I was very encouraged and touched by the Rule of Life evening on Thursday. Nicola asked those present to reflect on how much their life had changed between 5 weeks into lockdown (when the first Rule of Life evening happened) and now, 13 weeks on. Several people said how much they have valued the many ways St John's has tried to be here for you - through these emails, the coffee morning, morning prayer, the pub, phone calls... I am very thankful that our ways of staying in touch have been helpful.
It has never been more clear to me that Christianity is, at heart, a faith of companionship. The root meaning of 'companion' is 'breaking bread with' (con = with, pane = bread) - and although we have been unable to break bread physically, we have shared the sacrament virtually. I am glad we have been able to offer and receive love and care from one another. Do, please, let me know if you are aware of anyone who needs support - or if you would like any particular thing from St John's which we are not providing.
BUT tomorrow, if you're not too far from the church, you can come and join us in the flesh! After church you are invited to bring a picnic to the churchyard any time from 12.30. Bring your own food and a rug. It won't be a bring and share, because of the risk of cross-infection, but we will gather in groups of up to 6 and generally be companions. The weather forecast is for 'intermittent cloud' so we should be OK. If it pours with rain we can take refuge, socially distanced, in church.
Our preacher tomorrow is Wally Pisarski, Tatiana's father. Looking forward very much to hearing Wally, speaking to us from Augsburg in Germany.
Mark is working on the Quiz Night. Technical difficulties may mean that we defer from Wednesday but we will let you know as soon as the date is fixed.
I am very conscious that as a church we have an incredibly important role of speaking alongside those who are on the edge or vulnerable in other ways. The Black Lives Matter section of the Waterloo Festival website is excellent. But there are other calls on us to speak. How do we respond to the challenges facing society? How do we help hold government to account, on urgent challenges such as climate change and also on their decisions, like the detrimental rolling up of DfID into the Foreign Office? How do we ensure the NHS continues to serve all, at the point of need? St John's is currently revising our Vision and Values and I am hoping that, as part of that process, we can look again at how we speak and how we are heard, and how we act... Your thoughts would be very welcome.
Finally, I am going to share this poem, which has been much in my mind this week, as I seek to undergird everything I do with prayer. I love all the images George Herbert creates to try to explain what prayer is... and then, in the end, he just says 'something understood.' Understood in the fullest sense.. standing under... holding... supporting...
BY GEORGE HERBERT
Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.
With my love, as ever,