Stephen Lindridge sings a 'New Song' for a new church.
The Psalms inspire us as God's people to 'sing a new song' to our Lord, for the marvellous things he has done (Psalm 98.1). So it's very apt that the newest church to be recognised in the Methodist Church of Great Britain is forged on exactly this principle; to sing new songs to our Lord!
But New Song Network, based in Warrington, involves a great deal more than singing. It has created community and brought loving service, gospel proclamation and transformational discipleship to people previously unconnected in any way with church.
To me, this strikes three chords for the wider church's learning and encouragement - bearing in mind that a chord is a number of notes played at the same time.
New Song is not a 'one-trick pony'.
It is a network of relationships, doing a multiplicity of things that are seeking to live with meaning and purpose in the broader community in which they are based. So, learning how usefully to collaborate our resources, actions and activities over an area may lead to increasing our understanding of what it is to be the church.
In a general climate of decline (for the institutional churches), new life is happening.
Yes, in some places it's in tiny pockets but in other places the growth is substantial. This is a hugely significant message that swims against the tide of pessimism about the church in the UK. The rich and profound message of God's love in Jesus Christ is indeed still relevant in our culture, time and place and - when actively practiced in words and deeds that make sense to those around us - it changes lives.
Sadly, I have sometimes found this negative tide within the walls of our denominations. It is hard to understand how such good news can sometimes be received so badly, and with such opposition, from within the church.
Into these challenges we recall Jesus' words in John 15.18; the regular accounts of opposition to the early church in Acts of the Apostles; and modern-day stories of Christian persecution around the world – persecution which goes far beyond angry words. We should give thanks to God for such faithful witness and pray that we, too, will show God's grace to those who seem to hate us.
New Song re-imagines the old to bring new life.
'Something old something new, something borrowed, something blue' is a phrase that usually symbolizes the joining of two worlds into one. New Song Network for me demonstrates the long-espoused values of the Methodist Church so similar to those of Wesley's day, namely participation of every person, singing our faith with the tunes of the day, helping those in need and forming rich fellowship through small groups. This ethos has found new life in a contemporary form at New Song Network and the result is seen in lives transformed by the gospel of Christ.
I believe the voyage of discovery for many of us involves exploring what God is doing in our own neighbourhoods as our familiar, much-loved, values find new ground and new contexts in fresh expressions of church. Thank God for New Song Network as the newest church in Methodism, but the big question is, where will the next one be?!