These are Linda's thoughts for this Saturday morning; please send your own thoughts and prayers, either directly to Linda or to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
May is a big month for birthdays in our family. Our granddaughter turned 13 recently and we would usually visit her, but instead we watched her open her presents on a video call and she sent pictures of her 'party', which was a barbecue in the back garden. We pray for those who are disappointed:
We pray for those living in fear across the world, especially for the persecuted church; a recent email brought news of an attack on May 12th by Fulani militants on a Baptist village in Kaduna, Nigeria; a married couple and their 3 children were among 17 people who died in the midnight raid. In neighbouring villages, many more were killed and injured .
Give thanks for the witness of Pastor Zhang Shaojie as he encourages inmates whilst serving a 12 year prison sentence in China. We especially give thanks that the prison officials seem to be recognising his 'uplifting influence'.
Jesus said,, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Ascension Day in 1943 fell on 4th June. on that day Pastor Bonhoeffer wrote from prison to his parents, " .....Thank you very much for your letters. They are always too short for me, but of course I understand! It is as though the prison gates were opened for a moment, and I could share a little of your life outside. Joy is something we can do with very badly here; it's such a serious place, no one ever laughs. It seems to get even the warders down.
Today is Ascension Day, and a day of great joy for all who can believe that Christ rules the world and our lives. My thoughts go out to all of you, to the Church and its services, from which I have been cut off for so long. Nor do I forget those unknown people in this house who are bearing their fate in silence. I find such thoughts as these a good antidote against thinking too much of my own hardships. It would be wrong of me and most ungrateful to give way to that temptation......
In 1944, Pastor Bonhoeffer, still in prison, wrote to a friend at Ascension tide, "Yesterday I heard someone say he felt that the last years had been completely wasted as far as he was concerned. I have never felt like that, not even for a moment. Nor have I ever regretted my decision in the summer of 1939 (to return from USA to Germany), and strange as it might seem, I am convinced that my life has followed a straight and even course [...]It has been an uninterrupted enrichment of my experience, for which I can only be thankful."
Christ has risen to companion
former friends who fear the night,
sensing loss and limitation
where their faith had once burned bright.
They bemoan what is no longer,
they expect no hopeful sign
till Christ ends their conversation,
breaking bread and sharing wine.
Christ has risen and forever
lives to challenge and to change
all whose lives are messed or mangled,
all who find religion strange.
Christ is risen. Christ is present
making us what he has been –
evidence of transformation
in which God is known and seen.
Words by John L. Bell & Graham Maule © 1988 WGRG, c/o Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland. www.wildgoose.scot. International Copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved.
God is mystery:
It is not possible to understand God's power; we cannot confine God to time or space. God's power neither confines nor restricts. We catch glimpses of God in demonstrations of understanding and tolerance, in peace, love and hope.
The power and resilience of God's love can't be measured.
Remember those whose lives are at stake.
Remember those most vulnerable.
Remember those who must choose between preserving their health or making their rent.
Remember those who have no options.
Remember those that have no place to go.
Remember those who have no margin at all.
Remember those who have no home.
Let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbours.
A new contagion - KINDNESS 20:
Inspirational words to be read slowly, from Fiona Lynch in Australia -
Let this be us. Take a moment, sit and softly close your eyes.
Breathe life into a world where the old, the frail have no need to queue, where children are cocooned in a village of elders who listen, soothe and leave the light on.
Ransack the shelves of your heart to unfurl what it is that binds us.
Look over your shoulder, and wait for the slowest of your neighbours to catch up. May those not yet born hear stories of how we slayed separation, rolled in a ditch with distrust, and became one.
May this be the time strangers meet through the light in their eyes, above masks, beyond difference. One small action, every day, a remedy seven billion strong. A new contagion - KINDNESS 20. Let this be us. – written by Fiona on 21st March 2020.
You have been through
in your heart- beat and bones
exquisite balance of life.
But Jesus answered, “When the sun is setting, you say, ‘we are going to have fine weather because the sky is red’. And early in the morning you say.’ It is going to rain because the sky is red and dark’. You can predict the weather by looking at the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs concerning these times.” --
from the gospel of Matthew 16:2-3
In times of transformation:
Several years ago Joan Chittister, the well-known American peace activist and writer, wrote words which today have, perhaps even more relevance than when Joan wrote them….
” We are in the midst of a fast-moving transformation across the globe. In times of major transformation such as this, two things occur: a sense of breakdown, but also a sense of possibility, of breakthrough”.
And from the IonaCommunity:
The World belongs to God,
the Earth and all its People.
Father Eugene Stockton is an Australian friend. Eugeneis both a Catholic priest and a distinguished archaeologist who has spent a lifetime walking with indigenous communities all over Australia, and learning from them. One of his books is called The Aboriginal Gift and in it he writes of the depths of indigenous spirituality and of how that ancient wisdom can bring new meaning to the western search for inner spiritual understanding.
One of the people he is indebted to is Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr who speaks of what is perhaps the greatest gift Aboriginals can give to fellow Australians, and to us all. This quality is called ‘Dadirri.’
It is inner deep listening and quiet still awareness. Dadirri recognizes the deep spring that is inside us. We can call on it and it calls to us. It is something akin to what is known as contemplation.
Miriam-Rose says that when she experiences Dadirri she is made whole again. She tells of how she can sit on a river bank or walk through the trees – just listening, in that same way in which her community have listened since the earliest days.
She knows that her people could not live good useful lives unless they listen. This way of listening has been handed down through indigenous learning for 40,000 years.
"What a thing it is
to sit absolutely alone, in the forest, at night,
cherished by this
wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech,
the most comforting speech
in the world,
the talk that rain makes by itself
all over the ridges,
and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!
Nobody started it,
nobody is going to stop it.
It will take as long as it wants,
As long as it talks
I am going to listen."
The bread is pure and fresh,
the water is cool and clear,
Lord of all life, be with us,
Lord of all life be near.
An African grace.
If a fire breaks out in our home, we can dial 999 and ask for the Fire Service. They arrive, put out the fire and ensure that our home is safe and organise what may be necessary in our situation. They care about us.
If we are involved in a road accident or are in any other kind of danger, we can dial 999 and ask for the Police who come to our aid and organise any necessary action. They care about us.
If we are ill and need help, we can dial 999 and the Paramedics arrive to treat us and, if necessary, we are taken to hospital by ambulance. They care about us.
Psalm 50 verse 15 says we can call on God in times of trouble; often He uses the Emergency Services to help us.
I wonder how we would feel if we were Emergency Service employees? It takes courage to do this work and, even more so, to do it during the Coronavirus pandemic when the people they are called to may pass on Covid 19. Regardless of the risks, they continue to serve us; they are extremely busy at the moment. These people never know exactly what they will face as they travel to various incidents for various reasons - so let’s pray for them when we see and hear the emergency vehicles.
Yes, these emergency workers are well qualified and know what they are doing, which is commendable. However, this does not mean that our prayers are not needed - they are needed even more in the present climate. Let’s pray for them now:
Our Loving Heavenly Father,
we thank you for blessing us with Emergency Service teams and for the way they care about us.
We realise they are under tremendous pressure with the Coronavirus and there are so many more problems.
Please protect each one of them in their various levels of contact with people who may be carrying the virus or even suffering from the symptoms. In particular we think of the paramedics who are in very close contact as they work.
We thank you for providing these valuable services for us and we pray that you will operate through the teams with the skills they need in so many different situations; we ask you to keep them well and to give to them your peace, your gentleness and the ability to cope during these difficult times.
Psalm 18 verse 1 tells us that the Lord is our strength and we pray that you will give them your strength in body, mind and spirit as well as emotionally.
We ask you to bless the Emergency Service workers and give to us an appreciation of them as they serve us during the Corona Virus and continually.
We pray in the powerful Name of Jesus.
God bless you in your ministry of prayer for the Emergency Services.
How difficult it must be to be serving in the Government at this time.
The situation is so awful with so many affected by Coronavirus especially the numbers who have died. Responsibility lies heavily on our leaders. These people have so much to consider about our future; they need to know what to do and when and how to do it. They need God’s help - they need our prayers.
In 1 Timothy 2 verses 1 to 3 Paul urges us to pray, to intercede and to be thankful for everyone in high authority, including kings.
James 5 v 16 tells us that prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective.
Titus 3 verse 1 reminds us to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient and ready and willing to do good.
As Christians we are citizens of God’s Kingdom as well as of the country in which we live. As we submit to God we also need to be obedient to laws and authorities.
As we continue to pray about the Corona Virus let us remember our leaders and commit them to God as He gives them power to rule (Romans 13 verse 1).
Our loving heavenly Father, we give to you our Government. You know how very difficult it is for them at this time of Corona Virus.
Thank you for them and the way they serve our country.
Please give to them your wisdom as they take part in the decision making processes. We ask you to be present in their meetings, to give them the strength that they need and clarity of thought.
Please surround them with your love, uphold them at this time of heavy responsibility and give to them your peace.
We thank you that you are the King of kings and the Lord of lords and we pray in the precious Name of Jesus.
God bless you in your ministry of prayer for our Government.
Rev Peter Millar,former Warden of Iona Abbeyand Member of the Iona Community, intends to update this each week.
A Candle in the Window Peter Millar
Words to encourage us in tough times (email@example.com)
One of my favourite poems:
I will not die an unlived life. I will not go in fear
Of falling or catching fire. I choose to inhabit my days,
To allow my living to open to me, to make me less afraid,
More accessible, to loosen my heart.
Until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance: to live.
So that which came to me as seed, goes to the next as a blossom,
And that which came to me as a blossom, goes on as a fruit.
Wherever we are, many of us fall into a routine in this lockdown period, something I never seem to manage normally. I live in Warebeth in Orkney and these past weeks have taught me that it’s not such a bad thing to tread and – re-tread the same paths. Every day I look at these same hills, these same shores, and every day they show me something new. These walks build up, one upon another, to create a long view: a portrait of a place through time.
A few days ago, for the first time this season, I heard a familiar voice rising above the rest like a flautist. It sang a sliding upwards note, which it then repeated, gathering pace, until it hit its rhythmic, rippling peak. I searched the sky for the source: wings outstretched, and that unmistakable bill – a long and slender curved proboscis. A curlew, Numenius arquata, announcing his presence at his breeding ground. Rising and falling, stitching the air searching for a mate over the marshy meadowland near where the Hoy Sound pounds the coast.
The peace of the earth and the peace of the heavens be with you. The peace of the rivers and of the oceans fall over you. The deep peace of God be with you today in all your doings and wherever you are – and may you pass it on.
Adapted from a traditional Celtic blessing
Tonight before falling asleep, think about when we shall all return to the streets. When we hug again. When shopping together will seem like a party. Let’s think about when we can share a coffee and small talk and pictures. Be close to each other. We can think about these present times when it will only be a memory. Normal times will seem like a beautiful gift. Every second will be precious to us. Sunsets and laughter. See you soon and take courage!
From some recent words of Pope Francis.
In a particularly poignant scene in Albert Camus’ The Plague – which reads like it was published three weeks ago instead of in 1947, the doctor works tirelessly to lessen the suffering of those around him. But he is no hero. “The whole thing is not about heroism,” he says. “It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.” In these post-Easter days I find myself wondering, more than in previous years, what “new life” might emerge from this present global crisis. Whatever it is, I hope it is characterised by more decency. I hope it embraces our interdependence: our need for each other. In Bill Wither’s words, “Lean on me when you’re not strong because we all know it won’t be long ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.”
From a reflection written by a friend, Nathan Wilson in the States.
In 1998 the well-known Irish writer John o’Donohue (who sadly died some years ago) wrote a best-selling book – Eternal Echoes: exploring our hunger to belong. I was recently re-reading it and was struck by how much of his writing speaks to our present situation. O’Donohue invites us to embark on a journey of discovery into the heart of our post-modern search for identity and meaning. He digs deeply into a range of ancient beliefs and practices, especially drawing inspiration from Ireland’s rich spiritual heritage of Celtic thought, wisdom and imagination. Here is just one sentence to ponder. I think it is prophetic….”we can trust that even in awkward times of confusion and conflict the pendulum of nature will eventually come to rest in truth and compassion.”
If you can find a copy of Eternal Echoes or have it already, I hope that you can be drawn into its many life-enhancing insights as we all ponder our basic humanity and our future within a global world.
(Bantam Books and the ISBN is 0-553-81241-6).
Blessed be the longing that brought you here and that quickens your soul with wonder. May you have the courage to befriend your eternal longing. May a secret providence guide your thought and shelter your feelings. May your mind inhabit your life with the same sureness with which your body belongs in the world. May the sense of something absent enlarge your life. May your soul be as free as the ever-new waves of the sea. May you succumb to the danger of growth. May you live in the neighbourhood of wonder. May you know that you are ever-embraced in the kind circle of God.
Also by John O’Donohue, =
Conamara Blues - Echoes of Memory Anam Cara
MATTHEW 1 VERSE 23 - Immanuel - God with us.
LET’S THINK ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ALONE AT THIS TIME OF CORONA VIRUS
For some people being alone is not a problem but for the majority of us it is not what we would choose. Things can build up in our minds when we are alone. People may not be able to get out into the community for various reasons at the moment. Some people may not feel safe.Some people may be fearful of becoming unwell and alone.
Loneliness can be very difficult and can affect us in different ways. We need to ask ourselves how we would feel or even how we are feeling if we are all alone.
In Matthew 28 verse 20, Jesus tells his disciples that He will be with them always. This continues for all who believe. We can talk to God about everything, including coronavirus This means so much to those with no one to be with them.
Psalm 121 verse 3.
LET’S PRAY FOR THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ALONE
Our loving heavenly Father, we give to you the people who are alone. We ask you to remind them that you will never leave them and they can talk to you at any time. We ask you to draw them to yourself so that you can dwell in their hearts and in their homes by your Holy Spirit.
As you draw near to them we ask you to reassure them with your presence - help them to realise how precious they are to You and that they can feel safe in your loving arms. Please remind them that you are
Immanuel - God with us - their Friend.
Nearer still nearer, close to Thy heart
Draw me my Saviour, so precious Thou art
Hold me, oh hold me close to Thy breast
Shelter me safe in Thy haven of rest.
We pray in the lovely name of Jesus to whom we are so precious. AMEN
God bless you as you minister in prayer to people who are alone.
Here,daily, are brief extracts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters & Papers From Prison
Pastor Dietrich Bonhoffer was born in 1906 . In 1930 he was appoiinted lecturer in Systematic Theology at Berlin University. In 1933 he denounced Hitler He travelled widely in England and USA. At the outbreak of war in 1939 he returned to Germany to work for the Confessing Church and the Resistance movement.. He was arrested in 1943 and imprisoned in Buchanwald. In 1945 Easter Sunday was on 1st April. He was hanged at Flossenburg on 9th April 1945.
Almighty God, Whose most dear Son went to His rightful place in Glory,
but not before He had suffered pain in His crucifixion,
mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it to be the way of life and peace;
Through Christ our Lord …. AMEN.
Only the man whose ultimate criterion is not in his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom or his virtue, but is ready to sacrifice all these things when he is called to obedient and responsible action in faith and exclusive allegiance to God. The responsible man seeks to make his whole life a response to the question and call of God
Lord, my life seems so often to be twisted and out of shape. At times I am certain what the shape ought to be, if only I could straighten myself out; but just when I have managed to free one part of me and move a little, another part of me seems to have become hung up somewhere else. I know that I am partly to blame and I must bear the weight of my own failure. I have let the strength drain out of my life through lack of courage, when I could perhaps, have kept some strength and moved on a little. Truthfully, I am pinned down partly by circumstances; the strength has been drained out of my life Lord, by the demands of other people, the daily demands coming from outside.
As I look at You Lord, I know my life is distorted and dark, most of the time I feel stuck where I am, unable to raise myself up. In my worst moments I feel no one cares at all and that God has put me in this position and then deserted me. Friends say that if I believe in God and it is all true, then He ought to be able to do something about it “What’s the good of believing in God” they say, “if He leaves you so hung up?” I don’t know what to say to them Lord; so I have come to You.
As I look, You seem to be a reflection of my life. Hung up there on the cross, Your life is twisted and out of shape. They have pinned You down, and You are unable to move. I even hear You saying “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Is there meaning in my life, is there hope for me, because You are experiencing all this too?
Yes, that would give me courage because it would make my life seem deeper and more in touch with You, just at the times when I seem cut off from You, on the other side of some-kind of wall. If You are with me then my faith can be restored again. You are asking me to remember that You were laid out, nailed down and hung up to die; but at the darkest moment you were not destroyed. You are asking me to trust and believe, that because You are sharing life with me, then I shall again live, move and have my being in You. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. “Into Your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit” Luke 23:46.
House of the Resurrection, Mirfield.
Submitted by Sister Vivien
"There is hardly one of us who has not known what it is to be betrayed. We used to find the figure of Judas an enigma, but now we know him only too well. The air we breathe is so infested with mistrust that it almost chokes us. But where we have managed to pierce through this layer of mistrust we have discovered a confidence scarce dreamed of hitherto. Where we do trust we have learnt to entrust our very lives to the hands of others. In face of all the many constructions to which our actions and our lives have been inevitably exposed we have learnt to trust without reserve. We know that hardly anything can be more reprehensible than the sowing and encouragement of mistrust, and that our duty is rather to do everything in our power to strengthen and foster confidence among men. Trust will always be one of the greatest, rarest and happiest blessings of social life, though it can only emerge on the dark background of a necessary mistrust. We have learnt never to trust a scoundrel an inch, but to give ourselves to the trustworthy without reserve."
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread,Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
On Easter Sunday 1943: Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to his parents, "First of all. let me thank you for all the things you brought for me. You can't imagine how thrilled I am when they tell me:'Your mother and sister and brother have just been here with something for you.' The mere knowledge that you have been near me is enough to keep me happy for the rest of the day. Thank you very,very much for everything! [...] I can't believe I have been here 3 weeks already. [...] I enjoy my dreams. I never knew before what a source of pleasure that could be..[...] I spend the time before I get to sleep saying over to myself the hymns I have learnt during the day, I like to read a few psalms and hymns, think about you all and remember that you are thinking about me. - The day is now over and Ihope you are feeling as contented as I am. I have read a lot of good things, and my thoughts and hopes have been pleasant too.
In very truth I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains that and nothing more; but if it dies, it bears a rich harvest. Whoever loves himself is lost, but he who hates himself in this world will be kept safe for eternal life. If anyone is to serve me, he must follow me; where I am, there will my servant be. Whoever serves me will be honoured by the Father.
(The Revised English Bible)
On September 13th 1943 Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, again to his parents, "It's a queer feeling to be utterly dependent on the help of others but at least it teaches one to be grateful, a lesson I hope I shall never forget. In normal life we hardly realise how much more we receive than we give and life cannot be rich without such gratitude.It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.
The turbulent events in the world outside during the last few days make me feel how much I should like to be somewhere where I could be useful. But for the time being my job is to stay in prison, and what I do here makes a contribution in the unseen world............"
Six days before the Passover festival Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus whom he had raised from the dead.They gave a supper in his honour, at which Martha served. and Lazarus was among the guests with Jesus.Then Mary brought a pound of very costly perfume, pure oil of nard, and anointed Jesus' feet. and wiped them with her hair., till the house was filled with the fragrance . At this Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples- the one who was to betray him- protested, " Could not this perfume have been sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?" He said this, not out of concern for the poor but because he was a thief; he had charge of the common purse and used to pilfer the money kept in it. " Leave her alone.” said Jesus, "Let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you will always haveamong you, but you will not always have me."
S We usually meet for Sunday worship each week at 10:30. This is led by an ordained Minister or a Local (lay) Preacher. Services include singing, prayer, a sermon and (about once per month) Holy Communion.
There's a loop system installed in the Church and in the Lounge.
Several groups meet for fellowship, discussion, and Bible study in each others homes. These occur at different times & weekdays. Each group has different emphases.
Ask Rev. David Philo for more information & contact details
Occasionally a quiet day is arranged at Hyning, Warton.
Ask Rev. David Philo for details.
This is held at Bare Methodist Church
Ask Rev. David Philo for details.
ALL ACTIVITIES suspended for the foreseeable future due to govrnment advice re: Corona Virus
Messy Church meets on some Fridays after school.. Look out for the banner that is displayed in the relevant week
suspended for the foreseeable future due to govrnment advice re: Corona Virus
Across the country more & more children are joining Messy Church.
A nationwide initiative that explores the Bible in an all age context through:
Messy Church is open to everyone - mums, dads, grandparents, friends ..
See the What's on page on this website.
Share a delicious yet simple meal at 12 noon every Thursday.
suspended for the foreseeable future due to govrnment advice re: Corona Virus
We meet on Thursday 2:00 pm immediately following
Thursday Lunch Companions
Join us for fellowship, company & interesting speakers.
We enjoy fundraising activities for chosen charities.
suspended for the foreseeable future due to govrnment advice re: Corona Virus
Toddlers & their parents meet on
Monday mornings at 9:30 am.
suspended for the foreseeable future due to govrnment advice re: Corona Virus
Housegroup 2 meets fortnightly on Thursday evenings in some our homes. We would welcome people to join us.... just to see if we suit you, with no obligation. Some of us take turns to lead sessions. We are a happy, honest, open-minded group who make sure we have some laughs.
We have an informal (chaotic??) style which includes prayer, bible study, study courses and discussion.
We represent a broad spectrum of theological and spiritual belief and enjoy exploring different perspectives.
Contact Sue for details:
Please join us for quiet prayer Saturday morning at 9:30 am. .
Message from Linda:
Hopefully, you have already seen the refurbished Prayer Room, but have you used it yet? It's available for anyone to use, providing quiet space for private prayer, or for sharing with others in prayer.
Alternatively,perhaps you need space for reflection after a service when there is too much activity in the church or hall: use the Prayer Room.
A request box is available if you would appreciate others praying for a specific person or situation. Every Saturday at 9.30 am there is an ecumenical prayer meeting, just for half an hour. New members are always welcome and there is no pressure to pray aloud. Please make others aware that the room can be used by anyone. Of course we can pray anytime and anywhere, but sometimes just going to a specific place set aside for prayer might help you to feel closer to God. Give it a try!
15th April 2020 A Candle in the Window Peter Millar
words to encourage us in tough times
At the heart of humanity:
In these tough times, familiar words take on a new meaning - a deeper meaning, a wider meaning. For me this is true of these words which are in the daily prayer of the IonaCommunity….. “We affirm the goodness of God at the heart of humanity planted more deeply than all that is wrong.”
Here in this place new light is streaming
Now is the darkness vanished away,
See in this space our fears and our dreaming
Brought here to you in the light of this day Marty Haugen
An ancient truth for today:
“How can we determine the hour of the dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” asked the Teacher. “When from a distance you can distinguish between a dog and a sheep suggested one of the students.” “No” was the answer. “Is it when one can distinguish between a fig tree and a grapevine?” asked a second student. “No.” “Please tell us the answer then.” “It is,” said the wise Teacher, “when you can look in the face of a human being and you have enough light to recognise in her/him your sister/brother. Up till then it is night, and darkness is still with us.” Hasidic Tale
The affirming flame
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies:
Yet, dotted everywhere, ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the just exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them of Eros, and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame. W.H. Auden in 1939 at the start of the War.
Cherishing the ties that bind us
Humans need connection - we are social animals and exist in a network of reciprocal relationships. Solitary confinement is a form of torture that can swiftly drive people mad: locked into the cell of the self, the world does not reach them and they cannot reach out into the world. Words need to be heard, pain recognised, joy shared. Loneliness is hazardous. These past extraordinary weeks have shown how much we yearn for connection and also how ingenious, funny, heartbreakingly generous and kind people can be in maintaining it in spite of imposed isolation.
More than all the new forms of creativity going on everywhere, I have heard over and over how people are talking to each other now – talking as they never have before, revealing themselves. It is as if a skin had been peeled away; sometimes painfully, we have come face to face with our own vulnerability and precariousness. A boy dies in hospital without his family and is buried without them; relatives look through windows at their loved ones in residential homes; people say farewell to the gravely ill by Skype.
We can no longer pretend to ourselves we are self-sufficient, autonomous, invincible and in control. More helpless, more exposed, more reliant on the generosity of others and aware of own mortality, we can speak things we previously kept hidden. We can ask ourselves what really matters in this world of ours that we all hold in common.
A mighty collective experience draws everyone together and the brief crisis-driven experience of isolation may have given us more empathetic understanding of what it is to be truly alone and on the margins of society.
These days will come to an end. We will be able to travel the country, swim in the sea, sit in each other’s rooms, lean over tables in restaurants and pubs, dance, hug each other at last with bodies that are no longer contagious. But we mustn’t go back to the world that we were living in before or unlearn the hard-won lessons of collaboration, kindness, empathy and human vulnerability. We mustn’t stop seeing and valuing the delivery driver, the hospital cleaner, the residential worker, the woman at the checkout, the neighbour over the fence, the stranger on the other side of the road, the person in need, the old and the frail and the forgotten, those hidden in life’s shadows. We can do it better. No going back. Nicci Gerrard
*** The green yew, mighty oaks, tall deer, quiet does, trapped trout, sweet sloes and honey, black winged beetles, small bees and fine white gulls all sea singing. A 6thcentury description of the Irish countryside. ***
Lord of every human heart, take our stumbling generosity and simple acts of kindness and use them as best you can for Your purposes of love. pm.
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