At our recent online Eastertide service on Saturday 24th April 2021, over twenty of us enjoyed reflecting together on the meaning of the Resurrection for each of us in our everyday lives, with the help of inspiring and thought-provoking readings, prayers, hymns and artwork.
Rather than publish the video of the Zoom screens (due to confidentiality issues) we have managed to compile a video matching the audio recording with the slides of the readings and reflections.
Why not watch this video (30 minutes) below for your own reflections.
(We apologise for occasional sticking in the Zoom audio segments -apparently this can be an issue with Zoom recordings):
We feel it is important to mark the date of the start of the first lockdown with a reflective service giving space to remember those we know who have passed away over the last year (whatever the reason).
So a team of us at the Elizabeth Prout Bereavement Care (The Briery) and Growing Old Grace-fully have joined together to hold this online service , which will include:
Readings of Scripture
Time in small groups to share briefly about loved ones, celebrating their life
An Act of Remembering together – photos to be put on a tree at The Briery, names to be read out, and we light a candle together.
If you would like to, you will be able to send the name and/or a photo of your loved one to be printed and put on the Tree of Remembrance in the chapel at The Briery where they will be kept displayed and prayed for until Easter. We would also like to display the names on the screen during the service.
In 2020 we went into Lockdown during Lent. Who would have thought that we are approaching another Lent starting on 17th February in 2021 and we are in Lockdown 3? This time, speaking for myself – and I suspect others too – there is weariness and anxiety and a greater understanding that this “new normal” is going to take longer than we thought last Lent.
However, we now have vaccines which are being given as quickly as systems allow. We each also know from experience what has supported us this far. Perhaps our faith in God? Our faith in other people? Family and friends? TV? The Internet? Perhaps we are trying to concentrate more on the present, rather than thinking about the past and worrying or wishing for the future. And particularly if we live alone we may have developed routines, diversions and self knowledge and self- care to know what has, and has not, got us through this far?
For most of us it is a journey of ups and downs, and that is a natural response to stressful events, loss and anxiety. We are all much clearer about what we have “lossed”: the death of family and friends, health, jobs and money, stability, being in close contact with others, going to our churches to meet our church community face to face, spontaneously planning outings, holidays, meals, theatre trips or watching ordinary life out of the window.
So, what about Lent, where we spend time thinking about Jesus and “journeying” with Him towards Jerusalem to his Death and Resurrection?
Can we cope with it this year? Or do we think our observation of it matters more than ever? We are encouraged to believe in Jesus, who, as God, is suffering with us, in the midst of us rather than a distant God. Though it may not feel like it.
Sometimes I am thinking how I am perhaps in a kind of desert with Jesus, or in a storm or sinking in the sea, or perhaps standing on a mountain and sometimes I stand on solid ground with a sense of purpose. It may vary.
We are all in a strange space between life as we knew it before March 2020 and life after a global pandemic. What are we thinking about how to spend Lent? Some of us may feel we are suffering enough already, or too tired or too “prayed out” or feel abandoned, so considering extra in Lent may be too difficult to consider.
I have been looking at two very different books which I plan to use:
The Book of Psalms (translated by Jesuit scriptural theologian Nicholas King) ,
” The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” by author and illustrator Charlie Mackesy
I aim to reflect on both of them this Lent.
I have found a journey of crisis, uncertainty, fear, reflection, support, joy, calm and hope in both these books. In some ways they are complementary, despite the several thousand years and different cultures that separate them.
Charlie Mackesy’s book has a message that is not overtly religious but I believe it is profound, spiritual and relational. It is a book is for all age groups and it is a journey about love, friendship, kindness, wisdom and hope, and I find it very inspiring.
The Psalms express fear, anger, distress, fatigue, remorse, forgiveness, hope, thanksgiving and praise. Nicholas King helpfully says that “when the psalmist talks of “my enemies”, for example, we are no longer in touch with the original reference, and sometimes it is easier to pray such verses as a reference to those inner thoughts that upset us or alienate us.” I found this explanation useful, enriching and not physically war-based. I have now been reading the concept of enemies and struggles in the context of the global pandemic and the thoughts and feelings I have about it. I offer extracts from some of the Psalms.
Extracts from Psalm 42:"Just as the deer longs for springs of water,
so my soul longs for you....
Why are you so very sad, my soul?
Why are you troubling me?....
Deep calls upon deep, at the sound of your waterfalls,
all your billows and your waves have gone over me....
Why are you so very sad, my soul?
And why are you troubling me?
Hope in God, for I shall sing God's praises.
the one who saves me, my God."
Psalm 42 talks about enemy oppression and being asked by enemies where is our God? I am thinking that the enemy in this Psalm might include the fear, doubt and loss that Covid 19 has on our lives. Ultimately out of longing and sadness comes eternal safety and hope.
From Psalm 69:
" Save me, O God, for the waters have reached my soul.
I am stuck fast in deep mud, and there is nowhere to stand;
I have gone into the depths of the sea, and a storm has swamped me;
I am exhausted from crying out; my throat is sore;
my eyes are worn out from [looking] expectantly for God....”
These words remind me of media interviews from exhausted doctors and other health care workers. And I sometimes feel swamped and exhausted by all the news and statistics about Covid 19.
Then in Psalm 23 God is a loving shepherd:
“For even though I should walk
in the midst of the shadow of death,
I shall not fear evil,
for you are with me;
your stick and your rod,
these have comforted me.”
N. King suggests the the stick may be for support and the rod to ward off “attackers”, or in my view those intrusive negative thoughts.
In Psalm 46 “ a psalm about hidden things” is how King translates the title:
“God is our refuge and strength,
a help in the troubles that find us out.
Therefore we shall not fear
when the earth is stirred
and the mountains are shifted
in the heart of the seas”....
“The Lord of hosts is with us,
the God of Jacob is our helper.”
Then we are given wings to fly away and rest in Psalm 55, and shelter in Psalm 63.
From Psalm 55“My heart was disturbed inside me,
and the fear of death fell upon me.
Fear and trembling came upon me,
and darkness covered me.
And I said, “Who will give me
wings like a dove,
that I may fly away and be at rest?
Look, I have travelled far in my flight
and made my lodging in the desert.”
From Psalm 63:“I shall dwell in your tent for ever. I shall be sheltered
under the shelter of your wings.”
It seems to me that this Lent the Psalms may help us to find words for our fear, sadness and hidden thoughts in a pandemic and also the hope and rest that many of us believe will come through God. Some of us may place ourselves in the imagery of the desert and the storms but also the protection of the tent or under the shelter of wings.
And what of the words and illustrations in Charlie Mackesy’s book “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse”? These characters meet and learn about themselves through each other and philosophise profoundly on behalf of us all as they journey together: (There are no page numbers.)
“Everyone is a bit scared said the horse, but we are less scared together. Tears fall for a reason and they are your strength not weakness.”
This might be helpful for reflection on our own fear and expression of emotion, and as we read of the tears and exhaustion in Psalms, including Psalm 69.
“Isn’t it odd. We can only see our outsides, but nearly everything happens on the inside.” (said by the Boy.)
The Psalms give vent to internal emotions, that are at times expressed openly and at other times are on the inside, or under the cover of darkness, or may be the “enemies” mentioned so often in these Psalms. As Nicholas King said previously the warring enemies of the Psalms may be the conflicting turbulent thoughts we have at times. For healthy mental wellbeing we are often encouraged to reflect on our inner thoughts and try to work through them. We may need to express them in some way. Sometimes we need to ask for support.
“ Asking for help isn’t giving up”, said the Horse. “It’s refusing to give up.”
And sometimes we need to focus on our blessings and look at what we value:
“When the big things feel out of control…focus on what you love right under your nose.” “This storm will pass,” said the Horse.
And if we feel tired with contemplating the journey through Lent we each discern what we will do, remembering that Resurrection and hope follow Lent and the Crucifixion. The Fox doesn’t say much but joins the journey, helps the others and not talking is accepted too… Perhaps this year we allow ourselves some leeway and “time out” when we need it.:
“ Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses” said the Mole.”.
And if we need reminding how far we have travelled the Covid 19 journey as we enter Lent:
“ We have such a long way to go”, sighed the Boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come” said the Horse.”
Father God, Healer of All Hurts. We come to you in our hour of need saying.
How Long? O Lord. How Long?
We find our ourselves caught up in the storm of Covid. We feel stranded and alone, Cut off from those we love.
How Long? O Lord. How Long.
We face shipwreck and catastrophe, Battered and bruised by the storm of this pandemic.
Our nation is in peril, Our NHS is stretched, Our Souls feel anxious and afraid.
How Long? O Lord. How Long?
Healer of all hurts, We come to you in our hour of need pleading.
That you would still the wind and waves,
And act, And move, And comfort, And heal, And embrace us in your healing hands.
Covenant God, Father of Lights, We bring before your tender love.
Those who are sick, Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.
Front Line workers for protection and resilience, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
For energy and patience for those homeschooling, Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.
For the vulnerable and those shielding, Lord have mercy, Christ Have mercy.
For ourselves in our boredom, frustration and anxiety. Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.
Father God, Healer of All Hurts. We come to you in our hour of need praising you, That you do not leave us, or forsake us. You have shown your love to us in Jesus.
Covenant God, Father of Lights, We come to you in our hour of need praising you, That there is not a hurt you will not heal. Nor a tear you will not wipe away. You have shown your love to us in Jesus.
We praise you that in Jesus is a balm to soothe our souls. We praise you that in Jesus there is always hope. We praise that in Jesus all will be well.
Until that day, We Weep and Pray.
How Long? O Lord, How Long?
Written by Rev Jon Swales, January 2021
Jon is Lighthouse Mission Priest (C of E) at Lighthouse West Yorkshire, which is is a fresh expression of church and registered Leeds-based charity which reaches out to those who are battered and bruised by the storms of life.
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So heart be still: What need our little life Our human life to know, If God hath comprehension? In all the dizzy strife Of things both high and low, God hideth His intention.
God knows. His will Is best. The stretch of years Which wind ahead, so dim To our imperfect vision, Are clear to God. Our fears Are premature; In Him, All time hath full provision.
Then rest: until God moves to lift the veil From our impatient eyes, When, as the sweeter features Of Life’s stern face we hail, Fair beyond all surmise God’s thought around His creatures Our mind shall fill.
In order to once again bring some encouragement to those who are unable or less likely to access the internet, we have produced and printed a short Advent Reflections Leaflet and sent copies out to nearly 200 people on our mailing list.
Please do enjoy using or sharing this electronic version of the Leaflet by downloading and printing, or viewing page by page on your screen:
Whilst on one of my ‘journeys’ poking around the world wide web, I stumbled across this excellent organisation ‘The Prayer Trust ‘.
Started in 2000 under the leadership of Father Pat Sayles, the Trust produces a whole host of prayer booklets, bookmarks, cards and even some CDs.
On browsing through the items on the website I found a long list of varied items all at extremely affordable prices, so I put in an order.
With bookmarks at 5p, booklets at 10p or above and notecards at 6 for £1.00, I was thinking the printing may be cheaper quality and the paper rather flimsy, but I was absolutely delighted when I opened my package to find high quality gloss booklets with excellent vibrant colours.
The picture above shows most of my haul (some items have already found their way to friends and family), for which I paid the princely sum of less than £7.00 (and that was including an optional extra donation).
The website says: ‘Having spent years in Peru as a Columban Father, Fr Pat is aware of the uplifting power of prayer across the world,’ and the aim of the Trust is to ‘encourage the use of prayer by everyone, everywhere’. They express their passion like this:
‘Our hope is that those who use these little books will want to share them with others – with friends and relatives, with neighbours and colleagues, with those who might be ill or suffering, or those who feel far away from the Lord’s love.’
I thought I would share some pictures of items I bought so that you can see them in more detail, and whet your appetite.
There are many different bookmarks with beautiful pictures and prayers on the back.
There are many more booklets, some longer than others, all with lovely images with the prayers.
These are Notecards, but there are also Greetings Cards including Christmas cards at 10p each.
These are an ingenious idea, with seven sides of prayers or quotes in one folding bookmark.
This Advent Folding Bookmark entitled ‘Come Lord Jesus’ explains the ‘O Antiphons’.
So why not head over to their website and take a look!
Please note that not everything has a photo on the website, so use the order form to see all the available items listed. You will need to make your choices and then print off the order to send with a cheque. It may take a few days for them to process the order as some volunteers are unable to go to the building at the moment, but you will not be disappointed when they arrive!
Whether you have seen it already or not, this moving song collaboration is bound to lift your spirits – an amazing coming together of over 65 churches and movements across the U.K. which has had over 3 million views on Youtube.
This is the message they attached: ‘At this unique and challenging time in the United Kingdom over 65 churches and movements, representing hundreds of others, have come together online to sing a blessing over our land. Standing together as one, our desire is that this song will fill you with hope and encourage you. But the church is not simply singing a blessing, each day we’re looking to practically be a blessing…’
And if that wasn’t enough, get the tissues ready before you watch this kids version –
a wonderful rendition by children and young people from the UK, USA, NZ, AUS, SA and many other nations
The Lord bless you
And keep you
Make His face shine upon you
And be gracious to you
The Lord turn His
Face toward you
And give you peace
As we receive, we agree, amen
Chorus: Amen, amen, amen
May His favour be upon you
And a thousand generations
And your family and your children
And their children, and their children
May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you
He is with you
In the morning, in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping
He is for you
He is for you
Original Song “The Blessing” by Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Elevation Worship. Written by Chris Brown, Cody Carnes, Kari Jobe and Steven Furtick Audio produced by Trevor Michael Video edited by Level Creative