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  • Emily Bainbridge

Pastoral Letter - 9th July

My Dear Friends,

I was so impressed and inspired last year when you wrote to me of the areas of life you identified as being things for which you were most grateful, specifically in the context of Covid and life in lockdown. You may recall that, having read and reread your submissions, I saw that they fell into three main categories: *Thanksgiving for the beauty of the natural world, *Thanksgiving for your changed and enhanced sense of the gift of time and *Thanksgiving for your family and friends, whose love and support sustained and inspired you. This year I posed three questions which I planned on offering back to you in three letters, following my last letter last week, so that it was you and not I who had the final word. The first of these was to be based on what has inspired you this last year, The second was to be about anything you regretted doing or not doing this past year, The third related to what, from this past year, you wish to take with you into the future. And recently, I settled down to compile these letters. However, when I came to reread what you had written, I grew uncomfortable about separating out your responses and dividing them in such a way. I feared that it would damage the authenticity and interrupt the integrity of what you have written. I was moved by how seriously you had taken the opportunity to respond to the task and with the honesty with which you had written. So I have changed my mind. Whilst trying to protect your identity as far as I am able, I think that as a record of the impact of the pandemic and its lockdown implications, social implications and psychological implications on our lives, and as a testimony to your resilience, I would honour your responses and be more faithful to the essence of what you have articulated, were I to represent them roughly untouched, undivided and unedited. The raw truth of your words conveys not just information about these three questions, it is significantly the relationship for each of you between these three questions which is one of the most compelling aspect of them and tells the fuller tale. Therefore, here is the first of three samples of your submissions, more to come next week and the following week until we are invited back into church for the 9.30am Parish Eucharist on 25th July. With blessings, thanks and all good wishes Jeff

********************** 1) Something you have enjoyed or drawn strength and inspiration from since March 2020. Like many people I have found strength from my garden. Obviously, this time last year, the weather was more conducive to getting out in the sun and fresh air and getting my hands dirty. I loved growing my own salad and a few vegetables - and being able to share the gluts with friends and neighbours. Also, with a local friend from school days, I have much enjoyed walks around the local area rediscovering all our old haunts. Who knew the old TCS playing fields are still in use as such by Richmond upon Thames College? And of course, and especially, the weekly Zoom services being able to feel in touch with everyone 2) Something you may have regretted doing or not doing over this past year. My mother was not one for looking back with too many regrets which I think I probably follow. Any experience was a learning opportunity in her eyes. But if pressed, I would say I regret not taking more advantage of the free time I have had to learn more through all the many Zoom courses available, theatre and exhibitions online. And - not to have done more de-cluttering!! Charity shops being closed for so long was a good excuse/reason to procrastinate when storage room became difficult! 3) Something you have been experiencing during lockdown, which you hope you can continue in the future. I have been more regularly in touch with relatives and friends by phone etc and I do hope I will continue this when one's diary is a little fuller again and life becomes busier.


Dear Jeff, First, I want to thank you for all your thoughtful pastoral letters and zoom services over the weeks and months of Lockdown. I’ve very much appreciated them. Some thoughts from my personal Lockdown experience. I have felt inspired, strengthened and surprised by how kind, spontaneous and generous neighbours, friends and strangers I’ve passed in the street have been. Also hearing people’s personal stories of struggle and inspiration during these unusual times on the radio. I regret that I have not been as generous and inspiring in return and have thought of my own selfish needs more than those of others. I regret that, so far, I have not always got the full hang of hosting meetings on zoom, sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. The technical words can just become a mish mash which is frustrating. For the future I want to continue to be in tune with nature and, when I give myself the time and space, have real connection with Spirit.


Something I have enjoyed/ drawn strength or inspiration from: The fortitude of others in adversity, the courage of the human spirit and the strength of connection between people. And, above all, my faith. Something I have regretted: I haven’t taken as many opportunities to rest and reflect as I would have liked. Something I would like to take into the future: Waving to and greeting all the walkers, runners, dog owners in the morning. Spending more time at home.


Here is my offering: (1) regular Zoom services with readers and intercessors (some new to me) speaking from their homes, shorter zoom and evening services, more reflection time for prayer and bible reading, The support given by office bearers and technical experts during lockdown. (2) lack of music/hymns as part of the services, too much enforced reading, lack of personal contact with friends and family, lack of external stimulation. (3) regular walking and exercise, downsizing of possessions and activities, support for my partner, meeting friends and family.


The thing I have most appreciated is worshipping with a 'marvellously' talented congregation and the joyous, yet spiritual informality of the services. I like the form of liturgical services but it is uplifting also to have a more relaxed time together as well. I shall miss it enormously. The thing I have found most difficult is the vagaries of the technology we have to go through, when you get a message saying your connection is unstable or the picture get frozen. I think the technicians at your end have done a wonderful job and need much thanks and praise. It is a pity that one had no ability to replay some of the wonderful thoughts you brought to our attention and I shall miss your weekly pastoral offering in letter form! but I shall look forward to mulling over them at leisure in the coming months! Take care and thanks for all I have been able to take part in.


Here are my reflections in response to your challenge as lockdown eases. First the context: I am a privileged person in lots of ways. Throughout the various lockdowns I knew that I was having an easy time compared with many. I protected the NHS by sitting in the garden. But that doesn’t lessen the real importance of thinking hard about our lives as we hopefully return to what we are pleased to call ‘normality’. More strongly, it is imperative that we do not gratefully resume our former patterns of living and gradually forget that things were ever different. This must be behind your very thought-provoking challenge which incidentally I have not come across in a church/spiritual context before but rather in career or other sort of counselling when I was working. But personal reflection of this kind must be part of our spiritual lives and keeping such reflection will be my most aim going forward. What I enjoyed In an unexpected way I quite enjoyed the lack of pressure to go out. I’ve been keen over the years to see all the plays, concerts, operas and art exhibitions I wanted too; partly for fear of not missing something good. The same goes for foreign travel. Well no pressure on that front since March last year. Since then I’ve enjoyed the music I make and listen to at home, plus the books I’ve read - perhaps with greater concentration. How much did I really feel the lack of the rest, particularly as it wasn't happening so I wasn’t missing anything? I’ve also learned to value ways of keeping in touch with family and friends without seeing them. I hadn’t phoned people regularly for years since relying on emails and texts. I’ve consequently spoken to my brother and other family members more than I would otherwise have done! The excellent Zoom Sunday services from St Mary’s also fall in this category. I miss attending the eucharist of course, but the St Mary’s services have offered something new as well as a stop gap. (By the way you could continue to introduce people when they read lessons or lead intercession when we’re back in church. A lot of people must have learned so much about people they would not otherwise get to know). What I have regretted or not done Any finite period has parallels with life as a whole which also begins and ends and has ups and downs. There are certainly mundane things that I thought I would do, but did not get around to doing. I have weeded my possessions and could have done more. Perhaps they don’t matter all that much; who cares about the cupboard under the stairs? Perhaps the most serious regret is not having done more to help others cope with the crisis. Was the need to shield Jessica an excuse? What I experienced and will continue doing Cultivate the art of contentment. As should be evident from the above I enjoyed a less hectic life (not forgetting my privileged position). I don’t want to lose the ability to positively appreciate everything I have without always going out and constantly seeking new experiences. I will strive to value the people who I have taken for granted before; the supermarket staff, the postmen, the emergency and health workers. All of them. I will remember the vulnerability which we as individuals and societies have, but which is mostly forgotten or tidied away. Appreciating those who work for our safety and wellbeing will be part of this. I will strive to continue to make extra time for reflection and prayer including working on scripture and spiritual issues (though this was already a retirement aim and was underway). I am 63 this year. I will reframe my retirement objectives by writing down what I want to have achieved by the time I’m 65 as a means of keeping these personal aims in mind. Post script I enjoyed your anecdote about children in church last week: what questions would they ask Jesus if he were present? I’ve thought of some irritatingly clever questions (What did you mean in Mark 9 verse one? Which day of the week was the last supper?), but more important is the likely response which could well be a broad smile or even laughter. I particularly like this idea as the writers of the gospels edited out any reference to Our Lord smiling or laughing which I am sure He did a lot. Sadly, the word laugh occurs only twice in the whole New Testament and one of those is 'Woe to you that laugh…' May I say that your humour has been appreciated since March last year. Retaining the ability to laugh in the face of fear and be outwardly good humoured is so important and is a gift to others. With thanks for everything you do.


Something I have enjoyed - one of the best purchases of my life: an exercise bike that cost me about 150 quid and on which I’ve now done the equivalent of crossing the mainland US; Something I regret - not having learned to play keyboards having bought an electronic piano in the first half of last year; Something I will change/ learn from these past 15 months - two related things: 1/ taking time to pause and enjoy nature, especially birdsong in all seasons; and 2/ remaining civil and polite to greet strangers when I pass them in the street or the park. Hope this makes sense and adds helpfully to the mix! Best, always,

ZOOM AND MORE Please join us this Sunday for our Zoom service at 9.30am by clicking on the following link: or in person in church at 6pm, by booking on: Please join us for the opportunity for Private Prayer in the church 10am-11am on Wednesdays. The readings for this Sunday are: 1 Chronicles Chapter 16 verses 23-34 and Luke Chapter 17 verses 11-19. The Collect: Merciful Father, You have prepared for those who love you Such good things as pass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love toward you That we, loving you in all things and above all things, May obtain your promises which exceed All that we can imagine. 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.


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