Here is the May Newsletter from the Ministers of our West Lancashire Partnership of the United Reformed Church,
Jim Williams and Janet Calderley
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.
It’s hard not to feel frustrated being locked down at home when there’s a job to be done out there in the world. It seems like such a waste of time. Is it, though? Waiting is a significant part of the Jewish-Christian story and in this context waiting is never a waste of time, but a time for purposeful preparation, praying and listening to God.
We read so many times in the book of Lamentations about people feeling that they are slowly falling out of their friendship groups, their society and even losing touch with God. Lamentations can be seen as a really miserable book, but look a little deeper and you will see hope underlying its message. The hope that we do not have to go out and ‘find God’ but rather that all we need to do is wit patiently and God will find us.
Hold tight to that hope during this lockdown. Pray that you will have the patience to wait for God to make himself known to you and to those you love.
Take a knotted piece of string and sit with it for a while…
Think about those things that make you feel less than you are …
Pop the string in your pocket and when you touch it remember to pray.
Please untie the knots that are in my mind, my heart, on my life. Remove the have nots, can nots, and the do nots.
Erase the will nots, the may nots, and might nots that may find a home in my heart.
Release me from the could nots, would nots, and should nots that obstruct my life.
And most of all, dear God, I ask you to remove from my mind, my heart, and my life, all of the am nots that I have allowed to hold me back, especially the thought that I am not good enough.
The following poem by chaplain Elizabeth Maitland, Manorlands Hospice, Bradford, reminds us of John Milton’s reflection that “They also serve who only stand and wait”, especially when we stand and wait with the Lord as our companion.
We are called to ‘stay here’ and we look anew at our socially distanced world.
We look for meaning and peace amongst anxiety and fear.
We look to you.
We window-watch people walking by, alone, or pursuing a child on a bike,
Dragging a reluctant toddler or slowing to look at a familiar view.
We watch with you.
We window-watch fewer cars, carrying anxious faces, workers driving to places of need
Or shoppers carrying a hopeful list.
We watch with you.
We tv-watch breathless suffering and lonely deaths, systems in crisis, people in fear,
Ever changing statistics and graphs climbing mountains of need.
We watch with you.
We cannot go where we’d usually go or do what we normally did,
Neither can we help where we previously would, which hurts our frustrated hearts.
And we look to you.
And surprisingly we find you sat beside us, quietly watching too.
And you say, ‘watching is more than looking when it’s powered with love.
Watching with love is a prayer.
Lord we watch with you.
Please pray for the staff and patients at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. Pray for their safety, pray for their recovery, pray for their anxious families. Pray thanks for the scientists supporting the healing process. Pray thanks for the investments that previous generations have made for the good of our health. Pray thanks that our health service is offered free to all: no inequalities, no judgements, everybody treasured. Pray thanks that Jesus makes himself known in the midst of it all.
Telephone Eucharist – Every Sunday Evening. Call Jim on 01253-896371 or Janet on 1253-896056
‘O to be in England now that April’s there, and whoever wakes in England sees, some morning, unaware, that the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf, round the elm tree bole are in tiny leaf, while the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough, in England – now.’ Some of you may recognise Robert Browning’s poem ‘Home thoughts from abroad’ which is one of my favourite poems and one of the few which I can quote from memory. And it is doubly appropriate now because the second verse leads on into May, ‘And after April when May follows, and the whitethroat builds and all the swallows, hark where my blossomed pear tree in the hedge, leans to the field and scatters on the clover, blossoms and dewdrops … that’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over, lest you should think he never could recapture the first fine careless rapture.’
April was on the whole a beautiful month and I welcomed once more the sparrows which nested in the eaves of my previous manses in Northumberland and Barrow but which were sadly absent from the manse in Formby, although there was a great variety of birds in the garden there, including large flocks of long tailed tits, great tits, blue tits, and goldfinches, as well as blackbirds, wood pigeons and collared doves, jackdaws and magpies, a robin and a wren. I haven’t yet seen a wren here and the numbers of tits seem to be fewer than in Formby but I have seen more chaffinches and a nuthatch which I rarely saw there. This week I was watching the blackbirds, of which there seem to be many here, collecting nesting material and darting in and out of the undergrowth. As one female paused in her effort for a moment, sitting there in the sunshine, she made me feel as if summer is truly on its way and all’s right with the world.
Sadly we know all too well that not all is right with the world. Covid 19 has impacted the whole world in so many ways, even the countries which have not had any cases of the virus yet are affected by the shutdown of so much of the world’s economy, the collapse of international markets, the virtual end of global travel, and the work of international charities serving the most vulnerable people is threatened. And against this backdrop injustice, inequality, persecution and violence still goes on, disasters still happen, people still lack food, shelter, clean water and other amenities or even necessities of life. There are hundreds of thousands of people living in refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon and other parts of the world and even during the lockdown several boatloads of refugees have been intercepted crossing the English Channel.
It is not all doom and gloom however. The reawakening of a sense of community and the individual stories of heroism, selflessness and resourcefulness we see every day on the news and encounter in our own neighbourhoods lift our spirits and are a cause for celebration. I have spoken to many members of our churches by telephone over the past few weeks and I have been heartened by the stories I have heard of care for one another and the faith which supports and strengthens our fellowships. At such a time as this the words of St. Paul in his letter to the church in Rome seem particularly appropriate:
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans chapter 8, selected verses).
The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Keep safe and I hope to be able to meet you all in person soon, Janet.