The article below was written by Alison Judd
Watching over one another in love – learning from each other. The letter to the church in Rome gives us clues as to how we shall each play our part in building up the body of Christ, the church.
Romans 12: 7-8 describes the gifts of prophecy, ministry, teaching, encouraging,giving, leading, administration, pastoral care and spreading joy. All these support the community of faith.One way of building up the body of church that John Wesley advocated was through the ‘class system’. This has nothing to do with social class, but everything to do with nurturing one another in the faith.
Everyone who was a part of the church family was encouraged (if not expected) to belong to a small group, or ‘class’ of around twelve people, meeting regularly with a leader who would support them in their faith journey towards ‘scriptural holiness’.
I was interested to join an online event recently, live-streamed from the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas. One of the sessions was about Class Leaders, and how important they are to the building up of the community of faith. John Wesley thought the oversight and support that the class meeting provided
was so important that it became a requirement for membership in a Methodist society. To be a Methodist meant that you were involved in a weekly class meeting. I wonder whether the class meeting might be a way of ‘building up the body’ even now?
The phrase that best captures what the early Methodists believed was so important about the class meeting was “watching over one another in love.” Early Methodists were asked to invite others into their lives and to be willing to enter deeply into the lives of other people so that together they would grow in grace. They were committed to the idea that the Christian life is a journey of growth in grace, or sanctification. And they believed that they needed one another in order to persevere on this journey.
I think this period of the last few months has shown us the importance of relationships in strengthening our church community. Perhaps resurrecting the class groups would provide a means of enabling all of us to feel we belong, and in meeting in a group in which we feel safe to explore issues of faith, an opportunity to make real headway in our faith journey.
Editors note – If you would like to learn more about the conference referred to in the article a report (also written by Alison) can be found at http://wfmucw.org/the-mcca-womens-seminar-2020-a-ground-breaking-event