We are one of the eight churches that make up the Dorking & Horsham Methodist Circuit
The others are to be found in Cobham, Effingham, Leatherhead, Horsham (London Road and St Andrew's), Southwater and Partridge Green.
There is a United Pastorate in the north of the Circuit. This embraces our churches in Leatherhead, Effingham and Cobham, as well as the URC churches at Christ Church (Leatherhead) and Cobham. The Pastorate is served by a Methodist minister (Revd Lynda Russell) and a URC minister (Revd Kim Plumpton).
Our Superintendent Minister is Revd Paul Cockburn. He lives in Horsham, and oversees the Churches at London Road and Partridge Green.
Paul is moving to a new appointment in September. His replacement will be Revd Gavin Hancocks from October 1.
Revd Kath Jones is Minister at St Andrew's and Southwater.
The 2016 Methodist Conference has issued a resolution to be read out in every Methodist Church.
Full text is on our News page.
Circuit news and events are published in the Circuit Newsletter which comes out quarterly in March, June, September and December.
Copies are available in church.
Paul writes in the June 2016 issue: Dear Friends,
During our spring synod a good proportion of the time was spent in groups discussing marriage and relationships. I'd like to share some of my thoughts about this discussion, including aspects of the topic which hadn't before occurred to me.
Two principles, which are often at odds with each other, are relevant here. One is the need for the church to move with the times and to find ways to adapt and apply the Christian faith to the prevailing culture. The other is the need for the church to safeguard and stand by what is good and right and true, even if it puts us at odds with the prevailing culture.
Both principles are important. For example, marriage as a partnership between two equal parties is a very modern concept. Within living memory the different roles of husband (breadwinner) and wife (housewife and mother) were ingrained in our culture. And the Biblical writers assumed that such a difference of roles was normal and uncontroversial. ("Wives, obey your husbands" wrote Paul.) I'm sure that supporting the modern idea of equality between men and women is the right thing to do.
A different example would be the way that casual sex is portrayed on television as part of a normal healthy lifestyle. I am not sufficiently involved in youth culture these days to know if the TV reflects reality. I hope not. It's certainly not something that the church should be going along with. Sex is a beautiful gift of God, but intended to be an intimate expression of a loving and committed relationship. There is nothing casual about it.
A major factor which contributes to our views on this subject is our understanding of Biblical authority. How much of it should we treat as the inspired word of God, meant to teach and equip us? (My answer would be: all of it.) How much of it was written in a specific context, meant for people living in a specific culture, and incorporating all kinds of assumptions based on the perspective of the author? (My answer would again be: all of it.)
The task of the church today is to read what was written long ago in a particular context and understand what it says to us about life in today's context. Sometimes this is very easy. When Jesus told his disciples during the Last Supper, "Love one another as I have loved you," we can take those words spoken to 12 particular people on a specific evening and hear Jesus commanding members of today's church to care for one another with the same devotion and self-sacrifice Jesus showed. Other times it is not so easy to understand. When the council at Jerusalem instructed the new Gentile converts to "abstain from food sacrificed to idols," what are we to make of that? We have to draw out the principle behind it. Are we simply being encouraged to take care over what we eat – buying only "Fairtrade" goods for example?
Bear in mind also that even in the original context, not all laws were intended to be universal. Some (such as "sell all your possessions and give to the poor") were intended for one person alone. Some (such as "do this whenever you drink, to remember me" or "the bishop must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife") for the community of Christians. Some (such as "be fruitful and increase in number") for the whole human race.
I have deliberately avoided tackling the controversial issue of gay marriage here for two reasons. One is that our thoughts on gay marriage need to be based on a proper understanding of the relationship between Biblical authority and modern culture (which I hope I have stimulated thoughts about). The other is that I believe that the scope of the Methodist church review of marriage and relationships should encompass a wide range of topics, including the place of sex in relationships, the meaning and relevance of marriage in today's society, what it means to be male or female or transgender, our attitudes to divorce and remarriage and the culture of 'serial monogamy'. Our approach as a church to gay marriage can only make sense as part of this wide-ranging review.
To finish on a different note – as this will be my last contribution to the circuit newsletter, I'd like to say how much I have enjoyed my seven years in the Dorking and Horsham circuit. I have appreciated my hard-working and supportive colleagues, both lay and ordained. And I am grateful for all the fascinating people I have met across the circuit.
As the circuit embarks on a new journey, which at the time of writing is not even clear, my prayers will go with you. God bless you all.
The Circuit Meeting (the governing body of the Circuit) meets next at London Road Methodist Church, Horsham, at 7.30 pm on Thursday 15 September 2016.
The Circuit in turn is part of the South-East District of the Methodist Church, which embraces much of Surrey, Sussex and Kent, and parts of Hampshire and Berkshire. Our Circuit is in what is known as the Western Area of this District.