Easter message of Hope for the world and the church

The President of the Methodist Conference Rev Dr NeilRichardson:

"Christians give the impression that Easter commemorates Jesuscoming back to life. Easter is more than that. It is about God, aswell as Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus is a sign that God, who isour ultimate environment, is both indestructible and endlesslyresourceful in the face of evil and death.

In a world racked by terrorism, unresolved conflicts andflagrant injustice we need such a message of hope. The all-loving,all-compassionate Creator of all people declares war on no-one,even though every nation falls far short of the Creator's bestintentions for them.

The churches in Britain can easily feel overwhelmed by currentchallenges, not least by the apparent indifference to their messageand witness. Yet the Church at its best challenges injustice, feedsthe poor, and presents the human face of God. Across the UK manyMethodist churches are fulfilling this calling by opening theirdoors to the communities around them, providing lunches for thelonely and elderly, supporting the fair trade campaign, raisingfunds for projects in poverty stricken areas of the world, andmuch, much more. The church can never be complacent, but we shouldthankfully recognise all that is being done.

This year I have visited churches whose role in their communityis little short of heroic. Four examples must suffice:

Lune Street Methodist Church in the centre ofPreston operates an open-door policy, and provides accommodation onits premises for homeless young people.
Peterhead Methodist Church in Aberdeenshire hasrecently started a drop-in centre for the lonely and homelesspeople of the town.
Woodhouse Close Methodist Church, in a very deprived area inBishop Auckland, houses and supports a huge range of activitiesincluding luncheon day clubs, play groups, a mother and baby clinicand a club for adults with special needs.
Blucher Methodist Church, on the western outskirts ofNewcastle, small though the church is, runs a weekly club for thechildren in an area with few social and community facilities.

Many similar stories could be told. So, although we should notunderestimate the challenges before the churches of Britain in atime of bewilderingly rapid change, and in a very secularmaterialistic culture, there are grounds for encouragement. Aboveall, a church which tries to be faithful to the loving purposes ofGod, by being a God centred church rather than a church centred onitself, can take heart. A church which tries to be faithful to theloving purposes of God, in these and other ways, has good reason tobe hopeful.

Both for the church and the wider world, however, the realgrounds for hope lie not so much in anything we may do, but in theenduring presence of God in his world. Easter affirms andcelebrates the triumph of light over darkness. In the words ofDavid Jenkins, former Bishop of Durham:

God is,
As he is in Jesus,
Therefore there is hope"