Vicar

A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

I recently received, through the post a copy of one of my cycling magazines. It arrived in an envelope which was loudly proclaiming “Bike week” as being 6th -14th June. Even as I read it, I was saying to myself, “that can’t still be happening, can it?” Sure enough, as I actually opened the magazine and began to read the editorial on the first page, the editor acknowledged that as far as that issue of the magazine was concerned, the ‘elephant in the room’ would be Corona Virus – pretty much all of the copy of the magazine had been compiled before anyone imagined the current state of lock down! So an edition, that was looking forward to warmer days and the freedom of Summer conditions to roam further afield on our bikes, was very much out of touch with the realities of life.

Life, for most of us, has had to be put on hold, as we are encouraged to stay at home and stay safe. For others, of us, it may well be that we find ourselves working harder than ever in order to keep up with the impact of the virus!

I wonder, how you are coping with social distancing and being unable to see in the flesh, friends and family?

At the time of writing, we have just marked St. George’s Day, and at Morning Prayer, heard the opening lines of the Book of Joshua, the sixth book of the bible: Moses the leader of the Israelite people, who was commissioned by God to bring them out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land, has died, and it falls to Joshua as Moses successor to complete the Exodus journey; to cross the river Jordan and enter into the land that God had promised Abraham He would give to his successors.

God speaks to Joshua, instructing him to do this, and bolstering his and the Israelites’ fortitude. God repeats three times in this passage the instruction to be “strong and courageous”, or as one of our worship songs puts it, “Be Bold! Be strong!” On the third occasion, God says, “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’” (Joshua 1: 9).

In our All Age worship services, beginning in September last year, we have been thinking about Heroes and Villains of the Bible. The heroes at least, have exemplified in some way, that boldness and inner strength, that God is exhorting Joshua to.

In the last few months, I have made reference to different books that I have read, or been reading. When I think of courage and strength, I think of another book, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The whole book is an exploration what it might mean to have courage in the face of battle that cannot be won. The main story surrounds an unjustified accusation of rape against a black man in pre-war America, and the courage and strength of character exhibited, by the lawyer appointed to defend him; there are though side stories that are further examples of the need for courage and strength. One of the neighbours – an unpleasant and bad tempered woman – is strengthened and encouraged by the children having to go and read to her, each day. The children are frightened of her, because of her temper, but don’t realise that their going and reading to her, despite their fears, is actually helping her to find the courage and strength to overcome her dependence upon morphine. In the end she is enabled to achieve her goal of dying free from her addiction.

What strength and courage, I wonder, are you having to find as we journey through this season of lockdown?

We journey also, through the Easter season, which comes to its end, at the end of this month, when we mark and celebrate the feast of Pentecost (31st May). On that occasion we will hear how the disciples, still coming to terms with the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection; still frightened for themselves and hiding away in Jerusalem, are released by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them, imbued with courage and strength to proclaim God’s message of salvation. Their lives had been effectively on hold, while they determined what they were going to do, and who they were called to be, after Jesus’s death. Now they are strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit.

Our lives are on hold: In the last 6 weeks or so, we should have held our Annual Parochial Church Meetings (APCMs) – these will need to be rearranged for the autumn; this month we were supposed to be welcoming and licensing Peter Hart as the new Team Rector – he and his wife are unable to move house at the moment and so are continuing to minister in his parish in Kew, in London; many people are unable to celebrate life events, (weddings , baptisms, funerals) in the manner that they would have wished.

We may have additional fears and anxieties, brought about by this disruption to the normal pattern of life.

And yet, the world continues to turn, and times and seasons continue to pass, as they always have.

God instructed Joshua to be bold and strong with the assurance that God was with Him.

May I encourage you, during this time of lockdown, to seek God’s presence with you; to allow it to deepen your relationship with Him, such that you may be encouraged and strengthened through the difficulties of this season of our lives.

May God bless you all.

Stay safe. Stay faithful. Stay in touch.

Andy

Revd. Andy Stand

St. Philip & St. James Parish Church Whittington, Worcs. WR5 2RQ