There are lots of conversations presently being held across the country, to discuss the future of many small village Methodist Chapels. At the National Methodist Conference in Birmingham last June, the Resolution was put forward, and passed, to increase the minimum number of members for any one Chapel to 12. This was a very sensitive and much discussed debate, as it affects a great number of our people. In some small chapels, members are in their 80’s and 90’s and have faithfully and loyally worshipped in the same Chapel all of their lives.  Even though there are only a few, their enthusiasm and commitment are amazing and some of the places of worship are thriving concerns in the midst of a local community.a of finances and dwindling numbers does mean they face closure. “It’s inevitable”, “We have to face reality”, “We knew it was coming”, are some of the comments heard. “It is very sad, and breaks my heart,” is perhaps the hardest to hear. There are alternatives, for example small Chapels are being encouraged to become a ‘Class’ of a larger place or a few smaller ones can come under one umbrella to create a ‘Cluster’. Whatever is eventually decided, it is not an easy time. For many concerned, it is the Head versus the Heart. The Head says one thing and the Heart says another.

Have you ever watched Bargain Hunt on TV and seen how sometimes items are bought with the heart and probably cost far too much money, instead of being with the mind and head and paying a sensible price? Or you’ve seen something in the ‘Half Price Sale’ and decided to buy it because it was a bargain. When you’ve got home you’ve wondered why you purchased it?  I am sure it has happened to all of us at times.

During the crisis we see across our world right now, we are called to have hearts of compassion. How can our hearts remain cold when we hear and see the atrocities that so many thousands of ordinary people are facing? Hospitals being bombed, families torn apart, people suffering such pain and anguish. Yet there are some whose hearts are not touched and who remain motionless.

In an interview with a young Ukrainian who had managed to flee across the border to safety, when asked what it was like passing by the Russian soldiers, she said they never spoke. In broken English she added, they were mute. They were like stone.

Hearing this I was reminded of the film Narnia and how the White Witch turned everything that was good into stone. Based on the book by C.S.Lewis, there was no Springtime or Summer, no Christmas, no joy in the land of Narina at all.  Everything was cold, bleak, and grey. Those who are familiar with the story know how Aslam, the Lion, was victorious and eventually conquered the land setting everyone free. Stone was melted. New life heralded. Spring was born again.

There is a verse in the book of Ezekiel in the Bible, where we read of God’s wonderful saving mercy and grace. God prophesized to the people through the prophet Ezekiel, that they must turn away from their sins, repent and come back to Him. If they did, God will sprinkle clean water on them and cleanse them from all their impurities. God will take away their hearts of stone and give them a new heart and put his spirit within them (Ezekiel 36 v 26).

As with the people of Narnia, they are given new life. This new life, new heart is available for each of us. The bible tells us clearly that we need to come before God and repent of our old ways and receive a new heart from him.

Let me ask you a question? How well do you know our Majesty Queen Elizabeth II?

We all know when she was born, who her parents were, that she had one sister. We know who she married and when. Likewise, when her father died and how 70 years ago, she became Queen of England and lots of us are preparing to celebrate this great achievement. We know of her love for horses and her corgis. I could go on. If we read, we can find out more. However, how many of us REALLY know her. We may know all about her and yet very few of us know her personally.

Friends that is how it can be with God. We know the facts and figures as it were, yet it is all head knowledge. People say there are 12 inches between knowing all about God and knowing God. 12 inches between our head and our heart. Have we responded to God and allowed him to give us a new heart, a heart of love which warms to a relationship with Him?

What ever decisions we have to make, and yes sometimes we have to put our sensible head on, let us always have a soft and tender loving heart to those around. Let us love as Jesus loves.

God bless you