Lockdown photos & thoughts

I begin with a series of photos, of my daily exercise throughout this lockdown period.

Going out for exercise has led me into finding areas close to home that are vibrant, full of beauty and reminders of Gods creativity.

Also trying to cope brings out the humour in me as I reflect on the next images. The first is the free toilet roll we were given by a local farm for buying over £30 pounds of their farm produce: quite how we’re going to use that much on top of what we already have I don’t know ! I reckon we’re ‘covered’ for the rest of the year.

The next picture is of the queue outside a local supermarket, where we’ve all become accustomed to social distancing, a term that most of us were unfamiliar with 8 weeks ago. These, while they make me smile, are both stark reminders of how lives, routines, thinking has changed for all of us quite dramatically.
As we celebrated the turning of the year into 2020 who could have envisaged such a turn around in lifestyles ?

Its also changed working patterns for everyone; working from home, returning to previous nursing professions, retraining in those all important key areas, becoming fruit pickers because of furloughed jobs, and so much more. In my profession, although classed as a key worker, I’ve had to work from home for most of the day, coming to terms with technology, delivering services online and via Facebook live. Zoom has become an integral part of my life as meetings have moved online. Last Thursday I attended a virtual 102 member meeting. Zoom staff meetings and even my Rotary Club had 20 attendees yesterday.

It’s beyond me as to how some are coping without this technology. It’s become the only way we see our youngsters now as every afternoon we meet  the grandchildren. Piper has become au fait with video chatting and even with playing games with Grandma over the screen.

Returning to finding more time for reading, has led me into thinking which books I still need/want/reread/read. A great opportunity for refreshing my thinking as well as clear out ,

We’ve all become familiar with the Thursday ritual of clapping our support for the NHS and frontline workers (this is Burton hospital today) and we pray that we won’t forget the sacrifice too many have made.

So this is a little of how I’m coping, but what of tomorrow and the day after…… as the Government hint at beginning to lift some of the lockdown ? We get speculation of schools returning, sport resuming, of the over 70’s still being kept in lockdown for longer than any of us, BUT it still remains just that: speculation and until firm directions are given then we continue to journey in the unknown.

However I am reminded that 7 weeks ago yesterday was the last church service I took and it was in my home Church of Consett, the church where I came to faith, where Mum and Dad sat (in the same pew 😂) for all of their married lives and in Dads case where he gained so much comfort for the near 30 years of widowhood.

Why does that thought mean so much to me ? Because that morning I preached on Mark 6:1-13 “A prophet without Honour” but especially verses 8-13 where Jesus tells his disciples that in sending them out two by two they were only to take what they needed, no bag, no money, no bread and so on. God would provide. It’s not a simple, unrealistic instruction but one that reminds us God will give us our needs, not our wants.

A part of my prayer for this season is that people will take the opportunity to reappraise lifestyles, life choices; that we may take more time to enjoy the beauty of the world at a slower pace; that we may truly build communities again rather than a collection of houses never seeing each other. I pray that this will be a better ‘normal’ when life returns and a world closer to the normal God first created.

May God bless you, keep safe, stay at home if you can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Friday

Good Friday, eh ?

I’m currently sitting here at 5.00 am on Good Friday morning reflecting on how Jesus must have felt on that same morning all those years ago. Photograph from my bedroom window

Last night, Maundy Thursday, he’d spoken of betrayal, denial; he’d been arrested in the middle of the night and taken away from his loved ones, isolated, on his own, spending the night in a dark, damp prison cell, possibly a rough hewn hole somewhere.

………………and now dawn breaks; the day that he knows will bring pain, suffering, death on the cross.

The day that will be dominated by the cross, looming large on Golgotha and casting its shadow over the already rigged show trial with Pontius Pilate, the absurdity of the presentation before Herod and the screaming of the mob.

The day which will conclude with Jesus hanging on the cross, nails having pierced his hands, his legs cruelly twisted to prevent him levering himself up in a desperate search for air to fill his lungs, his side pierced with a sword.

The day which would conclude with the cry of Jesus, “Father, it is finished !”

I wonder how Jesus would have felt that morning as the sun rose over his final day. Fear, anxiety – almost certainly for he knew human emotion – he was fully human after all BUT I also wonder if there was a sense of anticipation within him as he approached the day. “Yes, this is it. The day I’ve worked toward; the day of victory !” He was fully God also.

Truth is none of us really know and never shall know on this side of Heaven but we do know why this is GOOD Friday; because as Christians we believe that Christ laid down his life for humanity and that ultimately he showed us the way to live the life he first gave us. Today is GOOD Friday because it is the start of the final lap which brings us all the way to
.the Resurrection on what we now refer to as Easter Sunday.

Yes, for Christians today is a difficult day but amongst the difficulty is the knowledge expressed in the old song “it’s Friday, but Sundays a-coming” that Jesus has the victory.

Covid-19 and the new normal

Dear friends I’ve avoided the subject so far as I fear many are getting fed up of it and I think that for some its creating a greater degree of anxiety.Of course Im talking about the Coronavirus, Covid-19 and the lockdown.

Its certainly a season of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, loneliness and none of us really know what to do as we’ve never been in this situation before.

Many have said to me that when we get back to normal it’ll be great; there’ll be celebrations and reunions, much rejoicing and sadly an extension of the grief that has arisen already in this time as folk have lost loved ones.

But what will be ‘normal’ ?                     A different pace to life, I hope so.                                                                               ..                                                            A greater desire to help one another, I hope so                                            ..                                                            A better appreciation of creation/nature, I hope so

I really do hope that all of the above come true, but I suspect that human nature being what it is will revert to type and carry on as if the virus had never happened. I know thats negative but I look at human history and its always been the way. Yes there will be some who will learn the lessons of care, support, community, less dependence on technology and an increase in love. However, sadly there will still be the opportunists looking for the fast buck, there will be those who seek protection for their future at the expense of others and there will be many others who will seek out the material over the spiritual. Sadly because we are a Church which encompasses all of society there will be some of these folk in our Churches as well.

We too will forget to go out and applaud our key workers, we too will start grumbling at the supermarket queues and at the things we haven’t got and so on.

No in order to assess what will be normal we need to be aware of the change that is occurring in so many places and in so many people. Although many will return to their sense of normal, the pursuit of money, promotion, better houses to live in, for others this is an opportunity to look at our own values, ethics, morals, lifestyles and to create a new and better normal.

Within Church it is the same; for years we have sought to get people into our buildings, but now that we can’t enter them we’re having to reassess what Church might be. When Jesus said to Peter “upon this rock I will build my Church…….” I don’t think he was referring to buildings but to communities; communities of believers seeking his way and his life.

And now here we are in that same place, having to decide what is the new normal for Church itself ? If we return simply to the same liturgies and to the same 5 hymn sandwich then we’re just rehashing that which has turned people away for the last 50/60 years +. I did an online Facebook reflection one Sunday and got over 180 people viewing it, far more than I would’ve got on a ‘normal’ Sunday. Now I’m not saying that we all have to rush out and join FaceBook but I am saying that there is a whole body of people out there just waiting to hear the Good News we have, but not necessarily in the way that we have known it and shared it.

Perhaps the new normal can be seen already in the way that some are caring and sharing, looking after the elderly praying for the key workers and we in the Ministry need to rethink and be allowed to rethink our Ministry. My son-in-law, Mark, asked our granddaughter this morning “what do Grandma and Grandad do ?” to which she replied “to stay at home” When he asked what were our actual jobs when we’re not at home, her answer was “to be good and then stay at home”. The wisdom of a four year old carries so much truth. Perhaps the Church has robbed many of us of our real calling, because we have to spend time on structures and on maintaining that which much of structure seems to be rejecting, when God is saying “NO, this is the way I want Church to go”

When I first felt called to Burton I was asked to spend time in the town centre building a church ‘without walls’. I spent a lot of time walking the streets, sitting on benches, drinking coffee, and simply talking to people about who I was and what I was doing. Sadly that was lost for a variety of reasons but the main one was because Church demanded so much of my time that conversation about Jesus, which we should all be engaged in, was lost. I’d love to regain the time for that thinking outside of the box when our new Circuit (East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire) begins but in order to achieve that folk will have to let go of the old normal and begin to embrace a new normal which will be multi-shaped, have a whole different ways of doing things but at its heart will have the unbeatable combination of ‘other people’ and Jesus.

To put it another way, a community which cherishes people more than the building, which seeks to promote the gifts of all people rather than just the privileged minority, which seeks to see the best in everyone from the Priest and preacher to the prostitute and drunkard

Now when the Church becomes like that it is truly a place where Jesus is at its heart and for me thats as it should be.

Thats the normal I find myself praying for at a time such as this.

May God keep you and your loved ones safe as you too seek the new normal