‘The One Thing Needful!’

09 December 2020

In the latest in a series of blogs from church leaders across the Connexion, the Revd Julian Pursehouse, Chair of the East Anglia District, reflects on how the pandemic presents many challenges but also offers the gift of refocusing on our calling from God.

In May 1734, John Wesley wrote sermon no: 146, The One Thing Needful, in which he offered an allegorical reading of the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42) with a particular focus upon verse 42. He argues persuasively and passionately that the one thing needful  in all creation is the renewal of our human nature in the Image of God through the gift of divine love – love being the very image and glory of the living God. This being the case, our life of faith is lived with singularity and intention to ensure that all our thoughts, words and works tender to this great design of grace.

One of my observations of the church in lockdown is that in a situation of adversity and extremis; we are being invited to focus upon what really matters and to relinquish that which is no longer needful. The public restrictions of lockdown have forced us all to live life on a much smaller footprint and by necessity we have had to think through what we can do and what we cannot do. The church is no exception - but along with this challenge comes the gift of refocusing upon our calling from God.

As I reflect upon these sentiments, I am reminded of my work as District Chair in the East Anglia District. I have witnessed moments of joyful focus and renewed energy as both churches and ministers have rediscovered their calling.

I think of the ordained minister who said to me that she felt that she had rediscovered the pastoral office because suddenly she had uninterrupted time to speak with her people on the phone and really get to know them well.

I think of the church that began to help a local chemist with the unending task of delivering important prescriptions to people in the local community – church members were drafted into a hastily made rota of volunteers.

I remember the story of one of our more traditional churches that migrated their worship on to the Zoom platform soon after lockdown began in March of this year. I was able to witness for myself, the simple but profound joy of a community who were reconnected with each other through online worship! At a time when the public gathering for worship was prohibited and our churches were closed; the church was very much alive through a renewed and simple focus upon worship, pastoral care and loving service.

Perhaps this is the very time when we have discovered the one thing needful and indeed the things we need to relinquish.

The Revd Julian M. Pursehouse

Other blogs in this series from: