Today is St Cuthbert's Day. That popular Northern saint was famous for his care, his love and his ability to bring warring factions together (he was crucial in the linking of Celtic and Catholic spirituality in the 7th century). He is also famous for preaching to the seals; and he is said to have specifically protected the eider ducks who lived on his island off the Northumberland coast. He's a good saint to remember today. I went for a walk along the river last night: the riverbank was almost completely empty and the air smelt fresh and clean. There's an eerie quiet around and we learn that the Venice canals are cleaner than they have ever been. Our close and vulnerable connection with nature, in all its beauty and darkness, has never been clearer. How will the world change after all this is over? Will we be better at caring for the world of which we are so closely part?
I never thought I would be anxious about the pigeons in the churchyard... but they too have very little to eat now as there are no food scraps. I can't really give them the Vicarage home made bread though!
The picture at the top is by Titian: Noli Me Tangere- do not touch me. It is a picture of Jesus and Mary Magdalene in the garden after Jesus' resurrection. The story goes that at the beginning of the second world war, all the pictures in the National Gallery were taken to Wales for safe keeping. Shortly afterwards the people of London began to demand the return of their pictures for they were missing the art. It was agreed that only one could be brought back at a time, and the first picture which was chosen was this one.
It feels very appropriate for now. "Do not touch me" says Jesus: and how afraid we all are of touch. But he sends Mary to the other disciples, to tell them that she has seen the Lord, and out of that comes the Christian global community. So we are bonded by the love of God, for all people everywhere - and the reading set for today is this one from Mark 10:
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?" 29Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Sunday morning. We have set up a Zoom link for the 9 a.m. and 10.30 services which is here. You will be able to log in using the Zoom link, and join in the service from wherever you are. Lisa and I have tried it, and the system seems to work. The service sheet can be downloaded so you can have that with you. We are keeping close to the usual format because we know that well, but I am hoping we can be more interactive than usual. It will be interesting to see how it goes!
The Robes Project: We are continuing with the Robes project on Monday evening. I think Steve has enough volunteers but will let you know if we need more.
The Wednesday Foodbank: We are also keeping this open. Demand is very high for all kinds of food. However, most of our volunteers are over 70 and so they are not allowed to help, sadly. I need three volunteers who are under 70 who can come and help pack the food on Tuesday afternoon at 3.30, and then be there on Wednesday afternoon from 3pm to distribute. I have the relevant forms, and Rebekah Gibson who administers the Foodbank will be there on Tuesday to help and advise. Please could you let me know if you can help with this? There will be forms to fill in etc which I have. I am expecting a big response so please don't be offended if I don't get back to you at once.
Weekly Coffee Morning; Lisa has had the idea that we can all have coffee together virtually:
Connecting with Coffee Thursday 11am
While we're all being encouraged to keep our distance, it feels all the more important to connect with each other. So do join us for coffee and chat, every Thursday morning at 11.00. Bring a cup of coffee (other beverages are permitted!) and perhaps a biscuit. Join us via Zoom - a link will follow nearer the time.
Finally today, on prayer. The one thing we can all do, together and separately, is pray for the world; for all who are anxious; for doctors and nurses in the health service; for key workers; for government; for one another. So please do.
Here is a prayer which Ben Bailey has sent me:
Go peacefully in gentleness through the violence of these days.
Show tenderness in all your ways.
Through darkness, in troubled times let holiness be your aim.
Let faithfulness burn like a flame.
God speed you!
God lead you, and keep you wrapped around His heart! May you be known by love.
Speak truthfully in a world of greed and lies.
See everyone through heaven's eyes.
God hold you, enfold you, and keep you wrapped around His heart. May you be known by love.
With much love, as ever, and much prayer.