I hope that you are all bearing up and finding the riches possible in this exceptional time. I know that some of you are isolated while some are very busy as front line and essential workers and some of you like me will be finding that life has slowed down to a strange new rhythm.
I am sending this out to remind you that on line through subscribing to The Haven Eco-Church Blog (which is free and secure and means that you will get the emails I send out) you can stay connected to some of the things that help us to recognize the depth of our human condition, our worth beyond the labels of the world and our true meaning below our fanatic activity.
I have recently added a lovely booklet for praying outdoors, a Passover meal order of service and a beautiful Tenebrae reflection created by the team in Ventnor.
On Good Friday you will see crosses in St Mary's Community Garden and outside the community center in St Helens and there will be baskets of palm crosses there for you to take one if you wish. On Easter Sunday the crosses can be covered in flowers if you are passing and wish to add a contribution from your garden. You will also see in St Peter's Garden on Sunday morning beautiful pots of Flowers that were grown for us by Nettlestone school nursery children whom I had the pleasure of sharing the Easter story with...... And remember that the Labyrinth in St Helen's Graveyard is always there for you should you need time to reflect on how this pandemic has created new pathways in your life (I will put up the leaflet for walking this on the Eco-Church Blog on Saturday. The information conatined within this leaflet can also be accessed here on this website. On Sunday morning your ministers will ring the bells in the churches for 10 minutes at 10am... this is not a call to worship but a call of rejoicing.
You are all now well used to the rules on Social distancing and staying at home and walking in your local environment.... Please respect those at all times. Also along side this know that you have Spiritual needs and longings and in this time of huge transition recognize that ritual is important for calming the mind. Take time, enjoy our churches' outside spaces and stay well mentally and physically.
“Life is full of ups and downs, sometimes we smile, sometimes we frown….” Lines from a song I sang in my youth dressed up as a frog !!!! But oh so true. At the beginning of Lent when I told Astrid I would be giving up chocolate he responded … “ I am going to give up two things this year..”
“Oh yes ?” I asked, to be told “school and church!” But, as Oscar Wilde said “Be careful what you wish” It was initially good news when both were closed but two weeks in I suspect the novelty is beginning to wear off … !
Those early disciples who had spent three years with Jesus through all the ups and downs of his earthly ministry certainly knew this to be true – the baptism of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000, the people he healed or even raised from the dead….there were plenty of highs. But, let’s not forget the lows …. the constant fault finding of the religious authorities, the disciples’ failure to understand so much of his teaching, the failure of the disciples to really trust him …. And that is before we begin Holy Week when his closest disciples fell asleep when he needed them most, denied they ever knew him, ran away and betrayed him. And even Palm Sunday itself follows this same pattern. We have the exciting story of Jesus entering Jerusalem to the cheers of the crowds, hailed as a king and Messiah; branches and cloaks strewn on the road and a real sense of excitement and joy in His wake. Every year as I worship on Palm Sunday I just get into the thrill and excitement of worship with the words Hosanna, hosanna……when I am plunged into the depths of misery in the reading of the Passion story and those dreadful events of Holy week. The ups and downs of just one day become so real. Yes the triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem was to end just 5 days later with his leaving under the weight of that brutal and cruel cross, and for those first disciples the end of their Lord and Master. Can we begin to imagine what it must have been like for them?
They must have been in something of the confusion, turmoil and anxiety that we are feeling in these strange times of Spring 2020. Easter day will be very different for us this year and Alleluias may be in short supply but we KNOW the end of the story, which gives us hope for the future. And the biggest up of all in our Christian Faith – I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES
Prayer for Palm Sunday 2020.
Jesus said “ in as much as you do it for one of these the least of my brothers, you do it for me……”
And so in these troubled and confused days we remember all those who are working to keep things going:
Those working in the NHS and those around it helping to keep things working,
those keeping our streets clean and collecting our rubbish,
those harvesting, delivering and seling the food in our shops,
those keeping us secure and our utilities functioning,
those looking after the children of key workers,
those helping to care for the elderly and vulnerable,
clergy of all faiths and religions seeking to minister in difficult times….
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures! Thanks to all the hard work of Paul, Mary and Sue ... and of course all our lovely contributors we have produced the latest version of Parish News for Seaview, St Helens & Nettlestone in record time. It can be accessed online here and the paper version is ready to go out today (Friday). Because many of our volunteer deliverers are unable to do it this time, much to their dismay, we have enlisted the help of the newly formed groups of volunteers who are helping to keep our villages connected with deliveries of food and essentials.
We felt it was really important to get this magazine out as so many people are not online or are uncomfortable with using it. This edition is FREE and has all the information that people need to stay well and in touch though this really difficult time.
Everything is changing, we awake to a whole new world. Some of you who read this will be in isolation and will have been so for two weeks or more. Some of you will be laid off work or working from home and will be trying to sort your life around the concept of social distancing and for some it will be business as usual because you work in an ‘essential’ service.
This time has forced us all both personally and as a culture to examine what is truly essential. Suddenly bakers, fruit and veg pickers, shop workers in the food industry and delivery drivers are seen for what they are… as essential. We all now remember what is ESSENTIAL; food, clean water and a roof over our heads, they are, and always have been, the essentials of Life but they have been hidden by cheap abundance that has given us a false sense of security. We thought that empty shelves belonged to other countries and other times as for us the constant display of abundance in our supermarket shelves was a natural situation. It must be a good thing that we have woken from this illusion and are for a moment in solidarity with most of the world for which food is hard won and realise that it requires work and skill to produce. So, for some this is a time when we say a proper big THANK YOU to those who feed and water us and who keep us healthy.
However, for others there is a deep loss as they struggle with feeling that they are not essential. For many, many people who are over 70 or have underlying health conditions it appears that the world is saying, thank you for all that volunteering, the family support and skills that you bring to society but now we want you to STOP! It feels like there is a big sign saying ‘Non-Essential’ around some sections of the population and this is incredibly hard.
I am pleased for those who have been undermined with low wages and zero hours contracts that they are now being recognised for the essential services they provide, and I am sad for the elderly and vulnerable who feel their sense or worth slipping away, but in fact now may be the time for us challenge everything about the way that our society is structured and the value that people are given.
Imagine if we found our worth within ourselves; I might say in our identity as human beings created by God. Imagine if we knew our own worth, if we saw ourselves as essential to society for the specific gifts only we offer. Imagine an education system that gives equal value to the skills of the hands as those of the head and trained both our craftspeople and our academics of the future. Imagine respect across society as the vitality of youth learns from the wisdom of age. Imagine retaining this sense of thankfulness for other people and for the gifts of the earth.
I lady said to me today that she had gone to the shop and been so grateful that she could get a loaf of bread and she smiled as she said this knowing that the gratitude doubled the joyful experience of the gift of the bread.
So, know this, you are essential and so are your neighbours, we depend upon each other and knowing this is the gift of this time.