Beloved in Christ
I will admit to you that this week I have really felt a personal lockdown – a feeling of living in liminal space, suspended in a sticky solution, unable to move much except in the fluid surrounding me. I can sense you around me, even see you, acknowledge the odd item posted through the letterbox, but for you as family, the flow I started feeling before Christmas has become sluggish. I wonder if you share these feelings?
To this end, I am asking you to share with this group, any pictures you may be taking of the winter wonderland, of our family, your hearthside. Could you also share what you are reading, reflecting on? And, share your thoughts and perceptions. I would like to feel we are nourishing each other as family in Christ.
I have entered a virtual world, through Wassap and Zoom videos. Have you? How do you feel about that?
At the end of the week, I feel Zoomed out! Let me share:
1. ‘Join the conversation’ is doing so well, and there is an open and healthy exchange of ideas on the topics of ‘How God guides us? Here are the questions we shared, so that you can join the conversation, even though you did not see the video:
i. In what ways and how differently do you pray to God and or the Holy Spirit?
ii. Do you believe in the counsel of ‘other saints’ or even those who have passed before you?
iii. ‘God can shut doors as well as open them’ How?
iv. ‘God can use our mistakes’. Do you see this in your own life?
1. ‘CONNECTION’ on Wednesday evenings started us on a non-stop journey through MRK’S GOSPEL. We reached Chapter 5 verse 35. Would you like to join us by reading along with us each week?
2. CLERGY CONFERENCE. The Diocesan clergy had an 8 hour conference on Tuesday. Richard TIplady led the sessions, and we shared uplifting innovations, but also the harsh reality of our church in COVID, our people in LOCKDOWN and the trajectory of church in the world. I felt, at once, frustrated that our whole year of isolation with me not meeting some of you except over the wall; us anable to forge the benefit of personal contact; our churches by and large being empty; the lack of strategic planning, and the comfort of being together. Yet, buoyant because we HAVE kept going, wanting to join each other in worship, and even with the hindsight of wisdom in closing church after Christmas, thrilled that we are chatting and above all, have stayed healthy and safe, that our Zoom chats are happening, and we are linking with people in our villages as well.
3. I feel that the clergy, with two Zoom sessions a week, are also holding together, caring for each other, engaging in ongoing topics and experiences, and that our Bishop cares for us. To my great surprise, on Sunday evening, a hamper was delivered to my doorstep! To mine and all clergy! It was a thank you from the Bishop and an invitation to partake in a cocktail hour at 8pmWe gathered then, after a long day of information sharing, opened the hampers, had a quiz and a best pet competition, and laughed and unwound.
4. Let me ask you: how can we engage those of us who are not able to enter Zoom discussions? Shall we form a Wassap group as well? Shall we have a midweek coffee hour? (mid morning?)
5. LENT is coming up soon. What would you like us to do or share then? (We are all pretty sure that we will not be in church, but if we are, so much the better for Easter!) What requests/ideas do you have? What would you most like to share together? In this unprecedented time, let’s do something different!
6. Here is some interesting information on the Anglo-Catholic tradition from Bishop Ian:
‘For most people Epiphany means Twelfth Night, 6 January, the last day of Christmas, when the decorations go back in the box and the Christmas tree is taken down for another year. But for others, including me, Epiphany is not just one day but a Season that goes from the Feast of the Epiphany to the Feast of Candlemas, and the Crib stays in place and the tree lights keep shining until 2 February.’ Epiphany means ‘revealing,’ the revealing of Christ for all people, and the Season is the enactment of the journey of revealing that begins with the Magi following the star, continues with the baptism by John, continues with the calling of the disciples, and ends at Candlemas with the recognition in the Temple by Simeon and Anna. Epiphany is the continuing of the Christmas journey, a time to reflect on the meaning of these events, the Epiphanies that reveal who Jesus is. And as we make the Epiphany journey year after year, the revealing is different because we are different, the world is different.
Epiphany means ‘revealing,’ the revealing of Christ for all people, and the Season is the enactment of the journey of revealing that begins with the Magi following the star, continues with the baptism by John, continues with the calling of the disciples, and ends at Candlemas with the recognition in the Temple by Simeon and Anna. Epiphany is the continuing of the Christmas journey, a time to reflect on the meaning of these events, the Epiphanies that reveal who Jesus is. And as we make the Epiphany journey year after year, the revealing is different because we are different, the world is different.
The journey through Epiphany this year includes another journey, our continuing struggle with Coronavirus. Tragically, the journey has revealed inequalities and loss, and untold suffering. More than 100,000 in the UK have lost their lives, and more than 2 million worldwide. In Scotland, with a second period of Lockdown for most and ongoing restrictions for some, it is likely that greater restrictions may yet be needed. Vaccines and treatments are signs of journey’s end, but we still have some way to go. As this journey moves on, we have to keep on acting positively as churches. That does not mean exhausting ourselves (or our Clergy, Lay ministers and Vestry members) with anxious activism, even at a distance. It does mean attending to worship and witness in whatever ways are possible. Some strident voices have been heard demanding that the Government should allow churches to stay open for worship. Attending worship and attending to wellbeing are closely related, they argue, and rightly. But does that mean privileging places of worship over concert halls or sports grounds? All contribute to wellbeing, but all could potentially lead to transmission of the virus.’
Christmas and Epiphany celebrate the Incarnation, God with us as a human being among human beings. I think this means that the Church, the Body of Christ, is called to identify with the precautions demanded by Lockdown, not seek to stand above them. In this second Lockdown, as in the first, we have to offer witness and service to society by having to worship and minister in a different way.
We have gained much experience which gives us confidence for the task. We have learned that ‘Stay at Home’ need not mean ‘Stay away from Church.’ We have discovered how to do on-line and on-paper worship, and to try and include everyone.
The SEC has developed and continues to offer online Eucharistic worship at 11.00am on Sundays, available via www.scotland.anglican.org. A number of churches also offer local worship online, listed at www.scotland.anglican.org/broadcast-sunday-worship/online-worship-from-around-the- scottish-episcopal-church/. And many clergy or ministry teams have found that people really value receiving weekly readings, reflections, and prayers on paper, use them at home For personal prayer and devotion there are many resources available online, but I particularly recommend one which gives space for reflection and prayer based on a Scripture reading, and which I have been using every day. “Pray as You Go,” found at https://pray-as-you-go.org.
Much to consider and inspire here!
I see the neighbourhood is dark, lights down, but next year I would like to pick up on the Candlemass tradition, which is one that Christine Barker observes! Apart from that, I’d like our lights to go up in Church at the beginning of Advent, so that we are aware of the Light for our journey!
READINGS FOR SUNDAY ARE
Jonah 3:1-5, 10;
Psalm 62: 6-14
Mark 1: 14-20
Interestingly, the readings last week from John, and now from Mark, invite us into discipleship, a different way of living, and a clear focus on learning from and sharing the teachings of Jesus. As Paul says to the Corinthians, ‘the world as we know it is passing away’. I think we are forced to accept that things will not be the same, ever again. So let us look at the opportunities as they are revealed and pray for one another by name as we move along this timeframe.
Having shared with and prayed for each one of you, I feel more peaceful and ‘at home’.
God bless in all you do
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