From the October Link
As I write I have been with three of our congregations as they meet again for the first time in such a long time, and by the time you read this perhaps all of our congregations will have met - and it will have felt strange and uncomfortable, full of rules that might seem unnecessary or pernickety. I hope that it will also have felt comforting and strengthening - for those of you who were able to attend - and that all those who are not able to attend may know that we remembered them in our prayers and we are not forgetting them as we strive to return to some sort of normality in our church life together. It has been a long 6 months, and there is a long 6 months ahead of us, so now is not the time to let go of all the very intentional pastoral care that has been going on within our fellowships and beyond our fellowships within our communities.
Every year at Christmas time I write a letter to my Grandchildren, a REAL letter with pen and paper, a letter that will not be given to them until they are much older, in which I share something of my memories of the year and the things that we have shared together. This Christmas, the letter will either be very long or very short - I can’t decide yet. But as I was thinking about it I thought of Paul and all the other letter writers whose epistles we have in the Bible, and I thought of the turbulent times that they were living through and the dangers and the conflicts. I thought of the way that those letters must have brought comfort and challenge and encouraged a sense of belonging and hope. May we, all in our speaking and our caring for each other, bring that comfort and challenge that sense of belonging and hope to each other as the months go by.
Every blessing Alison
From the November Link
November starts with All Saints day which this year is on a Sunday followed by All Souls day on the Monday. This year, more than any other, I think we need to pause and remember all those for whom this year has brought grief and loss when the full celebration of the life of a loved one has been limited and constrained by our journey with ‘the virus’.
Remember all the family and friends of the neighbour whose cortege you watched pass, all the individuals who stood at arm’s length from those they would have embraced, all the young people whose first experience of loss has been robbed of the communal and supportive togetherness of grief.
Remember the fellowship of the church and our losses, and remember those whose grief remains raw because the opportunities to fellowship have been so few.
As we move into winter and the hope of spring seems so far away let our prayer life become deeper and richer as we remember all saints, all souls, held by the Love of God AND all us ‘saints below’ who need the love of friend and stranger to help us through.
From the December Link
Advent, Christmas, New Year… lockdown, tier3, vaccine. We have a busy few weeks and months ahead of us and yet I was thinking …this year… I might even get my Christmas cards written before New Year! I might reach Christmas day and still have enough ‘in the tank’ to actually CELEBRATE instead of flopping on the sofa saying ‘wake me for the bells and fireworks’.
It has been a hard lesson but is there any one of us that can say ‘I’ve learned nothing about myself and my world through Covid’ and I recognise that for some of us the lesson has been devastating not just hard.
In the early ‘holiday’ days of the first lockdown when we still thought this was all just a blip in normality we talked about nature enjoying the respite from cars and planes and factories and we stopped and listened to the birds and watched spring bloom. As the year went on I think we realised the personal and societal cost of no travel, less hospitality, less business output, and the real possibility that some of these things will never return to pre-Covid normal.
And then there are the changes to church life. Maybe in that first lockdown more than one elder or church secretary breathed a sigh of relief and “Thanked God” for a break in the normal round of meetings and ‘to do’ lists. Maybe more than one member took the opportunity to look around on television or internet and find new, enriching ‘spiritual food’, more than one member freed from church activity and responsibility, turned outward and offered Christ to neighbour or stranger. Maybe in this second lockdown we have counted the cost and the real possibility that some of these things SHOULD never return to pre-Covid normality.
So we celebrate Christmas and the birth of the child so longed for by the prophets and all Israel, whose teaching painfully disrupted the normal life of temple and synagogue, and whose death and rising was no temporary blip in normality but the truly new and wonderful thing that God has done, and does for his people.
Let us journey into this NEW year with faith and hope undimmed to find the new life that Christ offers to us, and through us to the world.
Emmanuel. God with us.
May the Blessings of the Christchild be in your heart today.