Autumn is almost upon us, our harvest festivals are happening, and our thoughts are beginning to turn from summer to winter. Traditionally, this is the time of year when we take stock of things. We celebrate the good things that have happened over the last year and we look to the future.
. Are things better than last year? Let’s hope so! After all, there are many good reasons to believe they will be. Chief amongst them is the successful vaccination program. While clearly there are many reasons to remain cautious, we should remember that we have so many things to be thankful for.
I’m thankful that our building is open, our regular services are all running, we can sing and praise God, and that next week we can have coffee after the services. Fellowship is beginning to seem more normal. The Church Halls are open with social activities and coffee mornings. Of course, there are the usual challenges. Singing while wearing a face mask will never seem a natural idea, and whilst YouTube and Zoom have proven their worth throughout recent times, technology always seems capable of producing challenges.
Looking into the winter months ahead I am reminded of all the things we didn’t manage to do last year including, Remembrance Sunday and our Christmas Eve service. It is my firm hope that we will be able to honour those we love and have sadly passed away at our All Saints service this year, and that our Remembrance Sunday service will be open to more people. For Christmas, I’m sure that my prayers for unrestricted carol singing will be echoed by many.
Times have been difficult and continue to be challenging but I believe we have a lot to be thankful for and even more to look forward to.
With Every Blessing,
What a wonderful world!
What a wonderful world! These words will bring a tune to mind for many people. The lyrics sung by the great jazz musician Louis Armstrong speak to the heart!
I see trees of green and red roses too... skies of blue and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
- And, really, when we consider the world, this is primarily how we should view it: As God’s creation, ours to treasure and care for.
But you may respond: What about the terrible things going on at present? What about the awful suffering in Afghanistan, in Haiti or the conflicts between Palestine and Israel? Look at the effects of the pandemic on the economy, the poor, our children, the NHS and our lives. As the COP 26 summit of governments in Glasgow approaches to consider Global warming, we can sense a depressing urgency in the melting of the ice caps and abuse of fossil fuels.
You're right. It can be hard to sing “It’s a wonderful world”. There are catastrophes here, there, and everywhere. It can seem overwhelming, leaving little room for sentimentality.
So as Christians, how should we respond?
Let us be people of optimism! Yes... Collectively as humans, we really have done much to harm the world and its people. Yet, the good surely outweighs the bad. As people of faith, we can count many blessings and discover hope. In our call to care for the world and love humanity, God gives us the means to view everything through a prism of love. This makes a difference.
Love is at the heart of our Faith because God is love.
The French philosopher Simone Weil wrote: "To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul." My advice is to be rooted in God’s love. Not only will the world appear more beautiful, but you will have the means to transform its sorrows into joy.
With Every Blessing
It is so good to see people able to come back to church for a service and feel safe when they know they can be assured we continue to follow procedures as required. And there is more good news as lockdown eases once more - WE CAN NOW SING!
But you know we have much more to look forward to. We are inviting the Romanian Orthodox community to base themselves at the Church from September onwards. Their priests will share the building rather like the free church from Cornerstone did prior to Covid. This is an exciting venture in ecumenism and no doubt they will bring blessings to us. In other news a new Italian assistant is coming to us in September. He is called Giovanni Bernadini and he is training in Rome for the Waldensian church - the Italian protestant church. He is 28 and very enthusiastic. Another adventure for us is the opportunity to enter into a partnership with Edinburgh Napier University to support our work with the Department of Student Wellbeing and the Chaplaincy team. The chaplaincy team will use our building for student services, counselling and meetings. In the next few weeks we will reshape the children's ministry with the help of the national youth advisor, and in terms of our work with older people, we are now invited by the care homes to resume our services at the start of September.
I know it has been a deeply frustrating time for people at many levels: we have lived with separation, isolation, anxiety and a sense of pessimism, but there are signs of new life and hope emerging as the summer progresses. As we start to see restrictions lifted, which have been in place for 16 months, there will be those among us who will welcome this move and others who won’t. This is a landscape which we will need to live well together as we all make individual choices. What we are not doing is being released to ‘go back’ to what used to be the norm; that is no longer the present and we should not think that we can simply pick up where we left off. Instead, I hope we will commit ourselves to shaping a new future; one which recognises the pain and brokenness that some are feeling, one which respects the exhaustion many are experiencing, one which acknowledges the fear and anxiety in our communities, and one which also sees the joy of those are able to live without restriction once again. Just as at the start of lockdown many people immediately thought of neighbours and those who are vulnerable and sought to offer support, so too we now need to be paying great attention to all those around us with various vulnerabilities and fears, not least in our worshipping communities and local contexts. What does it mean for us to be the body of Christ as we live the weeks ahead? Furthermore, as we saw at the beginning of lockdown, in March 2020, people respond in different ways due to their circumstances, personalities and experiences. There will be those who are longing simply to live as before with no physical distancing or face coverings and who will delight at being in a crowd once again. There will also be those who are anxious, not least those who are still not fully vaccinated, and those with particular personal and family health situations. Whilst it is true that going forward we need to enable one another to live with the realities of a virus which is not going to suddenly disappear, and not be driven by fear, we do also need to be sensible, cautious and compassionate as we continue to live this next season one step at a time. This is the ‘story’ into which we are emerging, and every thread of it is a significant one. Jesus’ focus was always on God and the Kingdom, and his activity rooted in love and prayer. This is a good model for us right now, as we discern our new normal.
With love and blessings,
It seems to me that spring sunshine makes lockdown a little more bearable, and certainly there is a sense of tentative optimism as we look forward to moving into a different level of restriction. The news of vaccination success helps, but I am still conscious that we have just emerged from the most miserable winter on record. Some of you will remember the winter of 1963, and some of you may even remember the winter of 1948. But for me, 2020-21 was just so hard for many - perhaps the worst winter! It’s been about so much more than just the weather. We all know the sort of things we have been struggling with here in Morningside and across Scotland and the world.
Many clergy have used the past few months to preach about hope, which is surely the strongest of human emotions, and in this post Easter time, we can see that spring is emerging - splashing colour and new life around us. This adds to a sense of guarded optimism, and this is a joy! It has been great to meet people rejoicing in family reunions, albeit outside. It’s wonderful our older people in care can be visited. I have been delighted to hear several ladies and men tell me of their relief at being able to visit the hairdresser or to make plans to return to the gym or swimming. There is a palpable sense of hope.
Here in the church, we too are planning to return to life to bring back the normality we can only remember from more than a year ago. It will happen slowly - the gradual return of simple things such as refreshments after services, social groups and even singing. We will keep you all informed as these things become possible. --But even the thought of it feels good.
I am also conscious that in some way and at some point, we shall need to look back in remembrance for those we have lost, and to give thanks for those who have worked so hard to keep us fed and cared for over this unprecedented time. I am conscious too of those who are financially compromised by the economic fallout of the pandemic, those using foodbanks, those exhausted by providing care services or working in the NHS. Even now, in this time of lengthening days and spring warmth, there are those much worse off than us and in much greater need of hope!
Pray for them, pray for the Church and pray above all for those you love best. Might the light and hope of Easter fall upon all of us as we emerge from this lockdown.
- Rev. Steven
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.