Pastoral Letter - 28th May
My dear friends,
I rejoiced yesterday the 27th May, as perhaps you did, to find that details of the concerts for this year’s BBC Proms had been published. Alleluia! I missed it so much last year, but will tune in from 30th July to 11th September for sure. Music is so important to happiness and wellbeing, well, for me at least.
But there’s probably no hope for people like me in this world. I did one of those psycho-whatsit tests the other day and came out as a "harmony seeking idealist”! No wonder that sometimes when I am listening to a particularly aggressive and intrusive interview on the Today programme on Radio 4, I switch over to the calming strains of classical music on Radio 3 instead. Polyphony and Bach have had an extraordinarily enlivening and energising effect on me over this past year, stimulating the creative energy and inspiration I have needed to cope with the changes and challenges that we have all had to face, and a deeply calming and reassuring effect at other times, when I have needed those experiences too. I was watching the semi-finals of the Young Musician of the Year on BBC4 Catch Up the other evening, while having dinner. They had to delay the 2020 final to 2021 due to the Covid Lockdown, so were reminding us of who would be in the final. Wonderful, enthusiastic, talented youngsters, playing the instruments that they best related to; playing the music they most resonated with; all shining with joy in the celebration of the music which was so important to them. Soloists all. And this past year many of us have, from necessity rather than from choice, been forced to be soloists or at best duettists, but are we not all called, essentially, to be part of an orchestra? I remember hearing someone interviewed some years ago from St Paul’s Cathedral, they had been auditioning potential choristers. He said that he had not been listening out for someone whose voice sounded spectacular as a soloist, but rather, for one who blended in with other voices all around; someone who would harmonise with others, listen to others, play to the strengths of others and be able to be part of something greater than just any one voice can achieve. Many of the passages in the Bible speak about God calling people to follow Him not just individually, but collectively: as a people or tribe in the Old Testament, as a company or community in the New Testament. And so often we are reminded in the Bible of the interconnectedness of the human family, as in the passage about Jesus being the vine and we the branches (John Chapter 15, verses 1-8), the life of one part being of integral importance to the life of other parts. Paul too speaks of the "Body of Christ" with many members, (Romans Chapter 12 verses 4-8) again stressing the interdependence of human life in the Christian community. And this past year we have all been made all too aware of our interdependence in the human family. The shadow side of this has of course been how the virus has been spread, infecting one by another. The more positive side has been seen through how kindness and compassion spreads from one soul to another in the infectious business of hope and resilience. We have also been all too aware of our dependence upon the wisdom of our leaders and the price we pay when they miscalculate; our dependence on those in the medical profession, researchers into vaccine, pharmacists, those who deliver food, those who have ‘phoned us, kept in touch with us and who have warmed and cheered an otherwise cold, isolated day. Many of us have spent longer on our own over this past year than ever before in our lives. For some, that experience has been challenging; for others, it has been marvellous. Some have spent more concentrated time with those with whom they live and again, some have found this challenging, for others it has been a bonding thing and a blessing. Perhaps like you, I have also realised my need, my appreciation, of those whose understanding, whose support, has kept me going. I have realised too who it is it’s important for me to keep in regular contact with. This coming Sunday we will be celebrating the Holy Trinity, that relationship of self-giving love in whose image we have been created, helping us to realise that essentially, you and I are not called to be soloists, you and I are called to be members of the Orchestra of the Holy Spirit, with God’s own music being played in and though us, music which can transform the world with healing and with hope. I am no musician, even my dog Mahler howls when I play the piano, as you may remember from the Crib Service video! But when we used to congregate in church, as we will again very shortly, I have often seen us as different instruments in an orchestra, all with our own distinctive notes to sound, all resonating with the instrument which is distinctively ours, all making the sound which only we, uniquely, can. Such music coming from each one of us in a way that can only come from who we essentially are: from our experiences, from our exhilaration, from our questions, from our hopes, from our scars, from our blemishes, from those things which make us who we truly, individually are. The music would be diminished, would not be anything like as rich and real, without each one of us making our own contribution to the sound. To my mind, that is one of the key aspects of what authentic worship is all about, allowing people the space, the opportunity, to express who they essentially are, that the sounds of their souls harmonises not only with those around them in the symphony of worship, but also with the God with whom we also long to live in creative harmony. Worship can be that extraordinary opportunity for the music, often dormant in each one of us, to be stimulated into sound, to flow, to bleed, to erupt from the deepest parts of us and reach out to the very deepest parts of our listening, loving God. This coming weekend, as we think about the creative community which is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we may choose to see ourselves as instrumentalists in the orchestra of God’s own making, with the Holy Spirit present in each and every human life which has been created. The complementarity of the community of the Spirit’s making causes all of us to have different strengths, gifts, qualities, priorities. But collectively the strength of the Church is when you and I live in creative harmony with each other, blending in with the volume of those around us, through careful listening and not overwhelming through our own dominance. Similarly, to encourage those around us who may be uncertain of themselves, of their unique worth, to sound their music more loudly. We are called, as members of this divine orchestra, to rejoice in the equality of difference amongst each instrumentalist. In this, the balance, harmony and equality of the Father, Son and Spirit, in whose image we have been created, is made manifest in His creation. And what of the music itself? Instinct will direct us to make those sounds, for the Holy Spirit Himself is deep within us, longing to erupt in praise, ever reaching out to the other parts of His completeness, Father and Saviour Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 8 v 26) And marvellously in the life of the Holy Spirit, the music and the instrument become as one, sounding a "joyful song unto the Lord." (Psalm 98 v 4) Together we become a part of something far greater than ourselves, liberated into companionship in the community of creation. Together we find our voice, our place, in the symphony of the Spirit’s making. My friends, as we enter ever deeper into the life of the Holy Trinity, that dynamic, that energy of life-giving love, let us do so humbly, asking that the Holy Spirit may be visited upon each and every one of us anew. Let us offer ourselves to being and becoming the very instruments of God: ready, willing, poised, to allow the music God would create through us to sound through the world, turning silence into song and cacophony into harmony. Let the music we create through the influence and inspiration of the Spirit resonate in even the hardest of hearts, reminding them of the sacred gift of life, the compelling call to love and be loved, to serve and show compassion and kindness, to respect and reverence the world of which we are part and in so doing play our part in allowing the song God longs for all to hear, to sound strong and sure, silencing the din and creating peace. In so doing we will take our place within the continuing dance of our Creator, and find our place in the dynamic of love between Father, Son and Spirit. May you all feel the renewed energy and love of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit this weekend and may the creative influence of that Spirit direct us into being the community of transforming love He is calling us to be. With blessings and all good wishes Jeff
ZOOM AND MORE
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 We shall also be opening the church for Private Prayer 10am-11am on Wednesdays. The readings for the celebration of the Holy Trinity this Sunday are: Isaiah Chapter 6 verses 1-8 and John Chapter 3 verses 1-17. The Collect: Almighty and Eternal God You have given us your people grace By the confession of a true faith To acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity And, in the power of the Divine Majesty, To worship the unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith, That we may evermore be defended from all adversities; 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.