‘O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works’. Psalm 105:1-2
It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord for all his goodness to us. We will give thanks now with each other in the community of Christ Jesus for: Gifts of healing and compassion. Gifts of the power of love and the love of God: when life seemed to have turned on us and we have dreaded the hours of each day, and the longer hours of the night. For the ability to survive; patience in the healing process; joy in prayers being listened to. We direct our thanks to you, our God, the source of all things, the God who has given us life, the Son who has shown us love, the Spirit renewing us each day. Glory to the Three in One, that our dear brother in Christ, Andrew, is now safely home.
It is also my prayer that this edition will find you well, in what seems to be journeying towards a light at the end of the tunnel. During the lockdown, I have found reflections from Emma Pavey, of the Susanna Wesley Foundation, very helpful and have shared many of them in my pastoral letters with you, in particular her ‘fruit of the lockdown”. In the wake of the easing of the lockdown, with associated confusions and anxiety, she reflects on this time of pandemic uncertainty and what we might learn for ourselves.
She writes that when the pandemic lockdown began, it felt like a temporary time of ‘anti-structure’ when practices and routines were disrupted, and an unpredictable virus wandered our streets along with other animals. Workers often neglected were recognised as vital, and we all took gulps of fresher air together. We knew everything would be turned upside down for three months, but then, when it was over, we would go back to normal life. We would be left with the tragedy of death and the immense challenge for those on the front lines, but also with the lockdown bucket list of things we did during this liminal time that were unlike us, whether shaving our head, actually talking to our neighbours, bunny hopping around the living room with Joe Wicks, or simply working in our pyjamas all day. How many of these activities were our attempt to turn chaotic anti-structure into something we controlled, asks Emma?
In the upheaval of the mix messages of the easing of the lockdown, Emma continues that what we face now is that this period of time-bound ‘anti-structure’ is bleeding into structure. The ending of what was supposed to be a temporary measure is not clear cut and we have had enough, preferring a return to ‘normal’, but uncertain about every step of what comes next. We are being asked to rethink almost every aspect of our lives on a long-term basis, to make new structure, a new order from chaos.
So how can we possibly talk about flourishing (as disciples) when we are focused on surviving and getting through the pandemic?
Uncertainty, she writes, is a feature both of our faith and our life at all times – whether in terms of not knowing what the future will bring, or in terms of the beliefs and practices we usually hold dear. So, a part of flourishing, especially now, is what we do with the uncertainty we face. Christian religious tradition, she notes, has often tried to wrangle uncertainty to the ground, boxing it into dogma and control. Some theologies declare – with certainty – that God has a predetermined sovereign plan, which means that uncertainty is simply our unfamiliarity or inability to commit to said dogma.
Uncertainty, she concludes, sits hand in hand with patience and trust and serves as the balance to control, as the counterweight to faith.
So, as we look towards some semblance of returning to reopening our church buildings with some uncertainty, Emma asks “could we try placing all worries about uncertainty into a scapegoat sunflower seed, plant it and watch it grow?” This is the question.
In the meantime, lest we:
Be not lax in celebrating.
Be not lazy in the festive service of God.
Be ablaze with enthusiasm.
Let us be an alive,
burning offering before the altar of God.
(Hildegard of Bingen)
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress, that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time…
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that His hand is leading us, and accept the anxiety of feeling ourselves in suspense and incomplete. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
May the real peace of Christ continue to bless and keep you.
Abe, your minister!