(non) Pastoral Letter - 29th January
I have been sending you weekly letters for ten months now. I hope you will allow me to take a break and write to someone else instead. So that you don’t feel excluded, I am copying you in on the letter I am sending to the other recipient.
With blessings and best wishes
The Honourable Joseph R. Biden, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington DC, The United States of America. Dear Mr President, I did not vote for either you or for your party, in fact I am not even a citizen of your country, but my need to write is strong. You do not know me, or I you, but those of us in the United Kingdom have felt drawn in and deeply involved in what has been happening in your country, especially of late. We have watched recent events with concern, sometimes with alarm, and so I venture to send my greetings and my congratulations on your election. The people of the U.K. and the U.S. share a common language (mostly!) and our cultures significantly overlap and influence one another. We are told of a "special relationship" which exists between our two countries and like many other relationships, there are times of estrangement, realignment and argument, as well as times of co-operation, sharedness and enjoyment of each other. I am reminded of something our Head of State, Her Majesty the Queen, said on a visit to the White House in 2007. "Talk to each other we do. Listen to each other we should. Disagree with each other we might. But stand together we must." It is perhaps in the context of that last sentiment that I write to you today. I have acted as Chaplain to many Mayors during my time as Vicar of St Mary’s Twickenham, Councillors elected from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties, roughly corresponding to your Republican and Democratic parties in the U.S. I have done so irrespective of their political affiliation, as there is something far more significant which unites all people of political vision and commitment in their attempt to serve the community in which they are set. It is my understanding that any bird which seeks to fly has to have both a left wing and a right wing, perhaps this is particularly true for a dove of peace. Ultimately, we wish you well in your undertaking as President. We recognise that now you are elected you are there to serve those who voted for you and those who didn’t. We hope that you agree that there are things which transcend party politics to which we can all subscribe:
* The dignity and worth of each and every human being, created in God`s image. * The responsibility of all in the human family to nurture, support and care for those who feel weak and who are in need. * The importance of celebrating the giftedness of people, helping to identify their talents and encouraging these talents to find expression. * The obligation under God to be there for one another when we feel unable to stand alone. * To challenge injustice and untruth and all that seeks to undermine and erode human dignity and purpose. * The need to stand strong against prejudice and bias and correct others in love when we sincerely feel that they are wrong. * The commitment to stimulate and educate our children and young people, giving them a moral as well as professional framework on which to structure their lives. * To show by our example that to live kindly is to live well. * To show that compassion is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. * To show that to forgive may well be necessary for healing to start, broken relationships be mended and trust to be rebuilt. * To live not solely to satisfy our own cravings but to see life as an opportunity to invest in other people and to live as generously as possible in response to the extraordinary privilege of being alive. As a man of faith, I was hugely heartened that three hours before you swore the oath and thus became the 46th President of the United States, you attended Mass at St Matthew the Apostle’s Church in Washington DC, seeking the influence and inspiration of your Saviour and His Holy Spirit as you dedicated yourself afresh to His service. And that you attended, not by yourself, not just with your family, but you extended the invitation to others across the aisle at the Capitol, stressing the unity and common purpose you all share before God. The oath which you swore, before God and before the people, you swore as your left hand rested on a family Bible, may that book and the one who animates its pages, prompt and guide you as you negotiate the complexities of the future. The Rabbi who attended alongside you the Act of Remembrance at the Reflecting Pool as the sun set on Washington the night before your inauguration, spoke of your not assuming office in your own strength alone, reminding you that the one to whom you prayed was there for you as a source of strength, as you remembered the over 400,000 Americans who have fallen victim to the Covid virus so far. It is in His power alone that you will hope to do good in the position you now inhabit. I was heartened once again on your first full day in office, that you began by attending a virtual service of prayer and praise in the White House with your colleagues. My prayer is that you will continue to seek to honour Him in the decisions, reactions, priorities and policies you pursue. Listening to your speech at the inauguration, I loved the warm, fragrant sense of your mother, made present by your mentioning her words to you when you were a child, as she prepared you for engaging positively and constructively with those who thought and behaved differently from you..."Think Joe, what it must be like to stand in their shoes for a moment." As you now stand in the stiff and heavy shoes of Presidency, may you continue to have that capacity to empathise, as you seek to build bridges and encourage a sense of togetherness and unity across a vast range of experiences of life.
Your task is great, beyond the abilities of almost all. I am pleased to see that you have a close and loving family and the special companionship of your wife, Jill, Doctor Biden. From what we have learned of you, you have known great personal tragedy, heartache and grief and in those moments have found a strength beyond yourself and within yourself, to carry on. I am advised that such was your pain that you questioned your faith, spoke of coming to a crossroads and of losing your way; of the strength and support of others providing a light in the darkest of times allowing you to find your feet, your sense of direction, your resolve to making a creative difference to others in need and pain and were reawakened in your belief in God and in humanity once again. May that same capacity to transcend adversity, continue to carry you through any times of trial and turbulence which may lay ahead, personally or politically. The world needs you to be strong. Many of our world leaders, well-meaning and sincere though most undoubtedly are, have been drawn in to thinking in such short-term ways: what tomorrow’s headlines or tonight’s news reports will be, preoccupation with the next election. One can understand it. What we need is someone who can look beyond the next four minutes, four days or even four years. With the greatest respect Mr President, you are the oldest to have ever held the office you now occupy, even older than any of the previous Presidents who attended your inauguration. Please be someone who takes a long-term view, like someone I heard interviewed on the radio a few years ago who was planting an orchard, for which he had a 300 year plan! From the Oval Office, may I encourage you to look to the horizon as well as to your doorstep, as you take the decisions of each day. We need you to take a strong stand on climate change and to listen to a planet which is crying out in pain, as some see only its use and not its beauty. We need you to encourage and equip the young and were so inspired by the National Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman and her plea for a brighter future for your country. We need you to honour truth, to "level with us" to use your words, not try to disguise or disfigure the reality of things. We need you to reach out to allies across the world with the hand not just of friendship, but of urgency to attend to the key needs of our day. We need you to take a lead, share the lead, in protecting lives, overcoming aggression, offering opportunities. We need you to occasion gatherings which bring together talented minds who can rethink how our economies work, that don`t exploit but encourage meaningful and fulfilling working lives. And challenge us when we ask you do these and so many other things FOR us, rather than WITH us. Remind us that we all have a responsibility to work with those whom we elect, to forge a way forward, to transform what is into what can be when it is better, fairer, more just and equal. All of us surely have a part to play in rebuilding our fragile, fragmented, aching, varied and wonderful world. Each of us has a part to play in bringing about healing and new possibilities, for others as well as for ourselves. I noticed, along with many others, that there were flurries of snow at the Capitol just before the ceremony began on 20th January and, just as you began to speak, the sun began to shine. I hope that is a herald, a promise, a pledge from on high that better days lay ahead. Take good care of yourself Mr President. Remember the things which truly matter. Take time to relax with friends. Enjoy the laughter of children. Read poetry. Listen to music. Keep safe. Be grateful you are alive and don’t forget to walk Major and Champ, your dogs! Help us build a better, more honest, compassionate and kind world. All people of good will throughout the world are praying for you, rooting for you and wish you well. With blessings and best wishes from your unknown friend. Jeff
The Reverend Jeff Hopkin Williams. Vicar of Saint Mary’s Church Twickenham, Chaplain to the Mayor of the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames.
ZOOM Do please join us for our Zoom Service on Sunday at 9.30am. All you need to do is click on the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 This Sunday we shall be celebrating The Presentation of the Infant Christ in the Temple, commonly known as Candlemas. The Gospel will be Luke Chapter 2 verses 22-40.
The Collect for Candlemas: Almighty and ever living God, Clothed in majesty, Whose beloved Son was at this time Presented in the Temple in substance of our flesh: Grant that we may be presented to you With pure and clean hearts By your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord Who lives and reigns with you And the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
Prayer offered by The Reverend Jeff Hopkin Williams in his role as Mayor’s Chaplain, at the virtual Council Meeting, 26th January 2021. We rededicate ourselves this evening, To enhancing the physical, psychological and financial Health and wellbeing of the people of our Borough. We pray for all those whom we represent, Collectively and individually, that we may Take the right decisions which will be in their Best long term interests. For all those especially affected by what is happening to them: Those suffering loneliness due to lockdown, Those frightened due to financial problems, Those subject to domestic abuse of any kind, For children missing others to confide in and spend time with, For health workers who are exhausted and traumatised, For our hospitals, stretched to capacity And for those taking decisions Which will affect other people`s lives. We give thanks for those who continue to make a difference: Teachers working in school and online, Those delivering and ensuring our food supplies, For all doctors, nurses, carers and volunteers And for all who are keeping essential things going, Sometimes at great cost to themselves. For the health and wellbeing of all those Directly employed by our Borough, Giving thanks for their commitment and efficiency. For all those working in our vaccination centres, Employed or as Volunteers, who are Befriending and protecting our population. For all those anxious to hear of their vaccination date Or who are unsure as to whether or not To receive the vaccine offered to them, That they may be reassured and encouraged. For our friends, families and colleagues and All those who are reaching out the hand of Comfort and companionship to us at this time. We give thanks for them and pray for them. And we pray for all those who have died: In the Holocaust which still scars our memory, And in the present pandemic. We give thanks for each and every precious life And commend our brothers and sisters To the source of all life, with our love. Let us spend a few moments in silent solidarity with them Thinking too of all who mourn and miss them. A Hebrew Benediction: May the Lord Bless you and keep you, The Lord make His face to shine upon you And be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up the light of His countenance upon you And fill you with His Peace. AMEN.
Lent Course - Our Journey with Jesus We will be offering a Lent Course via Zoom on Wednesday evenings commencing on Ash Wednesday 17 February at 7.30pm and running for 7 weeks. The course will be based on some material by Gerard Hughes and will include some short daily readings. We will meet via Zoom for an introduction to the evening’s theme and then break into small groups (still on Zoom) for a chance to reflect on and discuss the theme and the readings. The readings will be emailed to you in advance of the course. If you would like to join the course, please email Charlotte West via email@example.com and we will send you the Zoom link nearer the time.
Reluctantly, like many other churches and cathedrals in the country, we at St Mary’s have had to take the difficult decision not to offer the opportunity to enter the church for prayer on Wednesdays and Sundays for the time being. This is in keeping with the Government and Scientific advice not to encourage one another to venture from home unless absolutely necessary. Thankfully, what we are still able to do is worship together on Zoom each Sunday using the links in this letter. Our Sunday School is also able to continue to meet online. The Memorial Garden will be open daily from 10am until 4pm, for people to visit, sit in and reflect. We shall keep this under weekly review and will reopen the church as soon as we are advised that it is wise to do so.
Wine and Whine Evening! Dear Friends, I hope that all is well with you and yours, in spite of everything! I wondered if you would like to join me and others from the "young families" contingent on Zoom at around 8.30pm on Sunday 31st January, just to keep in touch and have a chat at an informal, no-agenda, drinks party (Bring Your Own!) It would be lovely just to be able to see each other and compare notes as to how things are going. If you would like to do this, please let us know by filling in this form and we will send you a Zoom link nearer the time. With the assurance of my ongoing prayers and good wishes Jeff Fr. Jeff Hopkin Williams. Vicar at St Mary`' Church Twickenham.