Church in a new form

Today – Sunday, March 22 – we will not be able to go to church, or at least not physically. But the coronavirus forcing the suspension of normal worship does not mean there will be no church – far from it. You can enjoy church from the comfort of your own home online. Some are livestreaming and others have recorded services or sermons.

Here in Badshot Lea and Hale, Margaret Emberson will be livestreaming on Facebook at 10am, playing and singing the hymns that should be being sung at St George’s. Find her here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury will lead first national virtual Church of England service, streaming at 8am on local BBC radio stations and online at 9am. The service, including prayers, hymns and a short sermon, will be broadcast online by the Church of England and broadcast on 39 local BBC radio stations and BBC Radio 4’s Sunday Worship. It will be on the Church of England’s national website.

Bishop Jo, Bishop of Dorking, has recorded a Mothering Sunday message based on the Gospel reading, John 19.25b-27, in which Jesus on the cross asks the disciple whom he loved to take his mother into his home. You can hear and watch her here.

Michael Hopkins, URC minister at The Spire Church in Farnham, Clerk of General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, and a great friend of the parish, has recorded a service for Mothering Sunday which you can access here.

New Inclusive Church, based in Birmingham, will be live online at 4pm with interactive discussions to follow via Zoom. Join them here.

Finally, churches of all major denominations are marking a national day of prayer and action today, particularly remembering those who are sick or anxious and all involved in health and emergency services.  Everyone is invited to light a candle in their window at 7p.m. on Sunday “as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ”. A short act of worship ‘The Light Shines in the Darkness’ is available here courtesy of Fr Craig Huxley-Jones.

 

Lamentation for a time of Crisis

Richard Rohr is one of my (Stella’s) favourite theologians so you will find him appearing here regularly, particularly because he has some pertinent ideas about how to cope at this difficult time. Here are today’s thoughts from the Centre for Action and Contemplation. Do sign up so that they can be delivered straight to your inbox.

Intelligently responding to the coronavirus demands that we access resources of physical, emotional and spiritual resilience. One practice Christianity has developed to nurture resilience is lamentation. Prayers of lamentation arise in us when we sit and speak out to God and one another—stunned, sad, and silenced by the tragedy and absurdity of human events. . . Without this we do not suffer the necessary pain of this world, the necessary sadness of being human.

Walter Brueggemann, my favorite Scripture teacher, points out that even though about one third of the Psalms are psalms of ‘lament,,  these have been the least used by Catholic and Protestant liturgies. We think they make us appear weak, helpless, and vulnerable, or show a lack of faith. So we quickly resort to praise and thanksgiving. We forget that Jesus called weeping a ‘blessed’ state (Matthew 5:5) and that only one book of the Bible is named after an emotion: Jeremiah’s book of ‘Lamentation’.

In today’s practice, Reverend Aaron Graham reflects on the elements found in prayers of lament. I hope that you will find in his words and in the text of Psalm 22 a way to voice your own complaints, requests, and trust in God, who is always waiting to hear. We need to be reminded that our cries are not too much for God. [God] laments with us. In fact, [God] wants us to come to the [Divine Presence] in our anger, in our fear, in our loneliness, in our hurt, and in our confusion. Each lamenting Psalm has a structure;

  • They begin with a complaint. . . that things are not as they should be.
  • They turn to a request. God, do something! Rescue me! Heal me! Restore me! Show mercy!
  • Laments end with an expression of trust. Laments end with the reminder that God is setting things right, even though it often seems so slow. It is right for our laments to turn towards a reminder that God is in control and about the business of righting all things made wrong. [1]

Consider praying these words found in Psalm 22, or choose another passage of lament. Before you pray, ask God to speak to you. . .

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
(Psalm 22:1-5).

Self-isolating? Some ideas to fill the time

If, like me, you are stuck indoors self-isolating, you may be wondering what you can do to keep yourself as healthy as possible mentally as well as physically. After a while binge-watching Netflix, or playing endless games of online Scrabble (other word games are available) loses its appeal, and you probably shouldn’t allow the children to spend 16 hours a day on their phones/
computers/PlayStations/all three at the same time.

Fortunately there are lots of good ideas out there to help you fill the time and we have started compiling them so that we can share them and help preserve our collective sanity.

Keep the faith

For a start (this is a church blog after all) there are lots of spiritual resources and we are adding to our Faith Online page regularly. We also have a great forum with a mix of spiritual and other resources. Sign up here, then read, listen, watch, and discuss!

Get into the garden

If you have a garden and feel well enough to get out into it when it isn’t raining, gardening is a great way to clear the mind and focus on something other than the current situation. It is also intrinsically positive. You are preparing for the future, planting for a better time ahead. I’ve not yet got the energy to do much but next week maybe… You can order plants and seeds online or ask someone who is out and about to look for some for you. If you need someone to go to a garden centre for you, email me here and I’ll ask someone.

In the meantime I found this article which I thought might be helpful. It’s American but works this side of the Atlantic. Go on – Dig for Victory!

Singing is good for the soul

You probably heard about the singing from the balconies in Italy and Spain. We don’t have as many balconies here but there is still singing. Vic Cracknell, a man who has done more than most to encourage live music in Farnham, has started live streaming music on Facebook. He does a mix of genres and today I heard him performing Elton John, Carole King, Vera Lynn, The Beach Boys, and some of his own compositions. Find him here.

I’ll add some more links to others as I come across them.

Watch a West End Show

Yes, really!

The producers of the West End production of The Wind in the Willows are streaming the show online for free, though ask for a small donation that will be given to theatre charities. Watch and enjoy here.

It’s story time

Remember Little House on the Prairie on the TV? It was based on the books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and tells of the childhood of Laura herself in pioneer America in the late 19th century. If you haven’t read the books, now could be the time. Listen to Ruby2kids reading the first of the series Little House in the Big Woods. She’s reading a chapter a day and it is a delight whatever your age! Find her on YouTube here.

Laura Ingalls Wilder appears on a list compiled by Enchanted Hour Reading. It comprises books to help children make sense of their current circumstances. What is it like to live alone or within one family/ small friendship group while isolated from the world? These are books to enjoy together and some to read alone.

Get the colours out

Colouring is good for your mental health and very satisfying. Jules Middleton has some lovely colouring sheets here which will absorb you for hours. Be soothed.

That’s it for now. More coming soon.

Stella

 

And thanks to Sergey Shmidt on Unsplash for the lovely picture.