Just in case we were confused, being forced to stay in our homes is not some helpful folk have told us "a holiday". Those of us worried about parents we can not get to, friends who may struggle, or children who need to be taught as well as entertained probably knew that already. But for some the need to remind us that at no point should we enjoy ourselves whilst being cooped up was to strong to ignore.
They might well approve of the Preacher who was asked to talk about joy and came up with "when you think of all God has done for us miserable sinners, is it not a wee bit small minded not to be joyful!" Personaly I prefer Leonard Cohen's quote on the subject “It’s been a long time,” Cohen said on playing Vancouver. “Maybe 15 years. I was 60 years old then: just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then, I’ve taken a lot of Prozac, Effexor, Ritalin, Wellbutrin … I also plunged into a rigorous study of religion and philosophy … but cheerfulness kept breaking through.”
There will be moments in the weeks to come of happiness and laughter which will help us get through, and when they come, enjoy them. The people who tell us we are not on holiday are not wrong (unless stating the obvious is a sin) but the Christian tradition allows for a different way of making sense of this time. Christians and many others have gone on retreat, a time of stepping away from the world in order to return to it with greater resources and wisdom.
For those looking after small children you may well wonder if I'm taking the mickey, but there will be moments of silence and stillness, a chance to pray and reflect which have some of the characteristics of a retreat. In the Christian tradition, retreats hark back to the desert Fathers and mothers, the mystics who went into the desert to fight their demons. Those of us who have to fight to hold onto our mental health and well being may relate to that sense of conflict.
I am looking at these next few weeks as a time in which I need to look out for the needs of others, when there will be moments of happiness and laughter as well as silence and prayer. We will have demons of anxiety and perhaps grief to contend with, none of them have to be faced alone. God accompanies us into the silence.
My guitar is staring at me. I have owned several over the years, and each one has failed to overcome my own inherent lack of musicality, and yet it is staring at me, accusingly asking when I will ever finally learn to play it.
I have no excuse now, we are socially isolating, have lots of time on our hands and surely now is the time to finally study those things we are putting off. Some of us are not so lucky, the crisis means childcare without distraction, or playdates, or many of the things that make being a parent fun. Hang in there, you are in my prayers. But for those who are stuck at home this is a great time to study. Our website has links to bible study, prayer, spirituality and poetry, chosen not because it is correct or safe, but because it is interesting and stimulating, have a look by pressing the button.
I hope some of this passes the time, we will look at creating or curating resources for children next. Good luck, God bless and stay safe.
One of the things that is of great concern to Christian thinkers and writers about our lives today is the denial of death. This is borne out everywhere we look in the media: we are constantly being assaulted with the need to keep young, to keep looking good, to keep fit, to be happy and healthy. Nowhere are we reminded that we do not live forever, no matter how hard we may try to disguise or deny the inevitable passage of time.
This is really all about fear; and fear is something we are experiencing in greater measure in these troubled times as we are told to expect the worst, to lose loved ones, to lock down and isolate ourselves. Fear is something that hits us harder when we lack faith and trust, and when we forget the fact that, however hard we may try to deny it, life is a journey through the valley of the shadow of death and death is never really far from us.
God assures us, though, that death is not the end; that He is with us, and above all, that He holds us securely in His infinite and perfect love.
And, as St John tells us, perfect love casts out fear. We need only put our trust in God to put our lives in His hands, to have our doubt and fear lifted, to be strengthened and refreshed, to be blessed with love, joy and peace.
As we journey on through the daunting days ahead, let us put our trust in that perfect love and be confident that we will be empowered to journey through all adversity together.
Rev Tracy Williams (Curate)
You maybe someone who is used to praying every day, it maybe an activity you have not given much thought to, but in the weeks ahead I do suggest you give it a try. When I was at school we were told to put our hands together and close our eyes, largely in order to ensure we were not distracted, though I found holding my hands in a funny way and being surrounded by people while we all kept our eyes shut distracting as well!
There are lots of ways of praying, you can try just talking to God, saying what's on your mind. I find it helpful to remember all the people I care about especially at the moment when I can not be physically with them.
You can use words that have been used by many people over hundreds of years, you may know the Lord's prayer:
Who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil
for thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
forever and ever Amen.
I like arrow prayers, short and succinct, someone's situation comes to mind and you just pray God, keep them safe. You can read bits of the bible, the Church of England includes short readings in its prayer during the day webpage, or you may want to use their whole prayer service that incorporates the psalms and other poems called canticles. There is something reassuring about praying with others, using prayers that are ancient (even if they are written in modern English), finally you can try being quiet and still and just listening. Which takes me back to where we started, hands together and eyes shut.
When I was a young man the miner's strike was on the news every evening. I had not come from a working class background, no one in my family had been in a union and I had the most limited understanding of what went on in a strike. It became clear to me that this strike was about a whole community engaged in trying to save the jobs they relied on. Years later I watched Billy Elliot the musical with the amazing song solidarity forever.
Now I understand what it feels like for a whole community to struggle together, to share fears and anxieties, to try and support one another and make sure we all know that we have each others backs. We do not know how long this period of self isolation and social distancing will last. We do know that to get through it we need to care for each other and support each other, in the words of Billy Elliot, Solidarity forever!
The suspension of public worship means we wont have the joy of children sharing bunches of daffodils on Sunday as we celebrate Mothering Sunday or Mother's day as it is less formally known. A handful of Daffs may seem a small way to say thank you to those who love and nurture us, but it is an important one none the less. I will miss it.
So Firstly, thanks Mum, my mum obviously but also yours too. Thank you to all the Mums who we wanted to give Daffs to on Sunday. Thank you those who struggle, those who are exhausted, those who love us.
Church is a great place to say thank you, its also a lovely place to come into and feel you belong, it can be a community that supports and encourages you, and one that helps you lift up your eyes to the God who loves you. This Sunday it was going to be a place that said thank you, but sadly we can not this year. So please know that we pray for you, love you, and most of all want to say thank you.
This Sunday there were less of us in Church than usual, and we had extra precautions that we took as part of our corona virus contingency plan. It strikes me that some of may catch the virus, maybe none of us will but we are living with the anxiety of being in a situation that feels dangerous and has so many unknowns. Panic buying maybe illogical, but gives us somewhere to put those panicky feelings.
This will come to an end eventually, we are going to be all right. We need to keep safe and we also need to look out for one another. It may feel overwhelming and you may need to talk about those feelings, but this is a crisis and they do come to an end. Difficult days are not forever. Someone more intelligent and poetic than me put it this way; "Sometimes it snows as late as May but summer always comes". God bless, be safe, you are not alone.
I spent a Saturday morning explaining the idea's behind Recovery Friendly Church to a group in Sherringham, where I quickly realised that most people in the room had professional experience, or expertise gained through a lived experience. The comment about learning from each other was particularly true. What struck me was the skills and insights in the room along with what people were already doing. Recovery Friendly Church is very much about why the stuff we already do is so important. The ways in which we recognise people and give them a space. The way we hold hope and walk alongside each other, without being the expert, but more often simply offering non judgmental friendship. We empower people all the time without giving it a second thought. We get all of this stuff right far more often than we get it wrong, and yet often lack confidence in working with those who manage their own mental health situations. I do not mean to underestimate the damage of insensitive or ignorant comments that can be made in Church just as much as anywhere else, yet the picture I see is of lot's of Churches doing brilliantly, instinctively nurturing recovery and being communities in which people find healing. Be confident in what you do, and the gifts you have.
St Matthew's Thorpe Hamlet is home to some amazing, tragic and inspiring history. If you enter the parish across Bishop's Bridge you follow the footsteps of the Martyrs, Lollards and early reformers executed at Lollard's Pit. From the Lollards Pit you can look up the hill to Kett's heights where you will see a beacon. Here the Kett brothers led a rebellion n that took over Norwich. It was triggered by the rich trying to fence common land for their sheep to graze on. Robert Kett made a list of demands and one intrigues me:
"We pray thatt all bonde men may be made ffre for God made all ffre w' his precious blode shedding".
In the Twentieth century Liberation theologians were coming to similar conclusions, but in Norwich a Yoeman farmer was making the connection between the death of Christ and Gods concern for the poor way back in 1549. He was doing what good theologians always do, he was making sense of the Gospel in his own context. He was arguing in opposition to what the Church was teaching and he was right.
You can stop in at Lollards Pit, which is now a Gay Pub, one group who have been persecuted and victimised by the Church look after the ashes of another, and perhaps ask yourself what does it mean here in this context to pray that all may be free for God made all free with his precious blood shedding.