Welcome to the latest issue of our church newsletter. Hope that you are all continuing to keep well and stay safe. This newsletter is one of our ways of trying to maintain contact and a sense of community during this time when we cannot meet together as a church family. You can find previous issues of the newsletter here. We would love to hear from you and are always looking for uplifting and encouraging content to share in future issues of this newsletter. If you have any ideas or content that we can share, please do email them to Louise (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We start with our opening prayer:
Lord, we bring ourselves to you, just as we are.
Help us to see your love, shining through us.
Help us to have a child-like eagerness to know you more, and share your love in the world.
May we live as your children: gentle, and lowly in heart.
In Jesus’ name we pray.
(Taken from the Vine at Home)
Reflections on the pandemic
What a strange few weeks we’ve had ! Who would have imagined at the start of 2020 that our church building would be completely shut down? Unprecedented times for sure.
Of course there have been outbreaks of disease before this, among people and animals. Among my collection of local items I have a pamphlet entitled “The Cattle Plague”. It is a sermon preached in St. Margaret’s church here in Uxbridge in 1866 by the vicar, the Rev Charles Price. There had been an outbreak of rinderpest among the cows, and all the animals affected had to be put down. Uxbridge was then a market town, in the centre of a rural area dotted with farms, so the outbreak was a very serious matter.
But it’s the vicar’s conclusion that I want to quote. “The disease has been sent upon our nation by God, to rebuke and chasten the population. Our people are being punished and disciplined, so reform and repentance are called for.”
I have not heard anyone expressing views like that recently, but is there anything in the idea? Are we being punished and disciplined?
It is an opinion we can robustly reject. We Christians, trying to understand God, have been sent someone 2000 years ago to reveal His nature. Jesus went about healing the sick and curing all manner of disease. God does not wish people to be unwell and suffer. Our God is not fiendishly rubbing his hands in glee saying “I’ll make them suffer. I’ll make them pay.” The Victorian vicar was propounding unchristian ideas.
Nevertheless can we draw any helpful conclusions from our present situation? We have certainly been given a pause from our usual daily existence, to reflect on our lives and the way that we have been living. I offer some thoughts.
1. The health of our bodies
We have been reminded of the stupidity of smoking, the threat from alcohol, the danger of obesity, the necessity for hygiene, especially washing our hands, and the value of exercise – walking and cycling.
To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit”. Our bodies are the outer casing in which we live while here on earth. We must look after them; they contain something divine.
For none can guess His grace
‘til he become the place
Wherein the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling.
2. The importance of mental health
More people are experiencing problems these days. I’m no expert on this, but would make these comments.
People seem happy to keep their bodies clean, but do not seem to care what enters their minds. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise – things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely and honourable.”
It’s also true that the world is not as bad as the media would have us believe. The news we get is selected, and most of it is bad news. An exception has been the story of Tom Moore, the centenarian gamely walking in his garden in aid of the NHS. It was like a beacon of light in otherwise utter gloom. Many, many good things never reach the bulletins, and there is cause for optimism. One of the pillars of Christianity is HOPE. Positive thinking is vital for our mental health.
3. The importance of creative activity
During the lockdown many people have had the time to attempt new hobbies and interests – art, cookery, writing, needlework among them.
The Bible suggests that we are made in the image of God, but what does that mean? I suggest it means that the great Creator has given us the ability to create – to make shape, invent, form. Creative activities are the most pleasing and satisfying. To write a poem, use a recipe, paint a picture, tidy a garden, play a musical instrument. Even putting in the last piece of a jigsaw is satisfying. Human beings are at their best when being creative, and this pandemic has been a blessing to many.
4. The environment and global warming
This crisis has made us ask again what we are doing to our planet. In recent weeks the air we breathe has been cleaner and purer than usual. Travelling less, working from home, and video meetings have helped to give better air quality. The realm of nature has flourished. We have been watching a pair of robins nesting in a shrub close to our kitchen window. That’s never happened before. It’s all good news, and some of it will remain.
The book of Genesis tells us that God has given us dominion over all other creatures. In other words, in the evolutionary process we humans have come out top. We run the world; we’re in charge. So it’s up to us to save the environment, and only world-wide co-operation will do that.
5. Other People
Isolation has made us think about our relations with others – family, friends, colleagues, neighbours. We have missed seeing them and touching them. Perhaps we value these things more now.
We live in a cul-de-sac of twelve houses. On the anniversary of VE Day we sat in a circle in the road, and shared light refreshments. I got to know people who had been living here for years, but we had hardly spoken. Like others we have felt a new sense of community, which was not there before.
6. How God works in this world.
I suggested earlier that the Victorian vicar got it wrong. God is not a fiend, but a heavenly Father. Our God is a god of surprises. A poem by George Macdonald contains these words:
My fancied ways why should’st Thou heed.
Thou com’st down thine own secret stair.
Com’st down to answer all my need,
Yea, every bygone prayer.
Our God does not lean out of the sky and intervene. His ways are more subtle. He possesses a secret staircase through which he enters our lives. He is the unseen spirit, who silently enters our minds and consciences, planting the seeds of love and compassion. Good ideas, noble intentions, thoughts of understanding, sympathy, justice, peace. The Eternal Spirit prompts, guides, persuades.
God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain.
Our prayer is that this pandemic will soon be over, and the death toll will continue to fall. Things are already getting back to normal, perhaps slower than we would like. Perhaps we shall be a little better and wiser than we were. Meanwhile let us move together with faith, hope and love. We will meet again.
Our readings for this week:
Matthew 10:40-42 (NIV)
40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Further readings from the lectionary this week are as follows:
- Genesis 22: 1-14
- Psalm 13
- Romans 6: 12-23
We are now live-streaming services via Facebook each Sunday at 11am. You can find our services here. You do not have to be a Facebook user to watch this – our services are publicly viewable. This week’s service will be a communion service led by Rev’d John Mackerness so please have bread and wine (or equivalent) available if you would like to join in with our communion.
We will be meeting via Zoom immediately after the service for a virtual ‘coffee and chat’. The link for this will be shared in the comments on Facebook during the service.
Day by day we go along
Sing they say the same old song
Think our world will never change
Then it does
Shock when the tsunami hits
Wonder now where our life fits
Need to shift, to re-arrange
Calm our minds
Must sit back and just take stock
Move from sand to firmer rock
E’en though the road ahead is strange
Clear the mist
Life goes on we must be bold
Let the next chapter on unfold
Stay calm not let our minds derange
See way through
From the Circuit Life Newsletter
The current Covid-19 crisis has disrupted our world in most unimaginable ways. I sometimes feel like we are living in a film. There is so much suffering and difficulty. However, amidst all the pain and upheaval, positive stories are starting to emerge; the cut in pollution, the improvement of our air quality and the rise once again of the community spirit. Like all other parts of our normal life, the church has had to find very different ways of doing things.
One of the questions I have been asking is how much of what we do as a church dependent on our buildings. Have we become too attached to them? We need a building of some description and lettings are really useful for supporting the church income but have we become too reliant on our buildings at the detriment of other things? One of the most heart-warming things I have seen across the circuit in recent times is the fact that people are helping each other out and looking out for one another much more than previously. It led me to thinking that our fellowships bonds are strong and how the church is the people and not the building.
Property is only one area of church life, but if we look at the fellowship bonds that are being developed, enriched or deepened and then move on from there will we start to see a new church emerging?
In other words how can we reform the church around fellowships groups that draw people together and point them in the direction of Christ?
After the coming of the Holy Spirit at the first Pentecost as recorded in the book of Acts, the early church thrived on dynamism imbued by the Holy Spirit and this new sense of fellowship that everyone experienced. Is this the model that we want for the church moving forwards?
We now have an amazing opportunity to re-imagine the church in new and exciting ways and perhaps capture some of the early dynamics that helped found Methodism in the first place – let’s not miss this great opportunity.
This summer, may you and those you love and pray for stay safe,
In Christ’s Name,
Superintendent Minister, Harrow & Hillingdon Circuit
Praying for other churches
This week we hold the following churches in our prayers:
- Eastcote Methodist Church
- The URC at Eastcote and Northwood Hills
Creator of the universe,
Lord of all time and space,
You are present in this place, in this moment.
We go into the days ahead, seeking to encounter more of you, our God.
(Written by Tim Baker, taken from The VIne at Home)