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Lifting the spirits

by Michael Ford last modified 26 Mar, 2020 12:35 PM

Prose and poetry from our parishes and schools.

Church is changing- Lifting the spirits

The Revd Colin Heber-Percy has been doing regular reflections for the Vale of Pewsey. Here's an extract:

It struck me that today our churches are in exile. The church services have been told to stop, and currently the church buildings are in lock-down. In the next weeks and months, we have the opportunity to remain in exile, or perhaps to turn our exile into an exodus.
History has shown that living in exile is always depressing, and often leads to despair and eventual diminishing numbers – while exodus opens us up to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the promises of God. Many movements of the Spirit, which have benefitted the whole life of the church, have begun with an exodus. Ahead is the ‘promised land’, and maybe we can turn the present exclusion to our advantage. Through a renewed sense of neighbourliness, altruism, and community (perhaps even with the help of social media) we can move from ‘exile’ to ‘exodus’. The weeks leading up to Easter, with the signs of ‘new life’ in nature all about us, is the time to start.

More on Facebook here;
Reflections archive here.

The Revd John Eade, from the Golden Cap Benefice, has kindly shared with us some wonderful poetry to carry us through the period from the beginning of Passiontide next Sunday, onto Palm Sunday and then through Holy Week into the glorious Easter season.

Collected poems here, with audio.

Chris Cox, a Licensed Lay Minister at St John & St Mary, Devizes, sent us this:

This morning, I was listening to a piece of music which contains the words'I am near you, I am near you, I am near you'. Afterwards, I was inspired to bring these words together. They are not my words, the source texts are Matthew 5:9, Matthew 28:20, Acts 7:48, and the Gospel of Thomas, sayings 77a and 59.

I Am With You

O Children of God,
I am with you, I am with you, I am with you.
The Most High does not dwell
in houses made by human hands,
I am with you, I am with you, I am with you.
O Children of God,
I am the light above everything.
I am everything.
I am with you, I am with you, I am with you.
Look at the living one,
I am with you always.

While the Revd Andy Muckle, Vicar of St Mary’s Parish Church West Moors in Dorset offers this:

Last Wednesday morning I would have celebrated the feast of St Joseph (technically falling tomorrow). A little over a year ago I was in the Holy Land with a group being led in pilgrimage by Bishop Nicholas. In Nazareth as you sit outside the enormous and impressive Church of the Annunciation (built over the cave where Mary received the earth shattering news from the Angel Gabriel) you can look a couple of hundred yards up the hill and there beyond a convent is the Church of St Joseph. The church is built over the supposed site of the place the holy family lived. As you approach the Church of St Joseph there is a small garden within which you find the statue below.

Statue of Joseph

It is of course St Joseph. Look for a moment at the statue. What do you see?
I was struck at the time by St Joseph’s eyes. They seem so weary and so sad. His shoulders seem to bear the weight of the world and his body seems to almost rest upon his stick. His hurt at the news of Mary’s pregnancy is eating away at his heart of love. How? Why? Who?
Yet his burden will be lifted. The angel will visit him as well, almost in a repetition of the visit to Mary. He will be told amazing news as Mary received amazing news. He will be asked to shoulder a responsibility as Mary will bear the hope of the world. As Mary opens
her body and her soul and says ‘Here am I’, Joseph also must accept the word of God into his heart.
Jesus told us ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you,
and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
Joseph through the message of the angel will lay his burdens upon God and put aside his earthly fears. He will lay down the troubles
of his heart and allow love to conquer fear. We too in these days are carrying many burdens and we may feel like Joseph in the statue,
worn down, sad and needing the solid earth to support our weight. May we find the strength to lay our burdens upon our loving Father and may we too let love conquer fear.

Finally, we have this reflection on social isolation from Stephen Tucker:

Self-imposed Isolation – help from the desert

The word ‘monk’ means in origin, one who lives alone. The first monks who lived like this came from Egypt. Many of them lived in single cells rather than in monastic communities, and they left a body of sayings which relate closely to our present experiences of being alone. Living alone generally, let alone in the present circumstances, gives raise to various thoughts and feelings which can be hard to cope with.
The monks often felt that they had embraced a state of permanent loss. Comparing their lives in their cells with their former lives in the world, they felt they had given up everything that provided them with a sense of self-worth. They felt both nostalgia and an enervating sadness, which cut them off from natural and simple enjoyment. This is the kind of grief which produces grievance.
At the same time, they felt a kind of spiritual boredom or listlessness. They lacked motivation. They found it easy to fritter away the time to avoid whatever their usual timetable required of them. And this in turn gave rise to a deep weariness, a sense of helplessness, a desire to give up, to criticise everyone and everything, to lose hope.
Perhaps some of this might sound familiar now to us.
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers provide a wide range of advice for dealing with such feelings, though sometimes the advice can seem odd.
"Go sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything."
"Go and sit in your cell and offer your body as a pledge to the walls of your cell."
A visitor said to a recluse, "Why are you sitting there?" " I am not sitting; I am on a journey" he replied.
The cell can be a place of confrontation; its importance lies in its ordinariness. The monks discovered that prayer means, first of all, making sure that you are really there. And the discipline of simply staying in your cell is intended to bring you face to face with yourself and your real needs and your capacities. If God is not here and now in this moment he is nowhere - presence to God is presence to self, staying at the point of pain or frustration or boredom to enter into healing. Find yourself in this place and give your whole self to yourself as a gift.
Of course, the monks didn’t have cell phones, lap tops, TV or radio. All they had was a mat to sit and sleep on, a table, a cupboard with few things to cook and eat with, a lamp and a few religious books. There was little to distract them except their thought and memories, their desires and fantasies, though these could be wholly distracting at times.
We have rather more distractions, but if in this time of enforced solitude, we end up watching more TV, exploring more of the Internet, eating more than usual, rearranging the furniture and doing more housework, we may be wasting a valuable opportunity. So, finding some time each day simply to accept the isolation, simply to sit with oneself, and pledge oneself to our set of walls, may prove surprising.
In a world which is now so mobile, so busy, so time consuming, having to stay by oneself in one place for a while may be spiritually significant as a way of getting back in touch with ourselves. And finding ourselves we will, of course, find God.

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