the Pacific Ocean islands of plastic, but discussions with a visiting relation, who’s a keen, UK based sailor, revealed that every ocean has the same problem. It seemed a good time to talk again about recycling, but then I read an excellent item on the same topic in the February Touchstone, written by Kathryn Walters so I hope you will find time to look at it.
David Kitchingman’s thoughtful article last week on ‘Faith and Feeling’ tied in well with my own thoughts and feelings as I prepared the Covenant services for Mosgiel and St Kilda. When I was candidating for the ministry in 1998 a selection of Wesley’s sermons was required reading. As a new convert to Methodism, I expected to be bored -after all they were around 200 years old – but I found them to be a revelation, containing much contemporary relevance.
Like David, last week, I can’t easily accept some of Wesley’s theology. However the famous lines in the Catholic Spirit (Sermon 39) inspired me then and they continue to do so.
"And when he left there, [Jehu] met Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him, and he greeted him, and said to him, "Is your heart right, as my heart is with your heart?"* And Jehonadab answered: "It is." [Jehu said], "If it is, give me your hand." (2 Kings 10:15)
Earlier in this sermon, at verse 4, we find words which many of us could recite by heart.
“But even though a difference in opinions or modes of worship may prevent an entire external union, yet need it prevent our union in affection? Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without doubt, we may”.

It’s now ten years ago since we first met my English cousin and his wife, as we lived quite close to them when we worked in Dorset. At that time I found him difficult to communicate with, especially after he made it quite clear that he couldn’t understand how an educated, apparently intelligent woman could possibly believe in God! Trying hard to follow Wesley’s example, I asked mildly ”what do you believe in?”
The triumphant answer was “I believe in Science!” At that point, from memory, we changed the topic.

However, the man who stayed with us last week was a very different person. He seemed to have mellowed considerably – maybe I had too –
and we were sorry to see them leave after discovering we had much in
common, particularly in our political and environmental views.
He was even very interested to learn about the difference between Anglicans and Methodists, since he’d grown up in an Anglican family. He also agreed with me when I mentioned that, as I get older, I find myself being less interested in beliefs and more interested in what Wesley called our ‘union in affection’.

This brings me to a third ‘connection’ – the celebrations this year at Waitangi. In previous years we had dreaded the annual angry confrontations between protesters and the government of the day.
What a change this year! I don’t expect our new prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, read Wesley’s sermons as part of her preparations for the role, but I’m sure she would find much there to agree with. I particularly resonated with her comment to media when she said: "...speaking openly and frankly wasn't a sign of failure" and that protest was welcome at Waitangi.
Furthermore, her commitment to turn talk into action resonates with what we have long called ‘the social Gospel’.
Responsible environmental practices, and open hearted listening to others – is there a connection? I think there is. Hearts and minds and opinions are not easily changed through waving banners and shouting slogans. Our own actions and example will always be more powerful.
Jesus’ words, about removing the log in our own eye before trying to remove the speck in another’s come to mind!
Marcia Hardy