ASK Easter 7

Vicar's Blog ~ May 2020
ASK Easter 7

2020-05-17-Gordon

Dear Friends,

Another Bank Holiday weekend at home arrives swiftly on the tails of the last one.  I do hope you can enjoy it in some way.  Last week I talked about inching forward - perhaps this was ambitious and I should have used the lesser measurement of a centimetre, Brexit notwithstanding!  We have been measuring some of our furniture in advance of moving it, and I have realised that sometimes one should measure in centimetres and sometimes in inches.  It all depends what standard it was made to.  I daresay there’s some moral message in that somehow….  We are all wonderfully made, but some of us in inches and others in centimetres.  Conversion is always possible…

There has been much publicity about the legality, rightness etc of closing churches, and arguments, and predictions, have broken out across the media.  A legal challenge has been ‘won’ in France apparently.  We have stayed out of this debate, following the guidelines, and trying to still be the church without an open building.  We miss it terribly of course, and an unforeseen consequence has been the way in which we have not, nor will not be able to mark my departure in any formal sense at this time.  I think it is good not to become embroiled in the politics or shrill barracking that this issue has spawned, but to respond calmly, responsibly and with humility in a way that places the safety and health of everyone first, without resentment and looking forward always to reinstatement of something which we might recognise as normality.  Yet for us, not quite uniquely, but certainly rarely, whatever we have been used to is now over for us all.  I shall never be able to return to that normal modus vivendi, modus orandi that we have enjoyed and been nourished by, and when you reconvene under our beloved ceiling, you will likely not have a vicar.  We are all desperately sorry about that.  Everything changes.  But faith, hope and love endure.  And the greatest of these is love.  Be assured of it.

Our ASK Force idea is well and truly in place, and thank you to everyone who has engaged with it however gently.  It is mostly felt in the care and prayer we are showing for one another, by keeping together as a church family however virtually.  We have gained local and some national attention through our networks, and the Borough have directly referred a few people to us, as in one sense we are seen to be working alongside some of the other charities and agencies trying to ameliorate the hardship that this situation causes to the poor, homeless and disenfranchised.  Keep up the good work!  Meanwhile the local Foodbank are now collecting at Oakwood Station, so anyone wishing to donate can take it straight there at any time.

As you know we have been ‘closed' since the day after Mothering Sunday - when the church was open for private prayer and reflection.  It may be that this kind of open-ness may come before formal services resume. Meanwhile we have developed ‘online’ worship, and readers are kindly stepping forward each week, which enables some sense of our own community gathered together in common praise and purpose.  This week, as well as the provision of hymn tunes by Keith Beniston, (to whom we are very grateful indeed), Caroline has recorded ‘The Servant Song’, beautifully, and I have added a piano accompaniment remotely.  We have also added a Lunchtime Concert to the menu - we have missed those - and there is an excellent one of which I happened to have a recording, of the Anern Trio, from a couple of years ago.  Nigel Blomiley introduces it in his inimitable way.

It can be found at:

https://stmarymagdalene.church/about/events/coffee-and-concerts/lunchtime-concert-april-2018/

This week’s online service is at:

https://stmarymagdalene.church/weekly-online-service/

Mo’s sermon is on the Sermon page as always, but we have also sewn it into the body of the service to enable an experience without interruption.  Many churches are saying, as we are, that their congregations have at least doubled online.  Being online does of course mean that there is no need or insistence to connect at 10am on a Sunday, although we know that many do.

This week’s song that Caroline chose to sing, is a poignant one for us all, and she reminded me that we sang it at my Installation here on January 16th 2003.  For me it says all the right things about shared parish ministry, and so, as this would likely have been my ‘final’ Sunday here, it is fitting to end with it too.  In the intervening years, we have sung it at funerals, and many will remember it from our various pilgrimages.

We are pilgrims on a journey,
and companions on the road;
we are here to help each other
walk the mile and bear the load.

We have held the Christ light for each other, in times of mutual fear, bereavement and sickness, and we are holding it for each other at this time.  Only last week we remembered the bicentenary of Florence Nightingale, and lights were lit in recognition of her pioneering spirit, but also of all those who carry the light of hope for others.  Perhaps I have held the light for you, but you have held it for me too, for which I am hugely grateful.

I will hold the Christ-light for you
in the night-time of your fear;
I will hold my hand out to you,
speak the peace you long to hear.

And then comes the verse which strikes home as we are unable to have a farewell event, no tears and no hugs (sorry!).  But whether we are separated by yards or miles, in Enfield or gathered at a Holy Land site:

I will weep when you are weeping;
when you laugh I’ll laugh with you;
I will share your joy and sorrow,
till we’ve seen this journey through.

A journey of 17 years is nearly through, for all of us.  But it is not the end and friendship is not over.  At the very least, we shall return in order to ‘leave’.  So my dear friends, at this turning point, this cross-roads, we unite in the first and final verse of the song - the ending that is the beginning, as T. S Eliot might have put it - a verse that both establishes and sums up the greater service to God and each other, to which we are called.

Brother, sister, let me serve you;
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that l may have the grace to
let you be my servant too.

Words Richard M. Gillard (b. 1953) © Integrity Music, Inc.

 Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Gordon