Panto pioneering (Thursday)
Church leaders like me have to handle a number of different tasks, like public speaking, leading worship and organising events, but until I worked in one particular job I had no idea it included being the Wizard of Oz!
For a few years, I worked as a Pioneer Minister – doing church with people who don’t do church – in a community where there were no Methodist buildings. It meant I had to build links with the community through other means and so Joy and I decided to join the local panto group.
We’d spotted a poster advertising the start of rehearsals and nervously walked in one evening. We needn’t have worried. Instantly we were welcomed in, ‘adopted’ by a friendly group member and helped through our first visit. When we went for the second rehearsal we were greeted with a delighted: “you came back!”
We were part of the society for three years: performing in the chorus, playing in the band and, yes, I was the Wizard of Oz! There are even a couple of embarrassing photos on Facebook. Now, even though we don’t live in the area, we still keep in touch with people from the society and go back a couple of times a year.
I learned a huge amount from the panto gang about how churches can be better at welcoming and keeping people. We were simply accepted for who we were and what we could offer, encouraged to offer our best and challenged to grow. We were welcomed back every time and reminded about the core purpose – to play our part and get the show on stage.
Although only one of the company had any kind of church connection, a number began to refer to me as “our minister”. It felt as though I was doing my job too.
Pontypool rugby (Friday)
This time of the year is one of my favourites. It’s got nothing to do with the weather but everything to do with the Six Nations Rugby tournament which this year is turning out to be one of the best in a long time.
I grew up in Pontypool in the Welsh Valleys, home to the Pontypool Front Row and a whole collection of Welsh internationals. In my teenage years we lived alongside our heroes and on more than one occasion I would travel to school with Terry Cobner, captain of Pontypool and a future Welsh skipper, sitting in the front seat of my Dad’s car.
My own rugby ability didn’t amount to much. The nearest I got was as understudy to Pontypool full-back Peter Lewis … but that was as an actor in our school production of Oliver!
Anyway, back to rugby. I’ve got my Welsh rugby jersey, hat and scarf – I’ve even got some Welsh cakes – and I know which of my Scottish friends I’ll be exchanging banter with on Facebook tomorrow morning before kick-off.
When Wales beat Scotland I will, of course, be generous in victory. Should the unthinkable happen … well, I’m not thinking of it!
Of course, at the end of each game someone chooses the Man of the Match, the player who outshines everyone else.
The Bible tells of how God used prophets and others to try to get his message of love across but in the end needed Jesus to come and demonstrate that love by teaching, healing and ultimately through his death and resurrection.
The salvation of the world needed someone to reflect God’s glory and bear the imprint of God’s character. It needed God’s Man of the Match, living alongside us: modelling heaven’s love on earth and defeating death for all.
Oh, Cymru am byth, by the way!