Vicar's Blog ~ April 2020
ASK - Easter 3
I don’t often quote a bank, but the phrase used by Barclays this week, ‘we may be further apart but we have never been closer’ has special resonance, not only at this time, but for us the community of Christ. We have always felt close to others from whom we are separated, by distance, time, space or even death. The notion of the community of saints gives us a breadth and depth of community that the more secular world is getting a glimpse of as we clap in the streets for the NHS and key workers on whom we depend for so much, as we raise money and give what we can, as we emphasise and sympathise with all those who are suffering through this. Paradoxically, in isolation our interdependence has never been clearer. Time-honoured Christian customs of care and prayer and spiritual and emotional closeness through solidarity and common experience are once again to the fore in a society that many have argued has become increasingly disjointed, individualistic and even dysfunctional over the past few decades. So there is real irony in the fact that the distancing we are forced to keep (and will be for q while yet) is actually bringing us together as families, community, strangers and mutually dependent beings. Where would be be without not only nurses and doctors, but dustmen, supermarket workers and delivery drivers. I think the technical phrase is that we would be ‘stuffed’! So it is also good to see the restoration of the common or garden ’thank you’. Sometimes it’s a note on the bin, or a kindly word on the doorstep. Sometimes its saying ‘hello’ across the street to other taking a walk (although as Londoners we have never been good at talking to strangers and still some folk do not respond - we’ll wear them down!!!). Because wherever folk are walking to, for whatever reason, we are all in the same boat (to mix a metaphor!). This is not a war situation, but it is true that nothing has united our country - or even the world - like this for a century at least. And the world of hundred years ago was a very different place that none of us can remember.
There are ironies to our times: buildings of ‘essential’ use are open, supermarkets and hospitals among them. Physical needs are permitted. Spiritual and emotional needs less so. It’s not wrong, but it is ironic. The decision to close churches is what it is (ad some have challenged it), but it is mostly to be noted for its irony: for there has not been a time in the last century when we have been in lesser spiritual need. So, as I said when this began, we look to the internet as a Godsend and the telephone as a rediscovered tool of relationship.
So there is the irony - the paradox of being separated yet close; and the paradox, or irony of the state ministering to physical but not spiritual needs. Which means that we do it ourselves, and that is where being close but separated comes in. And as always we look to Jesus as our teacher and helper, for just as we are close to him yet separated by a great gulf of time and space, we can come close as the community of saints, living and departed, worldwide and throughout past, present and future, in and with our Lord Jesus Christ.
A key way to join our relationship with God to our relationship with one another is to pray for one another. And it helps to know who folk are, what they are doing and how they are getting on. This is why we continue to circulate the prayer list, to commend the church, the sick, the dying and the bereaved to each other's prayers and so to God, joining our prayers with that great cloud of witnesses who are the community of saints. So, for this period we are adding a section, to name before God those who are up against it at the moment, especially as key workers and NHS staff. Do feel free to let me know and add to this list.
And the other thing I thought we might try, in the upcoming Magazine, is to encourage you to send greetings or little messages to everyone. So please, if you would like to send a greeting to fellow isolationists (is that a word), reply to me and I’ll compile a little section for the May magazine, which you will receive next week. It will be online, and mailed as a pdf on this list. If you would specially like a printed copy, I will do a few. It’s not the best way of sharing news, but it’s something!
Bryan Ward reminded me of a little quote from the American inspirational writer, Henry Cloud who said: ‘There is a difference between solitude and isolation. One is connected and one isn’t. Solitude replenishes, isolation diminishes.”. Perhaps by prayer and grace our isolation may be solitude, connected as we are by friendship and fellowship in Jesus Christ. Meanwhile E.M Forster wrote the words ‘only connect’ in his novel ‘Howard’s End’. It may be a sophisticated Game Show now, but it has its roots in that basic human need and desire, to be connected to one another in faith, hope and love. May it be so. Amen.
With love to you all,