Thoughts and Prayers for our time
While All Saints is closed for worship for the foreseeable future, our vicar will provide thoughts and prayers on this page. There will also be occasional thoughts from other members of our team.
Reflections on living in lockdown by Elaine Southern Reflections on living in lockdown
ASCENSION THOUGHTS IN LOCKDOWN
Ascension Day is an important festival in the church’s year, marking the end of Jesus’ ministry here on earth, but most importantly ushering in and enabling the next part of God’s plan, the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on all his followers. But it also involves a farewell and a departure. We are all very aware how hard it can be for those left behind. When someone leaves us, to move a long distance away, it is easy to feel a sense of loss and sadness. And particularly at this time we may be deeply aware of the absence of loved ones, family and friends whom we cannot meet. Of course we can talk to them on phone, or perhaps see them on video calls, but somehow it isn’t quite the same as being with them.
So Ascension Day’s message on the face of it seems to be all about separation, something very familiar to us all at present. Jesus has to leave his close friends in order to return to his Father, and perhaps we would expect it to be a sad occasion. After all, Jesus’ disciples had spent three years alongside, witnessing his deeds and absorbing his teaching, so it would be reasonable to suppose they may be feeling rather desolate, but no, Luke tells us that they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy”.
As we approach the end of the great season of Passiontide and Easter, perhaps we can see, with the benefit of hindsight that it was all part of God’s plan, but Jesus makes it very clear that this plan does not finish here. The Resurrection is to be followed by the proclamation of the Gospel, starting in Jerusalem. And Jesus’ ascension is essential to this, as he would be in the position to send the promised gift of Holy Spirit, which would equip the disciples with “power from on high” and embolden them to proclaim the Good news. It is this promise which makes all the difference, the disciples rejoice and head towards Jerusalem with joy. This separation was about joyful anticipation about what is to take place.
For us, we rejoice in the gift of the Holy Spirit too, and we can daily draw on his wisdom, guidance and courage to deal with day to day challenges. But we are still in a sort of “between time” in which many of us are deeply conscious of the sadness of separation from those we love with no real knowledge when this might change. But it is the Holy Spirit that will give us the resources to deal with this, and inspire us on our daily walk.
May the joy of the Risen and ascended Christ be with you and gladden your hearts at this disturbing time.
A copy of the above for you to download here Ascension Day Thoughts
LOCKDOWN EIGHT WEEKS ON
I was asked a while back, on how I felt the Lockdown was affecting me spiritually. It was in the early days, late March, and now here we are in the middle of May. In some ways I feel much as I did then, but perhaps in other ways, not. Back in March I felt that one of the good things about Lockdown was that I had the luxury of more time for reflection, reading and prayer. And I still believe this to be the case, though I might not always be making the best use of this time, this long Sabbath, given to us. Somehow things, the day to day bits of our lives like getting out of bed, taking a shower, eating, doing the washing up, seem to have “expanded” and seem to take more time too. I get up later, prayer doesn’t have to be at a particular time after all, does it? I could say it should, but if it stops us praying “whenever” or constantly as well, maybe not.
I have also noticed a slightly disconcerting tendency to put things off, for instance “I really don’t need to write this post today, there’s always tomorrow”…because there’s always tomorrow and there’s nothing much in the diary, or the next day, or the next, and so on.
Speaking of praying, maybe we are all doing it, hopefully rather more often than before, maybe more randomly, perhaps more instinctively. The important thing to remember is there’s no right or wrong way of doing it. Some may fall into prayer mode as they take exercise, looking at the houses, people, shops, businesses, clubs, social places, schools, health support, and so forth. We may lift all this up to God who will know of all the needs here, the joyful and the sad, the worried and the confident. We can expand this beyond our communities and hold up others, the NHS, carers, essential workers and many more. Others may pray as they carry out routine home tasks, of as they sit, perhaps watching TV, which can act as a trigger for prayer. And sometimes the song of a bird, the sight of a beautiful flower or butterfly may help us to rejoice in God’s good Creation and give us a chance to praise Him for it.
Perhaps, especially if we are sharing our space with someone else, we may find a place where we pray. I know at least one person who goes off to his garden shed, while others will sit in a particular place, light a candle, look at a picture, or sit in the garden. The choice is really limitless, and it’s good to see what works for you. There is always the option to use a more structured approach, a simple Daily Office maybe, or offering the Lord’s Prayer, using each line as a springboard for free prayer. However we offer prayer, God is ready to hear us. Use this time and space to spend time in the presence of our loving God.
You might be interested to use this short Celtic Prayer for the start of a new day:-
I arise today through a mighty strength: God’s power to guide me, God’s might to uphold me, God’s eyes to watch over me, God’s word to give me speech, God’s hand to guard me, God’s way to lie before me, God’s shield to shelter me, God’s host to secure me. Amen
Of course there’s no reason why you can’t change “me” to us, if you wish.
In Christ’s love Alice
A copy of the above for you to download here Prayer for Eight Weeks
LOCKDOWN WEEK EIGHT THOUGHTS
Today, the 12th of May, is significant for at least two reasons. First it is the birthdate of Florence Nightingale who was born 200 years ago on this day, and second, it marks the start of week 8 of lockdown.
I guess we are all aware of the achievements of Florence Nightingale, and her pioneering work in nursing, which transformed the profession and allowed it to become the highly skilled occupation it now is. We all have reason to celebrate and be grateful to those who have followed in her footsteps. What is not a cause for celebration however is the lamentable lack of PPE for nurses, doctors, medics generally and carers. It is a sad reflection on how those who are in the frontline caring for people are treated. I wonder what Florence Nightingale, herself a committed Christian, would have to say about the situation. These people need our support, and prayer, of course is one way, but not the only one, of demonstrating this. They need more than our applause too. They need the kit too.
As we enter week eight of our lockdown we are receiving messages that there will soon be some slight easing of the measures, we will be able to get out more, a few more shops will open, including Garden centres (hooray, do I hear some of you saying?). But social distancing and use of facemasks in crowded situations like public transport remains very much on the agenda.
After seven weeks of lockdown how do you feel about this? “About time too”, excited, relieved, worried, confused as to what it will look like, or how it will roll out, or concerned that it seems too soon? I admit to a rather confusing cocktail of all these emotions, some of the time all of them at once. I long to be able to get back into the churches, but part of me is worrying away at HOW it could workout in practice, will people observe Social Distancing, will they wash their hands, avoid touching their faces, will we run out of hand sanitiser, and given that we will not be able to hand out service books, the added burden on somebody to provide a service sheet of sorts, which must then be disposed of after every service? Will I have to wear a face mask if distributing Communion? What new rules will be issued for hygiene, and how do we ensure the church is properly clean? And what about the fact that a majority of our congregations here are over 70? That will certainly have some bearing on who actually turns up for services.
In some ways it could be easier simply to retreat back into the security of our little domestic worlds, for a considerably longer time, but would this be right? To be perfectly honest I don’t have an answer to this, and come to that I’m not sure anyone else has either, yet, which is why caution and small steps seems to be the only way forward.
God is a God who leads, and encourages. I am reminded of the song by Sydney Carter, a great favourite at BBC Songs of Praise, “One more Step”. It does not envisage us taking a few confident strides towards our destination, but just “one more step” and focuses on the need to keep on travelling, with God as our companion. Rather like Jesus with his two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Perhaps this extract might speak to our situations at this time:-
As I travel through the bad and good, keep me travelling the way I should;
where I see no way to go you’ll be telling me the way, I know.
Give me courage when the world is rough, keep me loving though the world is tough; ……..
And it’s from the old I travel to the new; keep me travelling along with you.
I will conclude with a short prayer that comes from the ancient order of Compline, a night service, and perhaps helpful and valuable as we retire to bed:-
Be present, O merciful Lord, and protect us through the silent hours of this night,
so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this fleeting world,
may repose on thy eternal changelessness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
In Christ’s love Alice
A copy of the above for you to download here Lockdown Week 8 Thoughts
THOUGHTS FOR THE 75th ANNIVERSARY OF VE DAY,
OBSERVED IN LOCKDOWN
Of course, I have no direct recollection of WW2, of VE Day, but then I’m not 75, it doesn’t mean I was totally ignorant of it, even as a child. I was a “Baby boomer” and have faint memories of things being taken off rationing and new foods appearing on the table. I remember clearly the first time I met a banana.
I knew my father had been wounded in the war, in France and he would sometimes have to go to the GP to have another bit of shrapnel, which had worked its way to the surface of his nose or chest, removed. I know that was not unique. I suspect some of the sights he saw were terrible and he rarely, if ever, talked about that side of things. Once they’d patched him up in hospital, he never returned to the frontline, but instead was dispatched to train new recruits, completing his time as an Officer, same rank as Tom Moore, near Folkestone, Kent. He told us about VE day, when Europe was liberated from the evils of Nazi and Fascist ideology and how high spirited young soldiers wanted to mark the occasion by “liberating” a Grand Piano over the cliff edge near the Leas Cliff Pavilion at Folkestone. Of course, it was Dad’s job to dissuade them. Though, given his sense of humour, I think there was part of him that would have been curious know what a grand piano falling 100 feet over a cliff would sound like! He never did find out.
That’s how Dad, and probably many of his contemporaries dealt with it, they told us the stories that would amuse us, leaving the door open for us to learn of the real horrors later, as we grew in understanding, and idealistically tried to live our lives to ensure that this sort of thing never happened again. Dad, for example, never mentioned the Holocaust, but worked as a solicitor in Hendon, close to Golders Green, North London. Several of his staff, and many of his clients and friends were Jewish. He knew the terrible reality, and that was what made people like him sign up before they were conscripted.
I talk about my Dad, because he was the link between the events of VE day, and me. Others will have countless different stories, either through experience or via the telling. My Dad lived, but many didn’t or survived with far worse injuries than him. Today, let’s remember these men and women, in the Armed Forces, the non combatants, those who kept things going, with thanks. Victory in Europe was a liberation from the evil ideologies of Nazism and Fascism, even though today we still have to contend with resurgences of these evils. We must learn from those who did their bit against them 75 years ago. And we must honour those who served.
In this lockdown world the British Legion would be pleased if you can join them, from home of course, in a two minute silence at 1100hrs on Friday the 8th May. Do it sitting quietly at home, your window, on your doorstep, or in your garden, however you wish.
A Prayer for Today by Alan Paton
Give us courage, O Lord to stand up and be counted,
to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves,
to stand up for ourselves when it is needful for us to do so.
Let us fear nothing more than we fear you.
Let us love nothing more than we love you,
for thus we shall fear nothing also.
Let us have no other God before you,
whether nation or party or state or church.
Let us seek no other peace than the peace which is yours,
and make us instruments,
opening our eyes and our ears and our hearts,
so that we should know always what work of peace we may do for you.
May God bring you his peace at this turbulent time. Alice (the Vicar)
A copy of the above for you to download here Thoughts for VE Day Anniversary
ANCIENT PRAYERS OF THE CHURCH
The last time I was in All Saint’s Winterton, the day the lockdown started or thereabouts, I wrote these words in the blue Register of Services. I was worried, confused, rather angry that I wasn’t to go into any of my churches any more for who knows how long.
The words were simple, and in Greek Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison, Kyrie Eleison. They are of course generally known as “The Kyries” and in our Eucharists during Lent and Advent we regularly say or sing them, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy. They have been used in the church for as long as it has existed, and in the Gospels we often have people walking up to Jesus saying something very similar.
I’ve known this prayer for many years, when I was around 7 or 8 I sang it, as an animal (Mrs Dog, since you ask!) as we marched, in pairs, two by two to the stage Ark for a performance of Benjamin Britten’s children’s opera Noye’s Fludde, based on the Medieval Mystery plays. The familiar story unfolded and at the end we marched out singing “Alleluia….”
And that day in March I could think of nothing more appropriate to write in the book than these ancient words, and their relevance continues for me at any rate, but also, maybe for you? I find myself praying them often, as I hear news, as I hear of people dying, or sick, as I hear of acts of sacrifice, courage and love. I long for the day I will write “Alleluia” instead. It will come, but who knows when?
There’s an ancient Christian tradition, recommended by St Paul which is to “pray constantly” or “without ceasing” depending on which translation you’re looking at (1 Thessalonians 5: 17). He doesn’t explain how to do this, but the Eastern monastic tradition has come up with a possibility, a short prayer, almost like a mantra which can be used all, or any of the time. The version I know best goes like this:-
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
It is generally called the Jesus Prayer and I believe that it was not unknown for contemplatives to use it constantly, whatever they were doing. Last thing at night and first thing in the morning and probably the rest of the time too. Again, it would have New Testament roots, many people approached Jesus using similar words in the Gospels.
At first sight it looks like a plea for mercy and forgiveness, and that may have been what was in the mind of the first users, but there’s something else you can do with it. Like the Kyries I would say this is a prayer that despite its age is entirely relevant to us today. You can pray the whole thing, and it’s easy to remember, but you can also contract it, altering its focus. Leave off the last four words and you have a general prayer for mercy:-
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy.
Or it can be an affirmation of our faith and trust in our Lord, a brief Creed, or act of praise if you like:-
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God!
Use these prayers, however you feel them to be helpful, they are not written down in tablets of stone, and it’s fine to be creative with them. Prayers should be tools, not straitjackets.
In Christ’s love Alice
A copy of the above for you to download here Ancient Prayers
PRAYERS AND THOUGHTS FOR WHEN WE ARE WORRIED
We have been locked down for 6 weeks at the least, some of us longer, and in a sense we may find we are getting used to the situation and the restrictions placed on us. Like most of you, I conform to the rules, because the science says it will help slow the course of the virus and reduce both our chances of getting it, but also spreading it to others. All of which will take the pressure off our NHS and move us towards some sort of normality, even if it isn’t quite what we remember from pre lockdown days.
And while there is no specific talk or time scale on releasing the lockdown, the idea that there may be some kind of relaxing of it, even if it means wearing facemasks (which to be honest, sounds ghastly to me), is in the conversation now.
I wonder how you feel about this? Perhaps pleased, relieved, frightened, worried that it all might happen too soon and go wrong, leading to a further increase in virus cases? For me, it’s a mixture of these feelings, probably several times before breakfast, let alone the rest of the time. We all have a lot to think about, much of it potentially worrying, at the moment, and it probably won’t change very much for a while.
By sheer co incidence the Psalm given in the Lectionary reading for this coming Sunday (4 of Easter) is the well known and loved Ps 23, The Lord’s my Shepherd, which is well worth a reflection and another look at, giving us the assurance of the Lord’s abiding presence and care for us. I have quoted it in a previous Post, so won’t do so again now, but I do offer these two prayers which might just be appropriate for your use at this time. I’m afraid I can’t attribute them to anyone, as I don’t know the originator, but they came from a very good friend, who is also a Friend (Quaker) who was attending a Christian fellowship on a Cruise Ship, earlier this year. They go like this:-
In times of trouble
Lord, take from me the wounds of yesterday,
the stress of today,
and fear for tomorrow.
For your love’s sake. Amen
A prayer for every day
Help me, O Lord, to live one day at a time.
Let your grace be sufficient for today.
Let me not be anxious about tomorrow.
Let me rest in the arms of your love,
in time and in eternity,
blessed by your goodness,
now and forever. Amen
May the Lord of peace be with you and all whom you love at this time.
A copy of the above for you to download here When we are Worried
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