In today’s Bible in One Year readings shared by Nicky Gumbel (yes, I’m doing that, yes, I’ve done it before, no, I’m not still working through it from 4yrs ago), I read Psalm 11.7 which speaks of seeing God. At this time, during lockdown with 3 kids at home, I am seeing my immediate family, and I’m seeing people via Zoom, but I’m not seeing many other people. So, how do I go about seeing God at this time? Well, for starters, this passage isn’t actually about meeting God face to face in the street, but is about how those who seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly (to quote one of my favourite passage in Micah) will see God’s face… It seems to be more about being in the presence of God for eternity- heaven, if you like, than being in the presence of God during a time of prayer and worship here. Now, I love worship and have been known to say a few prayers and want to encourage folks to have them as part of your life, but I think this verse is about our whole life… our seeking justice through our shopping choices- even online; about loving mercy- to ourselves and our households as well as colleagues and neighbours; and about walking humbly…whatever that means when we’re meant to be staying at home…
And in terms of seeing God now, is it about seeing His work- in the beauty of creation as shoots begin to work up through the soil, in the compassion of strangers as communities support foodbanks and those in need, in the faithfulness of workers who care for others to the very limits of their strength…
And sometimes, we realise that this isn’t about us- it’s not about what I see or perceive or notice or value. It’s about being seen by God- being faithful, merciful, humble, just and more in the privacy of my mind and the solitude of my screen.
Today, Lord, may I see you, and be seen by you. Help me to be upright, and when I stumble, lift me back onto my feet. Amen.
So, it’s been a while, internet people, since we’ve last been in touch… and a few things have happened in the interim…
On the big scene there’s been a few headlines- Lockdown ending (not quite sure exactly when but it definitely did), and then a second lockdown (not quite the same, but close enough), Church services with masks, worship outside, walkthrough community events… And alongside all of this the continued cases, hospital admissions and ‘excess deaths’- all of which we have to keep on remembering are real individuals rather than statistics: they are a granny, a cousin, a neighbour, a colleague.
Some of us are used to handling this sort of information- that is at one level ‘just a number’ but that also represents people’s lives, livelihoods and hopes. I used to frequent a website that posted the average atmospheric Carbon Dioxide levels, but found it just too depressing to watch the numbers tick over, always in the wrong direction… but the reality is that those numbers are always present, just in the background where we can’t see them. The Coronavirus pandemic has simply brought our attention to things that most of us were oblivious of- the ‘R number’ wasn’t invented this year, its just that most of us never knew how to describe the way that everyone in the office catches a cold from that guy who sneezed by the coffee machine.
Anyway, in other headlines on a more personal scale, during this strange summer I ended up having a job interview and made the transition from working in Devon to a new role in Hereford (for those who don’t know- Devon is on the sticky out bit at the bottom left of England, just before Cornwall, while Hereford is halfway between Manchester and Cardiff just on the English side of the border to Wales). I’m still working for the Church of England, but instead of leading a parish church I’m developing the city-centre ministry of the church amongst younger adults- starting something new in partnership with the existing church patterns. We’ve moved here as a family, so new schools for the kids and a new life for all of us. Mrs D and I are both learning our ways around the city (fortunately Hereford is a pretty small city so it’s not freaking us out too much) and will be working together a fair amount. Dog has also accompanied us, and she’s finding great joy in barking at squirrels instead of sea-gulls… she’s now planning to learn how to climb trees and given up on the flying idea for now, I believe.
We definitely felt the move was a God thing- from the way we found out about the post, to a number of smaller and large instances all the way through, which has really encouraged us- we’ve always said we want to be in the place where God wants to use us, and this feels right. Of course, that’s a pretty scary thing to be saying and may sound bonkers to many of you, in which case, just to be practical- there’s good job security, the schools are good, it made sense with the kids ages and the role looks interesting. But for us those are more ‘confirmation’ than the main things…
Having made the move, we’ve also had to leave behind many lovely friends and communities that we’d been with for many years- One advantage of the internet is we’re able to speak to and even see them quite easily, and we have plans to return on holiday next year if possible. We miss folk and familiar places, the beaches and the moors, but people have been really welcoming here and the hills are equally stunning and its very familiar really.
I’ll be posting things on the SPSJ (St Peter and St James) website and Facebook instead of JTB (St John the Baptist) from now on, but in many respects my online presence won’t change much- so I hope to continue connecting with folk in the future. I may be doing more Instagram/Facebook based stuff, so maybe make your way over there, but I hope to post links and talks to this blog when possible… My first talk for the mid-week service should be happening soonish.
Here’s the Newsletter for our churches for the week beginning Sunday 3rd May, which is the fourth Sunday of Easter. We’re sending it out via email, and even through the post to some people who don’t have access to the Internet at home. We’re so used to the idea of ‘going to church’ and now we’re finding ways that church can come to you.
Alleluia, Christ is risen: he is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Our usual Easter greeting, which we proclaim each Sunday between now and Pentecost, continues to be a statement of hope and a proclamation that the situation we face now is not the end, it is not even the main event, it is simply our current place and time. This is where we are, but it is not where we will remain. I have been struck this morning by a passage from Revelation 21:3, which says ‘I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ That is what we look ahead to- a time when our relationship with God is not partial or occasional, but permanent, fully realised, complete. The resurrection of Jesus which we celebrated last Sunday and continue to rejoice in casts its light forward all the way to today- and beyond us to the time when all the suffering will be finished and God’s kingdom will have come.
Last week we had a mix of events- during the week we recorded a Stations of the Cross service with 12 people from their homes, which we put onto Youtube and Facebook, then an online walk of witness in Bishop’s Tawton and reflections on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. On Easter Sunday we had family worship from our garden on Facebook and then Cathy led prayers and Bible reflections from her own home, as well as joining with the national ‘Sing Resurrection’ at 10am. The singing on the doorstep was great in our street and I hope you enjoyed it. It’s hard to gauge the level of engagement online, but well over a thousand people have watched the Easter videos and people are still viewing them this week. Excitingly we know for sure that people who don’t usually go to church are watching and appreciating this.
We’re developing a new pattern of weekly events, including livestreamed family worship on Facebook and recorded videos on Youtube, and are helping one another to access them- you can phone into a zoom meeting from your landline and watch Facebook videos without having an account. None of this beats seeing each other in person, and it’s been lovely to wave and chat to folk when out and about. We now also have 2 Bible study groups meeting on Zoom- if anyone is interested in joining those or coming to Cake Club just ask for the info. Do still read your Bibles and pray, and encourage one another over the phone. In this season you may wish to pick up an old devotional text or work through a book of the Bible- whether it’s Esther or Ephesians, find one you like and will be enriched by as a starting place. It may be helpful to read a portion of the Psalms each day or to sing a hymn or song too.
So, with every blessing, do stay safe and let’s keep in touch,
Andy, Cathy, Dave, Jo, Marilyn and Sandra, on behalf of the PCC’s.
"He brought me to his banquet hall and raised the banner of love over me. Restore my strength with raisins and refresh me with apples! I am weak from passion... His left hand is under my head and his right hand caresses me" - Song of Solomon 2:4-6