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  • Emily Bainbridge

Pastoral Letter - 15th January

My dear Friends,


I am more sure than ever that Radio 3 is far better for your mental health and wellbeing than Radio 4, especially when they play Bach...


Despite the roll out of the new vaccines, it has been a difficult few weeks:

- The steady increase in the rate of infection

- The number of those who have died, having tested positive for Covid, now well over 80,000,

- The impact of Lockdown on children and young people and their education, - The increased dependency on Food Banks, - Hospitals being overstretched, - NHS staff being overwhelmed, - A State of Emergency being declared in Hospitals in London and the South East, and - A Major Incident in London. Added to all of the above, images from America of the rioting in Washington D.C. Inflated and incendiary speeches inciting people to march to the Capitol with catastrophic and deadly outcomes.... But here’s the thing: once again it is as though the Liturgical Calendar has prophesied our needs, as it provides us in this season of Epiphany with gleaming moments in the gospels, reassuring us that whatever is happening in our world, whatever is going wrong in our lives, Christ is with us, here to make a transformative difference. He offers us healing, hope, understanding, encouragement and the embrace and energy of the Holy Spirit. The Epiphany readings we will look at together between now and the end of January are all shining stories of reassurance which you and I can allow to minister to us, which we can draw strength and inspiration from, so that we can continue into the weeks ahead knowing that we are not alone for, as Christ Himself says to us, "I am with you always" (Matthew Ch. 28 v 20) But it is interesting, as we witness what is currently unfolding not just in Washington but in the whole of America as they prepare for the Inauguration as President of Joe Biden in a few days’ time and as we look to other world leaders, including our own, to explore what we need and look for in our leaders and what inspiration we can glean from the example of leadership we witness in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Last weekend we celebrated the Baptism of Christ. Christ, the human face of God in human history, the God who comes to become part of human experience. We hear of this man, whom the Christian Church also proclaims to be God, experiencing temptation in the wilderness and in the garden of Gethsemane. This man who is also God weeps with grief at the death of His friend Lazarus. This man who is also God knew hunger, thirst, friendship, intimacy, betrayal. This man who was also God knew fear, a sense of failure, injustice, powerlessness, humiliation, exhaustion. This man who is also God knew cruelty, crucifixion, whipping, stripping, suffering, suffocation and ultimately death. You and I can see in the life of Jesus that He can genuinely say to us, as He seeks to lead us into truth, redemption, healing, forgiveness, acceptance, understanding, purpose, peace, that He is Emmanuel, "God with us". He has indeed been through these experiences which make up human life, so that when we know any of these pains, enter into any of these darknesses, we can know that He has preceded us into these moments and we can experience His presence there, for "He is with us". The Sacraments of Baptism and Communion, central to the life of the Church, are both powerful attempts by Jesus to become one with us. Christ did not Himself need to be Baptised. He entered into the waters of Baptism so that when you and I enter into those waters ourselves, we can know that He has entered them before us and thereby sanctified the experience into one where we can be sure of meeting with His presence. Just as surely as we can know by His commitment to us, and His preparedness to share in the full depth and wonder of human experience with us, that there is nothing you and I can experience that He has not Himself been through in some form, thereby transforming it into a way in which we can connect with Him and draw strength and inspiration from Him. Surely this is the leadership we truly crave, from the one who can empathise with us, from the one who has shown that He will indeed be with us in all moments, joyful and sorrowful, of our existences as people Baptised in his name. Similarly, in Communion: He offers us this tangible way in which we can feel that He is part of who we are and that we are part of who He is, as "one body". Not just as an idea, a concept, even a belief, but as something which we can know physically, in our flesh, as bread and as wine. This is because what happens to us physically is something He longs to connect with and He promises to be with us always, this man who "became flesh and dwelt amongst us." (John Ch 1 v.14.) He will be with us in every experience we will ever have, transforming them into moments when we can connect, commune, draw strength, draw inspiration, from Him. Another significant thing which has happened recently and which connects for me with what I have been writing about, is the death of Gerry Marsden. He will perhaps forever be remembered for singing the celebrated song by Rodgers and Hammerstein from their musical "Carousel" entitled "You’ll never walk alone." The lyrics say so much more eloquently than I what I have been trying to convey about Christ’s commitment to humanity in becoming a child, in being Baptised, in sharing our experience of human life as a way of reassuring us that He is with us always, in the darkness as well as in the light, in the pain as well as in the peace, in the loneliness, as well as in moments of knowing we are loved. "When you walk through a storm, Hold your head up high And don’t be afraid of the dark. At the end of the storm There’s a golden sky and The sweet silver sound of a lark. Walk on through the wind, Walk on through the rain, Though your dreams be tossed and blown. Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart And you’ll never walk alone. You’ll never walk alone." In essence, this is the song our Saviour sings to us in His Incarnation, His coming to us in the gift of a child. The God who made us, who wanted you and me to share the gift of life, has not, will not, abandon us, is with us, always. As St Paul writes (Romans Ch 8 v. 38 & 39) "Neither death nor life, Nor Angels, nor Principalities, Nor things present, nor things to come, Nor depth, nor height, nor anything else in all creation, Will ever be able to separate us From the love of God, In Christ Jesus Our Lord." We will never walk alone. Christ will be with us as our true leader and guide, He will forever watch our backs and protect us. Wherever life takes us, whatever we experience, He will be with us, even in the darkness. Such leadership, such loyalty, such commitment, which we see made manifest not only in His Baptism, but in the whole of His teaching and life. Through our moment of Baptism, through our moments of Communion, He continues to reassure us with the unconditional gift of Himself. How can we respond? Perhaps we can look to one of our favourite hymns for guidance: "Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small, Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my life, my soul, my all." May you each have the sure knowledge that the God who gives Himself completely to you in Baptism and in Communion, is there to accompany you in all the experiences of your life. May you each be aware that, In the darkness and in the light, He is there, beside you. My Friends, the God we see in Jesus Christ is one who sees and loves who we truly are, beneath the disguise we even use to deceive ourselves, loving us into being the people He has created and knows us to be. May we all have a renewed sense and a deepening reassurance that He is with us, that we will never be alone.


And please, please remember: Radio 3 is far better for your mental health and wellbeing than Radio 4! With blessings and best wishes Jeff




 

ZOOM. Do please join us on Zoom this Sunday at 9.30am by clicking the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 Our readings will be Psalm 139 and John Ch 1 verses 43-end of the chapter.


The Collect: Almighty God, In Christ you make all things new: Transform the poverty of our nature By the riches of your grace, And in the renewal of our lives, Make known your Heavenly glory; This we ask through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns With you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.


 


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`s Church Twickenham.



 


OPEN CHURCH 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, by clicking the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742 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 will keep this under weekly review and will reopen the church as soon as we are advised that it is wise to do so.


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