Pastoral Letter - 28th August
I have read through your contributions to the Anthem of Gratitude over and over again, until they have got under my skin and become part of my thinking. You wrote at a time when the lockdown had been imposed and was having its full effect. Your emails form an extraordinary record of the resilience which has characterised these Covid months for many of us, dealing creatively with the challenges and positively with the pain. You expressed yourselves with honesty and profundity and again I thank you for writing to me in this exceptional and memorable way. I have pondered long and hard how I can possibly do justice to what you wrote. I have removed your names and email addresses to protect your identities and have given a copy of them all to our Parish Archivist, as a lasting legacy of this period in our shared life together. I have also tried to condense your contributions into a copy of something which you too can keep, should you wish to. Many of you wrote extensive emails to me, for which I was enormously grateful. But unfortunately, I cannot replicate them here. What I have done is gone through all the messages and divided them into three main areas of gratitude: Gratitude for the beauty of the natural world. Gratitude for the time and opportunity to experience beauty, wonder and kindness. Gratitude for the people who have made a creative difference to this period in our lives. What I propose to do over the coming weeks is this, to offer back to you the things so many of you wrote to me of in each of these three categories, giving thanks to: The Lord of beauty. The Lord of time. The Lord of life. I hope that, as for me, they will kindle within you a sense of our shared experience and the spirit which has kept us hopeful and believing. Perhaps too you will say as I have done, when I have read your contributions, "That's just how I feel/I couldn't have put it better myself!" Some of the things you have written, I have had to paraphrase, others I have had to find a way of combining with other people's comments, so as to express them without overlap or repetition. For this, I would ask your understanding and forgiveness. My thanks again to each and every one of you who contributed to this exercise, for taking seriously my invitation to consider what you wished to express thanks for and for writing to me as openly and beautifully as you did. May this record of our shared experience encourage us all to remember that in the midst of all our anxieties and fears there are things for which we are grateful and the thought of those things, those people, keep our hearts warm and our souls alive. For, as the writer of Psalm 139 has it: "The darkness is no darkness with you; with you the night is as bright as the day." And as St Paul has it,"All things can work for good, for those who are in Christ." (Romans 8 v 28) Even it would seem, a pandemic. There has undoubtedly been unspeakable suffering, hardship, heartache, disillusionment, disappointment experienced by too many the world over, due to Covid 19 and there continue to be repercussions which are medical, psychological, educational, economic and social. This is not an attempt to paper over that or pretend that they are not also real. This is a testimony to the spirit which gives life to the people of God and will be the means whereby we will rebuild communities and lives, centred on the sense that God is with us in the pain and in the heartache and in His strength, we can start from here to renew lives with healing and with hope and refashion society inspired by the realisations we have gained in this period of trial and reflection. You and I are part of a great movement, throughout the world and throughout time, which can now play its part in showing the essential spirit intrinsic to humanity: not just the capacity to survive, something far more wonderful and marvellous than that- the capacity to use creatively the clay which falls into our hands and fashion things of lasting beauty and wonder. I rejoice that I can join you in being part of that renaissance. With blessings and best wishes for all that we will undertake together in the future. Jeff
ANTHEM OF GRATITUDE Part 1.
Lord of Beauty, Lord of Time, Lord of Life, We give you thanks and praise for the many ways in which we have experienced your presence and felt stimulated and sustained by you throughout these recent months. Specifically, Lord of Beauty: We give you thanks for the opportunity this time has given us to look at your world afresh and sense your presence, purpose, power and peace. For the sequence of the seasons. For the scent of newly mown grass. For the chance to see leaves unfurl in April on the newly planted white and black Poplars in Marble Hill Park. For the exquisite beauty of birdsong. For the depth of myriad different greenesses and the playing of light in woodland walks that necessitate another Gerard Manley Hopkins to describe. For gardens to tend in which to see things grow, rewarding us with wonderful shows of blossom, bloom and colour. For fragrant lemons growing heavy on our trees. For the sense of our gardens loving us, restoring us, reassuring us, inspiring us. For the chance to grow seedlings for our friends. For the way in which the landscape calms our minds after working on the computer all day. For the scent of roses. For the ways in which our gardens have kept us sane. For the chance to listen to nature growing, changing, becoming. Being quiet in the garden, watching and listening. Hearing the dawn chorus. Seeing a heron, a baby owl, a kingfisher and so many varieties of butterfly. For the countryside on our doorstep. For an awakening to the beauty which is all around as never before, resulting in our feeling more contented and settled where we live. For a recognition of how the natural world can bring real peace and closeness to God. For the way in which listening to birdsong has gone on to make us aware of so many other things which are beautiful and life enhancing. For our allotments, where we can lose and find ourselves. For the opportunity to properly notice the seasons for the first time for some of us since childhood. For the weather which has been kind to us and glorious. For our local parks, which have been an anchor for many of us during lockdown. For this years show of rhododendra and azeleas. For the opportunity to notice this year's arrival of new life such as goslings, ducklings, cygnets and coot chicks, first appearing as fluffy balls, then growing at an amazing rate to become almost indistinguishable from their parents. For the young rabbits nibbling the grass and for fawns following their mothers. For the beauty of young children's laughter, blissfully unaware of the pandemic. Those, having only moved into their home recently, having the opportunity to enjoy the changing seasons and scenery in a new place, seeing trees come into blossom, the deer and their young and other wildlife in the local parks. For the birdsong which has sung into our hearts and made us feel we too can fly. For the ability to look at the natural world and understand that life will continue and that we will emerge from this. For a renewed awareness of the importance of outdoor space, especially when we see children's wigwams squashed onto narrow balconies in blocks of flats. For the ability to have long quiet walks around the harbour and seashore. Breathing air that us unusually unpolluted by petrol and diesel fumes. For the blessings of good weather and the pleasure of seeing nature grow and blossom despite all that's going on elsewhere in life. For the intense beauty of the greens in nature, for the Thames and all other areas of natural beauty on our doorsteps, to enjoy. For our local footpaths where we can walk daily and witness the flora and fauna and experience the calm which is all around. In gratitude for gardens which have allowed us to cope, by being able to pop out for a few moments to breathe and look and smell and think and feel refreshed and renewed. For the opportunity to step right into beauty and see and listen to God and know His presence filling the space where we stand. PRAYER: Lord of Beauty, Lord of Time, Lord of Life. We give you thanks and praise for all the many ways in which you have stimulated and sustained us throughout these recent months. Thank you for being a God who creates beauty and helps us sense your love animating all that is. Thank you for the gift of our senses. May we value them and use them as part of our relationship and interaction with you. Thank you for the way in which the natural world has spoken words of healing and hope to us over these bleak and brutal months. Thank you for each and every loving thing which you have created and caused to be. Thank you for the gift of life to each one of us. May we not take it for granted, but be alive to the opportunities each and every day to sense and serve you through loving and looking after the small corner of creation you have entrusted to our care. This we ask in the power of your name. AMEN.
Do please feel free to join us on Sunday for our Zoom Service at 9.30am, whether or not you are a member of the St Mary's congregation. We will be looking at the scriptures to inspire us in our present situation and as we pray together for all those who need God's intervention and inspiration at the moment. Details of how to do so are below.
The readings for Sunday are: 1 Corinthians Chapter 15 verses 51-end and John Chapter 21 verses 1-14.
Our Collect is:
Almighty and ever living God,
You are always more ready to hear than we to pray
And to give either more than we desire or deserve:
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy
Forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid
And giving us those good things
For which we are not worthy to ask,
Save through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ Our Lord,
Who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, now and for ever. AMEN.
ST MARY'S SCHOOL
Our school is one of the most important things within our community, where the children born to us are nurtured and prepared for full and fulfilling lives. One of the ways in which we, as members of the wider community, can serve the school is by becoming a member of the Governing Body.
We currently have two vacancies pending, which we are looking to fill by the Autumn. The two positions falling vacant are for "Foundation Governors." This relates to the school being a "Christian foundation" and thus we are looking for Governors who see this as a way of expressing their Christian faith, which hopefully will inform and inspire their work as Governor.
More information on the work of the Governing body and its members can be found here, and should you, or anyone you know of be interested in learning more about being a Governor of St Mary’s, do please get in touch with me and I will direct you to speak with one of my fellow Governors. Please think carefully as to whether God is asking you to contribute to our community in this way. More information is freely available on request. Thanks and good wishes.
EVENING PRAYER IN THE GARDEN.
I am delighted to invite you to join us for an outside service of Evening Prayer which will be held this Sunday and on forthcoming Sundays at 4pm in the Memorial Garden. Following the Government and Diocesan Guidelines please be aware that:
You should not attend if you have got any of the symptoms associated with Covid 19.
You should respect the rule that each individual or household should stay at a distance of 2 metres apart. Chairs will be placed 2 metres apart.
You should take particular care about distancing on entering and leaving the Garden.
There should be no singing or raised voices.
There will be no access to the facilities in the Vestry.
The service will last for about 20 minutes.
I know that many of us have craved the company of each other during these challenging times and I hope that, now that we are in a position to provide this opportunity, we will be able to feel the strength and support of fellow members of the congregation in a more direct way, as we pray and praise together. With blessings and best wishes, Jeff The Reverend Jeff Hopkin Williams. Vicar of St Mary's Twickenham.