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.
I know a lot of people who used to go to church regularly at times in their lives but now see no need of it. They have, like myself in the past, for one reason or another got out of the habit of attending Sunday services. However, they would still call themselves Christian, or at least have an orientation for their lives that has some place for the spiritual clothed in the language of God and Jesus. As I think about this I ask, why go to church on a Sunday? What is it that it provides for the human psyche, what good does it do? There are so may answers from a religious perspective.... We go to church to worship God: but does God really require our worship at a set time on a Sunday morning when many people I meet say that they are closer to God on the Duver! We go to church to learn about our faith: but after years of church attendance have you not 'heard it all' many times over!! We go to church to gather with other Christians in fellowship; but when many of us leave family at home on the one day of the week when we could be together in order to get to church somehow this fellowship is diminished.
Sometimes I feel that it is my 'Job' to encourage people to come to church, and sometimes I am a lot wiser than that! But reflecting on things today as I walk with the Haven Pilgrims round Seaview in the pouring rain and sit steaming in Lilys Cafe, I have an answer for this time....
Why go to church on a Sunday? Because you are worth it!!! Because the Sunday service is a space cleaved out of the rushing of the world for you to be still. Because as the service flows over and around us, slowing us down, little pockets of silence open where our true selves can find nourishment. Come to church because it is a hard thing to do, come to church because it is an antidote to shopping. Come because the rituals of the week are what help us to be human.
Yes, you can come for the welcome, for you are welcome and do come for the preaching, for you may be surprised. But mostly why not come to give yourself a moment when your worries are not centre stage, where your trials of life find perspective and where God is the focus for this precious hour in the week. Come to say thank you, to pray and to be fed. Come again; you may, like I was, be really surprised how much you have missed it.
In June 2017, when the Phoenix Choir came and performed in St Helen’s Church, we launched our Tricentenary Appeal. Our aim was to raise over £89,500 for the installation of a toilet, a kitchen facility, exterior lighting from the church to the car park and lychgate, and to improve disabled access to the church.
We have held many events, concerts, a flower festival, and we have asked many organisations for grants. As things stand today, we have reached the staggering sum of £85,000!!!
So …………… with only £4,500 left to reach our target I feel sure that work will definitely commence, and hopefully be completed, this year!
We just wanted to say a very big THANK YOU to everyone in the community who has supported us through this time. We really couldn’t have got this far without you. Watch this space for further updates and look out for the building work commencing (hopefully) very soon!
First a question: Which countries do you think receive more blood donations, those who pay you to donate it or those who don't? The answer is, those who don't pay. In this fascinating statistic lies a vitally important fact of human nature that economists, behaviourists and our present commodity-driven consumerist culture all ignore. That deep in our root and bones, we are better motivated by generosity than greed and we are intrinsically altruistic.
The following story is told (in his own context) by Yanis Varoufakis in his economics book 'Talking To My Daughter About The Economy', which I got for Christmas in an attempt to become more aware of the economic world we live in and how we got here.
"The early evening sun is beautifully setting and a father and his daughter are sailing their mermaid in to the shore, they are coming to meet friends and have a picnic on the beach and during the meal one of the young cousins makes them all laugh with his crazy humour. During the meal a boat gets caught around another's anchor and the single elderly gentleman calls out for help from the sea, the young daughter fit and courageous dives into the sea and swims out to help him."
Yanis explains this story by talking about how we can all see the 'good' things in it: the sunset, the friends, the humour and the selfless help of a stranger - the putting ourselves out for others. He then asks us to imagine these things as 'commodities' like humour which becomes the job of the professional comedian and imagine if the gentleman in the boat had shouted out,' I need help, I have £10 here for anyone who will swim out and help', a selfless act becomes a transaction for payment.
In our present culture we may have forgotten the difference between 'goods' and 'commodities', we may even have lives that are much more about financial transactions than they really should be for our wellbeing. However it is actually obvious to us, if we stop and think, that sunsets, friends and neighbours to care for are the real 'goods' in our lives. In church services we might call this 'love of God and love of neighbour' and they are the vital commandmenfs for a life lived in all its fullness according to Jesus. The lessons taught by the Way of Jesus in all He says and does are that we should live in the good and only rarely in commodities - giving them unto Caesar what is Caesar's.
So, at this start of a new year, think of all the things that you do 'for nothing' the things that cannot be priced. The hours that can't be logged like raising children, passing of skills in sport or clubs, volunteering, making things, acting, dancing, gardening, sharing food, walking, playing ... and give them the value they truly deserve, for they make a 'good' life, anc they are PRICELESS.