With Easter almost upon us, many people will look afresh at their local church. As Methodists, we are often questioned why we choose to concern ourselves with issues such as refugees and benefit sanctions as well as to worship. If you look at our websites, (such as www.yorkmethodist.org.uk) you'll see that such social matters are high on our agenda.
Methodists have a number of callings that guide us. Among these are service and being a good neighbour to those in need. Our neighbours can be those close to home or far away and our service is to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
We seek to demonstrate our faith in action by caring for the fearful and the vulnerable. This can be through both fundraising and practical support. As those in power increasingly choose to take a back seat in their care for those in need, both locally and internationally, it falls upon churches such as ours to offer help where we can.
Within York there are over 1500 Methodists, involved in many and varied acts of service. We are all too aware that there are so many needs, but we seek to do what we can. We operate 'Carecent', a breakfast centre for the homeless, based at Central Methodist Church. We are involved in supporting 'Big Issue' vendors and the vulnerably housed. Several churches run lunch clubs and activities for older people and some in our churches are involved in the 'Street Angels' project, offering care and support to those who find themselves at risk amidst York's nightlife. We are committed to student and hospital chaplaincy. In all this we seek to work in partnership with other churches, faith groups and people from the local community wherever possible.
As part of our duty to care for everyone, regardless of nationality, we are also involved in the preparations to welcome refugees to York. Our churches are displaying banners expressing our support for those fleeing terror and violence, making plain our wish to be part of a society which will welcome people displaced by conflict.
We do these things because our mission is to live out the Good News of Easter, with God's desire for life in all its fullness for every person. We are therefore committed to doing all we can to ensure that all who come to York to live, work, study or find sanctuary can flourish. It is our belief that in helping others flourish, we will find richer life for ourselves.
The Revd Leslie Newton
York Methodist Circuit
An abbreviated version of this letter appeared in the York Press here.