|Published on Mon, 23 Mar 2020 08:53|
Someone asked me yesterday: 'how are you feeling, really?' I had to think about the answer to that question. I realised, as I thought about it, that this situation is absolutely and fundamentally unlike anything I have ever experienced - and I suspect that is the case for many of us.
I feel a complete lack of clarity about the future. I am involved in several big projects - the renovation project for St John's, of course, and the work on climate change, and the House of Bishops' work on identity, sexuality and relationships (Living in Love and Faith). All three are up in the air now: the programmes which seemed so sure are sure no longer. And then, last night, we received an instruction from the Bishop of Southwark that all churches must close immediately, and so the heart of my work is taken away.
One day, things will get back to normal. But in the meantime, I have no option but to take every day as it comes. Each day is different: the news gets tougher. The ideas for dealing with the challenges increase but the options reduce. I am thrown back on my own resources, the resources of my community, friends and family, and on the undergirding of prayer and God's love which continues to surround me.
For now, all we can do is live day to day. So I am reminded of the words of Matthew's Gospel: chapter 6:
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?" For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God* and his* righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.
Easier said than done, I hear you reply. But there is, for me, an immediacy which I have never experienced and I am trying to live in the moment and to hold on to hope - because there is no alternative.
So, to practicalities.
The online services yesterday went very well! It was really good to see so many of you and to be able to interact. The 9 a.m. was an experiment, and we learnt from it... mute microphones, use the piano in church rather than the vicarage, and ask everyone to focus rather than making their breakfast... the feedback I had about the 10.30 service - its connectivity, the Holy Spirit - was really touching and I know Lisa was moved as she said the eucharistic prayer on behalf of everyone. Thank you! It was wonderful hearing your singing!
We are investigating other ways of streaming so that the sound of music might be better - but we want to keep the interactivity which means Facebook Live is not the best option. Will let you know if we can find another way. We will put some of the service online soon but in the meantime my sermon is below.
The church is, very sadly, now closed. Robes was planned for tonight and I understand that our guests will remain where they are for tonight and then be placed in hotels tomorrow. There is hope that they can be housed in hotels tonight. I will be saying Morning Prayer at 8.30, with Lisa, in church - isolated but together with you all. There will I hope be a eucharist at 1 pm tomorrow. The Foodbank must stay open and I will be speaking to Rebekah who runs it about how to make this happen.
BUT we have a new opportunity to gather! Every day there will an online Coffee Chat Prayer session at 11 a.m, on Zoom. The link is here: https://zoom.us/j/642072690. Join me and Lisa and anyone else who comes online, to chat, share ideas, listen to one another and pray. Today will be the first time. You're welcome!
Finally: two wonderful poems. The first by Wendell Berry, an environmentalist and farmer. Thank you Susan for this. And the second has been doing the rounds so you may have seen it already.
I am sure you are holding all doctors and nurses, and those who are keeping the emergency supplies going in your prayers. The updated parish prayer list for this week is here.
With my love, as ever, and prayers at this time.
The Peace of Wild Things - Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry, Openings, 1968
Yes, there is fear.
Yes, there is isolation.
Yes, there is panic buying.
Yes, there is sickness.
Yes, there is even death. But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again,
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
By Fr Richard Hendrick, Ireland