Life may not be as it was, and everyone’s experience of this ‘new normal’ will be very different, but it is important to remember that whilst God is with us we are never truly alone. With thoughts turning to how we will manage life after lockdown, the theme of Hope features prominently in this post’s notices.
Big Picnic For Hope – Lockdown V E Day Celebrations
The Big Picnic for Hope is an opportunity for your household to be part of a virtual get together, to help honour heroes past and present. If you are alone or pat of a busy household, everyone can take part by having their own V E Day picnic indoors or on your balcony/garden. Original Wartime recipes you may want to try can be found here. See the dedicated website for more information – http://bigpicnicforhope.com/
More ideas for VE Day can be found here.
Free Daily Hope PhoneLine
Daily Hope offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line.
The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join online church services during the period of restrictions in mind.
“With many in our country on lockdown, it’s important that we support those who are feeling lonely and isolated, whatever age they are.”Archbishop Justin Welby
Options available include materials also available digitally by the Church of England’s Communications team such as Prayer During the Day and Night Prayer updated daily, from Common Worship, and a recording of the Church of England weekly national online service.
A section called Hymn Line offers callers a small selection of hymns, updated daily. An option entitled ‘Hymns We Love’, provides a hymn and reflection and is based on an initiative by the Connections group.
If you know anywhere that you can display one of the posters for this free phone line, please download, print and display.
Latest news from Bishop Keith
As the global impact of the pandemic worsens whatever good news that comes from some sense that the strategy in the UK is working, we are now into the next phase of wondering if any relaxation of the lockdown is possible without putting still more people at risk.
That will present us with new challenges, especially if there is any possibility of our church buildings being opened again even for limited use any time soon.
A question of concern for me this week, is how we are going to be sustained, especially as I know a number of clergy are already exhausted, and there is clear anxiety around many people in our communities of the risks attached to any relaxation.
Do listen to Archdeacon Mike’s video on the Good Shepherd and what he says about Psalm 23 and rest.
In this letter, I would like us to think about rest and “sabbath”, the weekly moment for rest and renewal in order for work to be sustained in the other 6 days.
You might ask: “How in such a time as this, do you actually rest?”
Maybe you are surprised that in this time of so-called enforced rest, many are experiencing exhaustion! If you work from home, when do you stop working? If your work is actually running the home, including supervising the homeschooling of children, when do you actually rest? As one week of lockdown goes into another, we can forget what day of the week it is, and one day can be very much like any other!
But you might also be asking “rest”? How can you not rest if you cannot go out, visit, go to your place of work, or do anything that previously you would have been free to do? “I’m fed up with rest, give me back my work”. If that is you, I pray you will find “work” which will balance the enforced rest, and lead to a renewed fulfillment that will alleviate some of the frustration.
In the readings this week in Morning Prayer one was Exodus 20, the chapter of the Bible which includes the 10 commandments, including the 4th commandment about the sabbath day which is all about rest (assuming you are working the other six days, see Exodus 20: 8-11).
And this means for now a key part of what God designed for a good life to be enjoyed as a weekly rhythm of grace has virtually disappeared.
In Exodus, the 4th commandment stands there as a pivot, the very sabbath enabling us to look at our relationship with God and to check whether in our lives there are other Gods before him, any kind of idolatry or abuse of his name AND to check out our relationship with others, our parents, our spouse, our neighbours and see if there is any hatred, lying, stealing, or coveting going on.
The sabbath as originally given was like a weekly health check, not in a gym, but in the presence of God, and not in isolation but together.
So, how in this time, with this lockdown, do we have sabbath? How do we establish boundaries where there are no boundaries? And if you think “Well, chance would be a fine thing?”, maybe you are working all the hours in hospital or in a care home, or in an essential service, getting food to the supermarket, how can you experience any kind of rhythm of grace, which enables you to keep going, and get real good rest?
I think the answer to the question may be found in the asking of it.
What I mean is, if we realise that God intends our lives to have a balance of rest and work and ask him how we are to find that balance now, even in the asking we give God the space to answer.
And if that answer cannot include meeting in our special place of worship, then can we let him show us how those boundaries and spaces can be created in our own homes?
Maybe allowing a meeting around a table to include a space for prayer and hearing the Bible; maybe resolving to have one day or part of a day when the computer or the phone will be switched off; maybe if we are on our own agreeing with just one or two with whom we can relax to pray on a call together; maybe extending the walk to follow Jesus words about looking at the birds and the flowers.
Isaiah spoke about remembering God’s promise “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt, you shall raise up the foundations of many generations: you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in” (Is 58:12). A great text if we are anywhere near coming out of lockdown. The key to receiving this promise is in the next verse:
“If you call the sabbath a delight …. Then you shall take delight in the Lord and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth” (Is 58:13,14)
There are simple things we can do. We can pray at 8.00pm on a Sunday night and light a candle in the window. We can go outside at 8.00pm each Thursday to say thank you to those in the NHS, I have found this simple act to be such a blessing to me!
The lockdown may be relaxed it may not. We do not know for how long this will go on. We will continue to pray for the world and the leaders of the world. We will remember that whatever we are enduring, our brothers and sisters in places where there is no NHS, no work, no self- isolation are suffering and also need us to keep going.
In whatever way our work is continuing and with whatever new work we are being asked to engage, may we find ways to experience on our own and together rhythms of grace which allow the Lord to give us rest and be restored so that however we work, we can, in his promise, be those who rebuild and restore.
With love in Christ
Archdeacon Mike Gilbertson has produced a short reflection on John and Psalm 23, reminding us of God’s presence in these times and the truth that underlines the Christian faith….
A Closing Prayer
We’ll conclude this post with a beautiful prayer which speaks of hope in the light of God:
Per Pacem Ad Lucem
I do not ask, O Lord, that life may be
A pleasant road;
I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me
Aught of its load;
I do not ask that flowers should always spring
Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
Of things too sweet.
For one thing only, Lord, dear Lord, I plead,
Lead me aright –
Though strength should falter, and though heart
should bleed –
Through Peace to Light.
I do not ask, O Lord, that thou shouldst shed
Full radience here;
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
Without a fear.
I do not ask my cross to understand,
My way to see;
Better in darkness just to feel Thy hand
Anf follow Thee.
Joy is like restless day; but peace divine
Like quiet night:
Lead me, O Lord, – till perfect Day shall shine,
Through Peace to Light.
Adelaide Anne Procter (1825-64)