Pastoral Letter - 19th June
Father Jeff writes in this week's pastoral letter:
Yesterday [Thursday] it was announced that Dame Vera Lynn had died at the marvellous age of 103. She has proved to have been a profound blessing to people in this country and beyond, for over 80 years. The lyrics of her most celebrated songs pierced the hearts of those seeking to protect themselves; her melodies resonated in the minds of many; her smile radiated hope to those who were fearful; her optimism inspired those who were doubting; her resolve fortified those who were floundering; her presence reassured those who felt isolated. She was, and continued to be right up to the end, an extraordinary force for good.
Perhaps her most famous lyric "We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when, but I know we'll meet again some sunny day" is of course profoundly Christian, in the sense that it stands in the tradition of Julian of Norwich's "All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be made well." Also Jesus` comment to the thief at His side, as they hung on their crosses, "Today you shall be with me in Paradise". And countless reassurances from Christ that we shall indeed all meet again in the glory of the Resurrection Dawn, beyond pain and suffering, exploitation and fear, persecution, cruelty and death and where all will be redeemed and renewed.
Dame Vera will be remembered and celebrated for her anthems of optimism and for being, in a sense, a secular saint who inspired hope in the hearts of all who heard her sing. But of course, there are others in this world who find optimism beyond their natural capacity...
When I was Curate of Eastbourne at the Parish Church of St Mary's, I lived in what is known as the Old Town. In my road there was a woman who didn't go to church, but whom I knew as a neighbour. I nicknamed her "Dismal Daisy" as she turned everything into a negative....
Me:"It's a beautiful sunny day!" Daisy: "It will mean I will have to get the watering can out again." Me: "Your roses are looking gorgeous." Daisy: "They're not as good as last year and they are bound to get greenfly." And, when she put her house up for sale: "It probably won't sell." She had a buyer within two weeks. "It will probably fall through." It didn't. And on the day she moved,"This is probably the biggest mistake of my life................"
So it went on. He default position was invariably negative. Every cloud for Dismal Daisy was devoid of a silver lining, it was lined solely with lead! Poor woman. The saddest thing was that she genuinely had no sense of the pleasure or delight or enjoyment she could have derived from life, so entrenched was she in her gloom, so readily did she see the worst in everything and everyone, so unlike Dame Vera!
So much of what we have been going through over recent months could give us all justifiable and legitimate cause for negativity and despondency: ~ The horrendous total of fatalities caused by Covid 19 in this country and across the world. ~ The deep divisions coming to the surface in society caused by racial prejudice. ~ Corrosive questions surrounding whether the Government locked-down the country early enough and whether some lives may otherwise have been saved. ~ The job losses already experienced and the fear of more redundancies. ~ The drop in income for many and the resulting inability to pay rent, buy food, provide for children. ~ The increased demand on Food Banks. ~ The drop in income of crucial Charities at a time when more is being asked of them. ~ The increased telephone calls to support lines. ~ The rise in domestic abuse and other forms of abuse in people's homes. ~ The worsening of people's mental health problems. ~ The delay in hospitals and GPs seeing people whose health will now suffer. ~ The loneliness being experienced because of regulations on isolation and social distancing. ~ The exhaustion of many key workers and the trauma they haven't as yet had time to process. ~ The concern that we may experience another peak in the Coronavirus curve.....
The list goes on and we must continue to pray for all those suffering from any of these things and more. There are significant shadows across the landscape of our lives causing fear, anger, despondency, depression and I do not wish in any way to minimise any of these very real experiences and reactions to what is going on
But I have to say too that, taking a leaf out of Dame Vera's book and looking for those things which feed the soul with hope, there have been some very real blessings and bonuses that people have experienced over recent weeks: ~ Renewed and reawakened friendships, sometimes even new friendships have been formed. ~ Opportunities to reflect on what really, lastingly matters. ~ The opportunity to take more physical exercise. ~ The ability to spend more quality time with one's children. ~ One chap I met whilst walking the dogs told me that over this lockdown he had been more open to spiritual things than ever before, unaware of my profession...... ~ One lady told me that when lockdown was rumoured, she decided to move in with someone she had recently started dating whom she had just met online and she doesn't know how she would have coped these last weeks without him, "it's been marvellous" (her words not mine!)
Some of the emails and texts you have sent me have similarly expressed your gratitude for various things over recent weeks, concerning your relationships with others, your appreciation of your faith, your experience of worship on Zoom, things you have realised about yourselves, the beauty of your garden or the parks round about. As well as other things, this has very definitely been a time for growth and gratitude for many.
So, as we remember Dame Vera and her positive attitude, what I would like to do is this: may I invite you to email me two things which you would especially like to give thanks for, which you have either experienced or realised since 23rd March this year. You can either reply to this email or send a message to me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, from the messages you send me, I will compile an "Anthem of Gratitude." Could you please send me something by FRIDAY 26th JUNE? And please don't leave this up to others, I really would love to hear from all of you...
Gratitude is one of the most beautiful of gifts. It recognises that so many things which give meaning, purpose and pleasure to our existence are given to us by God and and by other people, irrespective of our worthiness. Gratitude never grabs: people, experiences or possessions, as though we had a right to any of them. Rather, gratitude receives such things as freely as they were given. Gratitude is a sign of a genuine and authentic heart, one not miserly in either living or loving. Gratitude, like thanksgiving, from which the word Eucharist derives, should animate anyone who knows and loves the Lord.
I hope that when all of us come into the presence of our Creator, it will be with heartfelt thanks for the gift of being alive. Please think about two things which you would especially like to give thanks for, that you have either experienced or realised over recent weeks and email me by Friday next week (26th June.) I look forward to reading them and trying to then compile from them, an Anthem of Gratitude as a lasting tribute, not only to Dame Vera, but also to all those who have inspired hope in the hearts of us all over recent months.
To end, may I remind you of the words of the General Thanksgiving, from Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer, which expresses far more adequately than I, what we should perhaps all be praying daily to the Lord.
With blessings and best wishes
The General Thanksgiving:
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, We thine unworthy servants do give Thee Most humble and hearty thanks, For all Thy Goodness and Loving Kindness to us and all men. We bless Thee for our our creation, preservation And all the blessings of this life. But above all for Thine inestimable love In the redemption of the world By Our Lord Jesus Christ, For the means of Grace And for the hope of Glory. And we beseech Thee, give us that due sense Of all Thy mercies, that our hearts may be Unfeignedly thankful and that we shew forth Thy praise not only with our lips but in our lives By giving up ourselves to Thy service And by walking before Thee In holiness and righteousness all our days. This we ask through Jesus Christ Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
ZOOM SERVICE SUNDAY 21st June. Please join us for our Zoom service on this, Father's Day.
Our Collect for today: Lord, you have taught us, that all our doings Without love are nothing worth, Send your Holy Spirit, And pour into our hearts That most excellent gift of love The true bond of peace and of all virtues Without which whoever lives Is counted dead before you. Grant this for your only Son, Jesus Christ's sake, who lives and reigns With you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. AMEN.
Our readings today are: 2 Peter Chapter 1 verses 16-19 and Luke Chapter 9 verses 28-36
Please remember that the following Sunday, 28th June, we will be joined at our service by The Rt Rev'd Dr. Graham Tomlin, Bishop of Kensington. Zoom Service - every Sunday, 9.30am
There are three main ways to join the service: 1.click on this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85685339742
2. Go to zoom.us (or use the Zoom app) and enter the following Webinar ID: 856 8533 9742
3. If you want to join by telephone dial any of these numbers: 0203 481 5237 or 0203 481 5240 or 0131 460 1196 or 0203 051 2874 and then type in this Webinar ID when prompted: 856 8533 9742
These details are now the same every week!
PRIVATE PRAYER AT ST MARY'S
You are warmly invited to come in to our church building, there to pray, during either of the following times:
SUNDAY 21st JUNE 4pm-6pm WEDNESDAY 24th JUNE 10am-12noon.
Please follow the direction of the Stewards, who will seek to ensure your safety and the wellbeing of others who wish to access our building for prayer.
We will ask that you use the hand sanitiser which will be available when you enter and when you leave, else you can of course bring your own.
Masks will not be required but of course may be worn.
There will also be directions for where you may be seated, which we would appreciate you observing. Please ensure that you observe social distancing during your visit to us, remaining at least two metres or 6 feet away from the nearest person. Please be aware that social distancing requirements mean that we can only allow a limited number of people to be admitted on each occasion of opening.
Thank you for your co-operation.
May God bless you and those for whom you pray.
Photo of Dame Vera Lynn by Alan Warren c1973; used under Creative Commons 3.0 licence.