Pastoral Letter - 16th April
My dear Friends,
This past week the Government in England relaxed certain restrictions caused by the Covid Pandemic and allowed people to go to self-catering accommodation across the country. Many people took to the roads as soon as they were legally able to do so and the West Country proved to be a favourite destination. Who could blame those who had been stuck in suburban towns or urban conurbations for seeking the space of the countryside with easy proximity to the sea. To breathe a different air, to walk under a broader sky, to see a different horizon, perhaps even to begin to recover from the scars of the past twelve months. A popular place for many is of course Cornwall and though I have not been able to visit it for many years in person, my imagination has taken me there frequently in recent months. Partly this was caused, or stimulated, by watching a documentary the other week on Sky Arts about Dame Barbara Hepworth. Nowadays we all associate Hepworth with St Ives in deepest West Cornwall, in spite of the fact that she hailed from Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Cornwall, she said, claimed her, Cornwall was her spiritual home, a place where she felt more exhilarated as a creative artist and most content and at ease as a human being. I hope that some of you have taken advantage of the opportunity to visit her home in St Ives and her workshop and garden where several of her striking sculptures are positioned to such startling advantage. There, with the play of light and a generous sense of space all around, you can view these seminal examples of modernism and allow your eye to delight in shapes, textures, finishes, crevices, caves, curves. Here too you can let your eye be led to an appreciation of the relationship between the things so carefully displayed. As you may know, it came as something as a shock to Barbara Hepworth to discover, while in the process of giving birth, that she was delivering triplets. This was in the days before scans could offer helpful indications of what to expect! These three vibrant new lives, claiming such attention from their mother, influenced and inspired her imagination, so dominant were their presences in her life. For a significant period thereafter, Hepworth positioned three objects in relation to each other in her work. At first you might think: "Why? What is this all about?" But these instances of the number three are compelling, having something which draws one into their being placed in such intriguing relationship to one another. The stimulated imagination can allow them to signify body, mind and spirit, indeed perhaps even Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in a perpetual dance of enlivening, deepening and becoming. The Bible tells us that you and I are created in the image of a God who is a relationship of three persons: perhaps such works as these by Hepworth can evoke the mysterious relationship we have with ourselves, or between ourselves, God and each other. For Hepworth, fashioning these three distinct yet harmonious sculptural presences, prompted by her own giving birth to three young lives, it was the space between the physical presences which was apparently what she was particularly intrigued by, not so much the three things themselves. And this past year we too have been achingly aware of the spaces in between us as human beings, as friends, as members of the same family, community or congregation. Social distancing was not, I think, a phrase I had hitherto used that much, or even heard. More so, words like proximity, embrace, touch, togetherness, communion were the focus of my attention, with their emphasis on social interaction, not social distancing. Shaking hands, hugging friends, kissing cheeks, slaps on backs, these had been the ways in which words had been complemented by gestures to convey, to augment, to re-enforce the language of connection. Suddenly all that ceased. Things had to become more cerebral, verbal, indeed, computerised. Other than the dogs, the occasional accidental collision with another human being and unfortunate but necessary visits to the dentist, I have not had any physical contact with anyone for over twelve months. Like Hepworth’s sculpture of three strategically placed objects, it has been the space between which has been the dominant sensation: smiling, speaking, not holding or hugging. But many of us have not been able to meet at all, confined as we have been to our homes, some shielding for months at a time, others only going out for essentials, for food, for exercise, for vaccinations. Jesus was a man of touch, this "Word (who) became flesh." He washed feet, He laid hands on the sick, He cradled young children, He hung upon the Cross. His was a very physical ministry, a very physical life. But in the first of the Resurrection appearances, to Mary Magdalene, (John Chapter 20 verses 11-18) He famously declared, "Do not hold onto me/Do not touch me." And denied her from doing what came so naturally to her, so naturally to us all. And our worship over the past year has been transacted in a similar way, through being distanced, watching on a screen, oftentimes while we have been on our own, seeking to commune, when the sense of being in communion has been challenging to comprehend. Perhaps as for you, it has helped me to realise how much touch was involved in how we communicated before. The physical act of coming to church, the visceral sensation of singing, greeting friends at the door with handshakes, even kisses, exchanging the Peace, receiving a Blessing at the altar or holding one’s hand open for Communion. But what we must realise and remember is that although no physical contact was made between Mary Magdalene and the Risen Christ, intimacy, closeness, sharedness were experienced by both Mary and Jesus in that Resurrection garden. I hope that for us too, we who have been deprived for the most part of coming to church, physically receiving Communion, physically feeling embraced by the community of Christ, that we too have felt the tangible energy of love reaching out to us, ministering to us, surrounding us, filling us, beyond the limitations of physical contact or proximity. Hepworth’s beautifully poised, forever radiant juxtapositions of three objects, separate, yet in harmony and only complete in relation to the others, surely speak to the situation in which you and I and so many others have found ourselves. We may still be separated from each other, yet, in the context of God`s loving, noticing, care and concern for each and every one of us, we can still be in relational contact and communion with one another. I can’t recall whether the sculptures of three objects by Barbara Hepworth have any of the objects in complete contact with the others. Perhaps, at the most, two meet in some small space on their surfaces, or are perhaps tantalisingly separated by but a breath. They do not need to be right next to each other to be in relational harmony with each other, the space between gives room to move toward or not to move toward, for each to be itself, to define a sense of identity, individuality and significance in the mysterious, courteous, singing spaces in between, which links, not divides the presences with one another. So too with us. Many of us have sensed the growing warmth of getting closer to each other this past year. We have recognised the importance, the worth of some we may have taken for granted hitherto. Some of us have grown more appreciative of the Christian faith and the enlivening way in which it seeks to encourage us. The spaces in between us have been ones which, for me at least, have been filled, not with absence, but with presence, as we have become aware of the assurance of God’s presence in our midst in the power of the Holy Spirit. I hope that we have all become aware, at times at least, that touch and physical proximity are not essential to those engaged in the enterprise of the Spirit, in order that one-ness may be known. There may have been social distancing, there is also spiritual closeness, for the spaces in between those of us who are joined to God in Christ, are filled with the bright, vibrant, ever uniting energy of the Holy Spirit. I hope that I am not the only one who has sensed this, savoured this, been reassured by this and drawn strength and inspiration from this, over the past year. And as we emerge from our more isolated experience of life into joyful gatherings once again, may we not lose that sense that in the sacred spaces in between us, is the loving energy of God, constantly drawing all living things into creative harmony with Himself and with each other. The Risen Christ’s continuing ministry is to reconcile, to draw into community and into communion, the lonely, the lost, the fragmented, the fragile, the fearful and the marginalised. The magnetic force of His Spirit is at work in our midst, what we must do is to allow the pull of His presence to draw us ever closer to Him and to one another, that we may enter into ever deepening bonds of serving love and away from self-serving lives, to give ourselves to the current and compelling call of the ever creative Holy Spirit, emanating from the radiant Risen Christ, to give ourselves every moment of every day to the work of our maker and say, "Into your hands O Lord, I commend my spirit, be it unto me according to your Word." May the Risen Christ make His face to shine upon you all. With blessings and best wishes Jeff
Please 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, by booking on: email@example.com
The readings for this Sunday are: Acts Chapter 3 verses 12-19 and Luke Chapter 24 verses 36b- 48.
The Collect: Almighty Father, Who in your great mercy gladdened the hearts of the disciples With the sight of the Risen Lord: Give us such knowledge of His presence with us That we may be strengthened and sustained by His Risen life And serve you continually in righteousness and truth. This we ask through the same, Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM) - 10.30 am, Sunday 25th April.
Our APCM will again take place via Zoom again this year. All members of the congregation on the Electoral Roll are very welcome to attend and participate.
Note: the Zoom link is different from that for the 9.30 service.
The APCM link is:- https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86793573759?pwd=N2pzVmFsKzdPbVk0U0V4b1NQUEo2UT09 Passcode: 102309 The agenda and papers for the meeting are on the church website Noticeboard: https://www.stmarytwick.org.uk/notices
This year there are six vacancies on the PCC. If you would like to stand or would like to discuss what is involved, please get in touch with our Vicar or Church Wardens.