From us to you:

Together @ St. Mary's

My dear Friends,

In Morris West’s novel, "The Shoes of the Fisherman", Pope Kiril contemplates the very real possibility of the end of civilisation. The book was written in 1963, in the context of the Cold War and the threat of famine also overshadows the people of China. Nuclear war was a very real possibility. There is a profoundly moving scene in which the Pope speaks passionately to his fellow Cardinals. He says that if the world is coming to an end, not because of any act of God, but because of the inevitable outcome of disputes between countries who then resort to nuclear war, then the role of the Church in that context is clear. I am paraphrasing here, but what he says essentially is this: if we are in the final days, if humanity has not much longer to exist and experience and enjoy the gift of life, then let the Ministers of Word and Sacrament speak of Love; of the unique worth and precious dignity of each and every human person who is sacred and special to their Creator. Let them speak of the wonder of the world, its balance, the way in which it nourishes, refreshes and feeds, the awe with which its beauty moves the onlooker to wonder. Let them speak of the goodness and kindness, generosity and compassion which is intrinsic to men and women and the hope that comes with each new born child, each springtime and each harvest (my words, as I can’t find that place in the book!).

What you and I have experienced over the past 18 months hardly compares to the threat of nuclear annihilation. However, many, far too many, have been taken from us before their time across the face of the earth and their absence is still a haunting presence in our midst.

What you have written to me in relation to what has sustained you, what you regret doing or not doing this past year and what from this experience you wish to take with you into your future, are a similar expression to that of the fictional Pope Kiril, of a remarkably resilient community; a community not afraid of reflecting honestly on the uncomfortable realities which have impacted on our lives; who articulate warmth, compassion and faith in the face of suffering, fear and despair. It is therefore for you and not me to have the last word in this sequence of Pastoral Letters: a record of a community in West London and from elsewhere in the country during the Covid Pandemic which has swept mercilessly over the world, the record of a congregation looking to the things of the Spirit to help us make sense out of what is happening and who are committed to keep worshipping, studying the scriptures and praying faithfully together, no matter what.

Thank you to all of you, those who responded and those who didn’t get around to doing so but who thought about these core questions; thank you for being my prayer partners and pen pals during these agonising and bewildering times; thank you for reading my ramblings and thank you for the honesty and openness you have shown in the emails I have quoted. I believe they will be a lasting source of interest and inspiration to all who will read them, now and in the future which awaits.

With blessings and best wishes.

Jeff

********************

What I have most enjoyed over the past year is the light of the spirit shining through your face and your words and your laughter. I know this sounds personal but that's how it is. And it's not really personal. I can't bring myself to regret anything over the past year. It has been as it is. In the coming year I hope to see the congregation united in church and experiencing unity in prayer, in singing, and in worship.

********************

The original lock down was good. I enjoyed the garden, the weather was warm and the end of that particular lock down was a glorified party. We had “eat out to help out”, furlough still helping many and hotels functioning. The second lock down from which we are slowly emerging was totally different. It was cold and dark and nothing outside except for walks. My Zoom services on Sunday and Wednesday Lent were my highlight of the week (that is not to disparage other times). So I have learnt over this past year that weather plays an essential part in my wellbeing. I have enjoyed living with my family in a warm home with all mod cons. I bought a new Ipad via my granddaughter as I have a great deal of difficulty with IT. But I can use FaceTime.

So my regret is not having mastered IT, not travelling afield to see my brothers and sisters and abroad to my daughter and sons.

So I look forward to my church, golf socials, library, and travelling. (Australia is still a long way off) This is a record writing for me so I do congratulate you on your weekly missives and your tireless effort to keep all the people of the church in touch.

********************

In terms of things that we've taken up and will continue - it's really home baking (cakes & scones). The local cake shops will definitely see a decline in sales when they re-open. Personally, what I regret most is being so rude to people who dis-regard social distancing.

********************

I am so grateful that I have really grown to delight in God's creation and to enjoy what I see all around me. I am pleased that during the lockdown I began to pray every day, which I had never done before, even though I am rubbish at it. I have been more grateful than I could ever conceive for the wonderous kindness that has been shown to me by friends and neighbours during the lockdown and the illnesses I have had since March last year. I do not know what I could ever have done and I am sure I have not to deserve such care and devotion from people. I thank the Lord that when lockdown started and I found myself with a diagnosis of a very serious disease and no means of having it treated then, that a certain quiet came over me so that I was not consumed by anxiety but the weeks went by without fear and despair. I hope this is the sort of thing you were looking to hear from St Mary's.

********************

Lost some of the normal social skills - almost afraid to meet people face to face. Missed physical contact Had more time but didn't use it well. Should have rung more people. Missed going to the lake in Canada. Covid positive Realised what really matters Thought more about spiritual matters Did face time and zoom a lot and so developed a new skill Post Covid Hope that when vacine has been circulated worldwide a new international cooperative world might develop.


******************** Long time in replying, but have got here in the end.


Drawn strength from these strange times. Without question, Dan & Millie. They have been so caring in every way. My wonderful neighbours. With our own app we have all taken care of each other. The lovely friendship I have with Betty. The superb thought-provoking Pastoral Letters & the Zoom services. I have gained a deeper understanding of the faith I hold dear. Time to slow down. To think about my own strengths & weaknesses. To enjoy the sounds of nature. I could go on & on.....

Regrets. For all these months I regret not seeing my beloved sister. We are about to visit her for 15 days. I regret thinking about old friends & not getting in touch. Why I question? I am only just correcting that.

What will I continue to take forward with me. To take time, not rush from one event to another. ”What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand & stare”. Continuing my understanding of my faith. Being more active in the life of St Mary’s. To be able to gather my sister up, for her usual Oct visit.

********************

1) Something you have enjoyed or drawn strength and inspiration from since March 2020 - I've drawn strength from my surroundings - the wonderful countryside. I've been inspired by how creative some people have been in adapting things to try to make things work for them e.g. restaurants doing home deliveries, well known chefs preparing meals for those in need etc. I am continuously "bowled over" by the creativity of others 2) Something you may have regretted doing or not doing over this past year - regret not keeping a detailed diary 3) Something you have been experiencing during lockdown, which you hope you can continue in the future - more frequent communication with friends and family. I'd also like to keep using Zoom.


********************

I'm really sorry Jeff that it's taken me so long to get back to you - I've been thinking about these things a lot. Now that I've put my thoughts in writing they seem so trivial - apologies and please don't feel that you MUST include them on what you end up writing. I think I'm far better at expressing myself verbally rather than in the written word - having said that I know that I "rabbit on" too! I've just come back from 3 days on the Dorset coast with 2 girlfriends I haven't seen for ages. We did some challenging coastal walking. It was absolutely stunning. During the past few months I have been driving up to my office in Twickenham in a usually frustrating and futile attempt to do about a month’s work in a day. Needless to say, it has been somewhat difficult to ‘get things done’. “Manana” seems to have taken on a whole new meaning! At about 6pm I get in my car for the drive home, only to be stuck in a traffic jam. By this stage, I would find myself at the peak of frustration and no doubt exceeding the acceptable levels of blood pressure.... until I found Classic FM on the radio. It has been a long time since I really appreciated the fulfilment of listening to classical music. I gained a very amateur appreciation for it whilst at school (at the time, this was somewhat strange for someone in the 1st XV Rugby team!) but then lost touch as the fast pace of life took over. I now actually look forward to the drive home and having an hour to myself, allowing the music to overcome the annoyances and frustrations of the day. I am almost human again by the end of the journey! The classical music somehow has a feeling of being far greater than I and therefore significantly greater than any personal issues I may have, thereby overcoming them for a while at least. In a similar way, your Pastoral Letters have allowed us to be taken somewhere far greater than the vagaries of the week and to have a moment to make sense of things.... to put things into perspective and provide inspiration for the week ahead.

********************

1) Something you have enjoyed or drawn strength and inspiration from since March 2020. Being closer to God through prayer, and definitely having the pastoral letters as comfort, and when feeling low in faith, showing that God is always there from the magnificent Sunrise pictures you have sent - definitely believing that God knows what we need and when we need it.. 2) Something you may have regretted doing or not doing over this past year. I wish I used my time for the list of things I needed to do - but work seems to have overtaken, and I regret working longer hours/weekend - work making me feel bad for having to look after my children whilst working during lockdown, so in turn, trying to compensate the time by working longer. I regret not doing more with the children. 3) Something you have been experiencing during lockdown, which you hope you can continue in the future. Making more time for family and friends - being there for when they needed someone.


********************



1) ENJOYED........Time; A leisurely cup of tea and a chat with my husband, without the pressure of having to rush out for appointments etc. Enjoying a degree of peace and quiet. Less traffic noise in general, more bird song, for most of the year. I have really enjoyed the Zoom services and have engaged with them far more than I would have thought possible. I have begun to value the simplicity of life which has been forced upon us. I have valued hearing about the kindness and good things which have been happening and seeing the human spirit of love and caring towards others being restored.


I think it should be mentioned that it has often not been an easy time and for some a complete nightmare and maybe for some there has been no enjoyment.


2) REGRETS.......That many of the things mentioned, as being enjoyed, may inevitably come to an end. I regret that it took a pandemic to fully appreciate what is really important in this life. Regret not realising that it was not obligatory to rush about and fill every minute of the day.


3) HOPES....... Hope that I do not forget too quickly the good things I have discovered and seen about life during lockdown. I hope I will remember that many of the things I did in good faith before the pandemic were not necessarily good for me or the planet. I hope I will continue to live out what is most important in this life and will still make time to pray and think about the plight of others. I want to salvage the good things I have learnt and keep working on them in spite of the distractions which surely will arrive when normality returns. I hope maybe some good will come out of it all. I think most of us have enjoyed and thought more about nature and our concerns for others seem to have developed in a positive way. Certainly it has become more apparent what really matters in life and I really hope that people who have suffered in their different ways will be given help and compassion to get their lives back on track.






ZOOM AND MORE I hope you will have received and read the Pastoral Letter which was sent out earlier this week explaining the pattern of worship for the next month or so, until we see that there has been a drop in the sharp rise in the Covid infection rate. For the time being we will be continuing with Zoom at 9.30am and the Celebration of the Eucharist at 6pm in church. I hope you will join us for at least one of these services and will continue to remember the rest of the church family in your prayers. You can join us this Sunday for our ZOOM SERVICE at 9.30am by clicking on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 or in person in church at 6pm. You no longer need to book for the 6pm service You can also join us for Private Prayer in the church 10am-11am on Wednesdays. The readings this Sunday are: Ephesians Chapter 2 verses 11- end and Mark Chapter 6 verses 30-34 & 53- end.

The Collect: Lord of all power and might, The author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your name, Increase in us true religion, Nourish us with all goodness And of your great mercy, keep us in the same. This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord Who lives and reigns with you, In the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.


My dear Friends,

I hope that all is well with you. I am not sure if I have said this sufficiently frequently recently, but you are all, as always, in my thoughts and prayers and, through my intercession for you, I feel I have grown in my sense of you and in my gratitude for you.

This is now the umpteenth Pastoral Letter you will have received from me, though most of this one has been written by you and not by me! I think you will have received around 80 of them from me since March last year, unbelievably. As you have heard me say before, I would never have started writing them had I known that I would have to sustain my ideas for over 16 months, but that is how long I have been writing and you have been reading this series of letters.


At first, they were simply an attempt to keep in touch with you when no other means was open to me. They even preceded the Zoom services, which did not commence until 12th April, Easter Day, last year. Indeed, two years ago I am not even sure I had heard of Zoom. But here we still are and I am still writing! But can I please take this opportunity to thank you for YOUR Pastoral Letters, emails, texts, letters, Christmas and Easter cards to me over this past year, all of which have had words of encouragement, appreciation and support in every line. It has meant so much to hear from you, to feel in touch with you, to know that despite the physical separation, there is still spiritual and emotional connection between us.


We have all by now heard from the Prime Minister concerning the relaxation of the Lockdown Rules on 19th July, and some of us are trying to make sense of how those apply to church worship and behaviour in church. If I am honest, it didn’t occur to me that they would relax the rules at a time when the infection rate was rising so alarmingly and when they were preparing us for a third wave, peaking, they project, in the middle of next month. When we decided to abandon the Zoom services and just worship in church, when we decided to discontinue the Pastoral Letters, it was with the expectation that these would no longer be needed as we would all be able to congregate safely in church. However, many of you have told me that given the ongoing rise in the infection rate, you are not comfortable returning to church for the time being. As any shepherd, I don’t want to exclude any from a sense of the companionship the Church offers, so am currently exploring possibilities of extending other ways of worshipping, online, until such time as we all feel safe to return to church. I hope to make an announcement about this on Sunday at what was supposed to be our final Zoom service and will also include something about it in what should have been my final Pastoral Letter to you this time next week.

But can I please take this opportunity to say how immensely grateful to you I am for the contact you have maintained with me, sometimes creating bonds through shared confidences that would not have been there but for the experience of this past year. Thank you too to those of you who have responded in such a heartfelt way having deeply reflected on the three questions I posed some weeks ago about what has sustained and inspired you, what you may have regretted doing or not doing and what, from these past 16 months, you hope to continue in the future.

As I mentioned last week, I had intended separating out the three sets of responses and offering one per week, but that would have been to rob them of their unique and special flavour as a thought-through sequence. So here are a few more for you to read.

With blessings and best wishes

Jeff

***************************

Dear Jeff. Have much wanted to complete your task, I find I am still on alert and not yet finished with it or ready to draw a line under the pandemic situation, and its effect on me nor how it has affected those around me. I do feel, however, I have been through so many differing times in my life that this is another phase and accept it as such, knowing Our Lord was/is in charge. This has been the abiding thought and knowledge and therefore any media ideas dreams or happenstance are of no importance to me or the future. Never having been driven by unswerving regulation I find each day is new and by 8.30 am all can change, and often does. I don't mind adapting as long as others are not affected, social change is inevitable from this, and are we ready for that? We will not go back to 'normal' surely. Post pandemic could be much more cutting than now. Lockdown has suited me - but what of those around me and how that will affect each of us I know not. I hope I will be prepared. God Bless you. Thank you for your adapting and keeping me informed and thoughtful with your letters and vision.

So, something I have enjoyed or drawn strength and inspiration from since March 2020.

Gosh, where even to begin? The stripping away of the extraneous necessarily leads you to concentrate on what is really important and to appreciate, well, everything. I try very hard to make a point of not taking things for granted, but inevitably I do. Just being reminded of how extraordinarily lucky and blessed I am is a gift for which I am very grateful. It has been wonderful and humbling to see how people have rallied around each other in acts of kindness and love (and a rebuke to my own failings in these things...). I have spoken to you before of how much I have appreciated the Zoom services and pastoral letters and the sense of intimacy and community that comes from them. It's rather like being in a darkened room - your other senses become more not less acute - being deprived of so many things similarly makes your appreciation of what is left the greater (though, come to think of it, speaking personally it really doesn't feel like I've been unduly deprived of anything much in truth, though I know for many people this period of time has been almost unbearable. I try to remember such people in my prayers).


In terms of regrets, I have certainly missed being able to do things spontaneously. (For example, I've been to Kew Gardens a few times, but whenever I've booked it's been raining! Not a hardship, but I look forward to just being able to turn up on a whim.) That's not really a regret. I regret that I wasn't able to see my friend from university before he died - he really suffered during lockdown and died suddenly of a heart attack; I regret that his friends couldn't get together after the funeral - we'll meet up for a drink in due course and that will be nice and it will be poignant, but the moment has in a way long since passed.

My real regret I suppose is that I didn't do more to help people (but that's a perennial regret in truth). When I think of the heroic efforts made by so many people, I am humbled. It's not a competition of course, and thank God that there are people who have been so amazing. May God inspire me to do likewise.


As for what I would like to continue, well, I hope that I won't forget that sense of appreciation and gratitude for all that is. I hope that I will make time for stillness. I hope that I will not allow myself to be distracted by those things that don't matter (most things).

***************************



Drawn inspiration from:

1. Being part of a strong and caring and supportive community

2. During the coldest, darkest days setting up bird feeders and watching the birds visit, a symbol of hope and courage.

3. Focusing in trees as a rest for the eyes and finding calm

Regretted:

1. Lacking patience

2. Taking out frustration on other people

3. Becoming obsessed with the news

In the future:

1. Stepping back/walking away from difficult situations before reacting

2. Getting things into perspective.


***************************

Here you are!

1) What have I drawn strength / inspiration from

The resilience and fortitude of the human spirit. I have been astounded and humbled by the capacity of people to navigate adversity.

2) Regret

Whilst I am so very grateful that my work has allowed me to be of service to others, the fact that this has been consuming hasn't allowed me the possibility of taking a breath and taking space. I regret that.

3) Hope

I am so massively heartened by our renewed realisation of the importance of connection. That realisation changes the world!

***************************


Strength and Inspiration

St Mary's Church, the Zoom service, the Pastoral Letter, the Lent Meetings with my House Group, Private Prayer and in the Garden of Remembrance. My garden and the trees in it and around it. Sun Rise most mornings.


Regrets

That I don't share my faith with many of my friends and it is difficult to explain the difference my faith makes to coping with the problems caused by the Pandemic.


Experienced and hope will continue

Long telephone calls with friends that have strengthened our friendships and given the friendship a new dimension.

***************************


You asked that we should write to you describing what we have experienced during lockdown. It has been a momentous year for me - here are my thoughts:


1. As my husband had been so very ill, I drew strength and inspiration from the love and kindness shown to him by the carers and medical staff, as well as that of my lovely family and many friends.


2. My main regret was that I could not see my husband at all during the last 6 weeks he spent in hospital before he died. (On a lighter note moving house has involved so much sorting out of “stuff” which I have had little use for!)


3. We had a lovely Spring last year and I spent time in the sunshine with my son enjoying the peace of the garden and the opportunity for quiet prayer and contemplation.

During his last week in hospital I decided to write my husband a letter, telling him all the things I should have said long before - a kind of love-letter really. A kind nurse took time to read it to him.

***************************


Good Morning Father Jeff


Thank you for this morning's Zoom service. I did enjoy reading your pastoral letter, especially with reference to the carriage clock. Like you I love the chimes of a clock, although Mary my wife is not so enthralled. A few years ago I was lucky to find a mantel clock which was given to my parents on their wedding day. The clock would not have been very expensive and it will not be on the Antiques Roadshow. However it is now in our dining room together with the original key and it does work and chime. Unfortunately my wife will not let me have it working, although occasionally it just starts and chimes.

Now for the reason for my email, my thoughts of gratitude


1 My family have been a great support. My wife brings us all together. I have 2 sons and 1 daughter from my wife’s first marriage. They have given us 4 grandchildren. We have been able to meet during lock-down, however I am aware of so many families that do not have that opportunity.


2 I would have liked to have helped more in the community but have not found the opportunity. My fault.


3 Zoom services have helped me re engage with the church, something that I will continue with. Looking forward to once again attending church.


Many Thanks for the Zoom services. We feel as though we have come to know so many new people. We enjoy the services together.


On another note, Jeff, one of the zoom traditions that I'd love to see carry on after COVID restrictions ease and we get back to live services in the church is your lovely introductions of the readers and intercessors. It has been wonderful, even from a distance, to get to know each other better and as we come together physically I am sure it will help us to all make more connections within and across our congregation!

Just a plea from my point of view!

***************************



I have been most thankful for the Zoom services enabling me to be in touch with so many people that would not have been possible in 'normal' times. It has been an expanding world with many connections made in a superb fashion.


I regret not having the closeness of those that I much love, to simply experience their presence and goodness, without words, just being there and knowing them in their glorious selves. And that I have not always been able to put aside my own concerns and enjoy the world in its fullness, as God intends.


I hope that with the troubles that have been visited upon nations, the unity that has arisen in many places, and the recognition of our common need, can find expression and be continued in some measure as we move forward. That Grace be available to touch those who would not normally have any relationship at all, be able to exchange a smile or a word, expressing the underlying love, even if not recognised for what it is.

***************************

This perhaps sounds a little mundane but is what arises in response to your very helpful questions.


  1. What I most enjoyed: Spending more time with my family in our close proximity – and, ironically, more time with friends and family far and wide via whatsapp, zoom and email – discussing those things I usually ‘did not have time to explore’ in my previous life;

  2. Anything I regret: Not getting done those things I should have done given the ‘extra’ time lockdown gave us – no excuse such as ‘so little time, so much to do’! It is self-imposed and hugely frustrating (and yet I was always ‘busy’);

  3. Anything I would continue doing: Painting in oils and watercolours, which I picked up again in lockdown.

***************************


Thank you as always for your pastoral letter(s). This and your zoom services are one of the main events I have enjoyed during lockdown.

Because I moved to my lovely cottage between lockdowns 1 and 2 I have experienced even more changes in my life and one of the things I have missed is going to St Mary’s, the MU meetings and sewing groups etc. Even when the church has been open the rules where I live in sheltered accommodation are even stricter than Boris’, but I hope to be able to return there soon and to see old friends as well as my new family here, all (most!) of whom are very nice. Another thing I have enjoyed here is walking round the extensive grounds and watching nature unfolding with an abundance and variety of blooms and quietly getting on with its own life, and this I will continue to enjoy, and to make better acquaintance with my neighbours here. There is still scope to be of help to some folk here and hopefully to be a little cog in God’s big wheel.

With very best wishes for your full return to church life, we will miss you!

With love and prayers




ZOOM AND MORE Please join us this Sunday for our FINAL ZOOM SERVICE at 9.30am by clicking on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 or in person in church at 6pm, again for the final time this Sunday, by booking on: servicebooking@stmarytwick.org.uk Please join us for the opportunity for Private Prayer in the church 10am-11am on Wednesdays. Next Sunday the 9.30am service will be IN CHURCH! Sadly, no one has offered to help us live stream the service from church over the internet, so I am afraid we will not be able to come to you in your homes as we have done for over a year now. I will miss that novel and strangely wonderful way of worshipping in communion with each other and would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for tuning in every week. The readings for this Sunday are: Ezekiel Chapter 37 verses 1-14 and John Chapter 11 v 1-27. The Collect: Lord of all power and might, The author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your name, Increase in us true religion, Nourish us with all goodness And of your great mercy, keep us in the same. This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord Who lives and reigns with you, In the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.