Pastoral Letter - 16th July
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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;
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’);
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.