Rector's Blog

Photo of the Rector Rev. Trevor Kemp


 

 

 

"Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season;
correct, rebuke and encourage
– with great patience and careful instruction."
2 Timothy 4:2

 

 

 

Here our Rector Rev. Trevor Kemp shares his reflections on the current situation with the Covid-19 pandemic

Blog 4      The Last Supper               Day 17     9th April 2020

Today is Maundy Thursday when we commemorate Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and friends. An act of service, of giving. It is an act which should have focussed the life of worshiping communities ever since because like the donkey on Palm Sunday it is a symbol of God’s relationship with all that he has made. It is a sign of the nature of God that we can read and understand and in worship seek to emulate within our own lives.

Which of us in creating something or anything do so entirely seeking the good of that which is created? To do so is an act of self-giving, of love,  that reveals the nature of the giver. In this act we see and know that God loves, that God in his very nature is love and such a truth should fill us with joy and hope in believing. We trust in a God who has plans for our good, plans to bring healing and hope and renewal. In these days of COVID19 it seems to me that is an important message to hear. God not only journeys with us through it but will renew us beyond the hurt and the anxiety, the worry and the pain.

Of course the Easter story asks us to reflect on God’s complete understanding of us and our experiences. Today we are in isolation, we worry about how we may betray one another by being careless and taking infection to someone. We may worry about how every interaction with the ‘outside’ may place us at risk. All we can do is our best to reduce contamination risk and in doing that we show love for one another, we love as God calls us to do.

The story of today is one of betrayal as Jesus shares a last meal with his friends and Judas goes out to betray him. We don’t know why, you could make up your own story. Was it because Jesus was not fulfilling Judas image of the Messiah? Was it because he had lost hope? Was it because he wanted the money? Was it because he was jealous some of the others were closer to Jesus than he was? We don’t know, but all of us struggle at times with many things and most of us will have poor judgement on many occasions. Just not with such painful consequences, in this case the death of Jesus and also of Judas. Each Easter as we refresh and renew this story in our lives I find myself feeling sad for Judas. He knew Jesus intimately and yet he betrays him, so how much easier it is for us to turn aside from the truth of God’s love.

I always find one of the most powerful phrases in this the ending of this passage, Judas leaves Jesus and “it was night”. Jesus then says “now the Son of Man has been glorified”. There is a feeling here that it is in this moment that Jesus has committed to the cross, to the fulfilment of love in sacrifice. Darkness falls over the world for a short while as Jesus who is the Light of the World is separated from it and from the very presence of God the Father too. In the darkness lies our deepest fears and we wait in hope for the dawning of the new day.

John 13: 20-30 (NRSV)

20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.’

Jesus Foretells His Betrayal

21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, ‘Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.’ 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ 26 Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’[g] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[h] 27 After he received the piece of bread,[i] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘Do quickly what you are going to do.’ 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the festival’; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

 

 

Blog 3 Changing Church    Day 10   2nd April 2020

 

The last week has gone by in quite a rush for me but we are trying to create a routine at home that is sustainable and I am looking forward to slowing down a bit as I am conscious everyone (including me) needs time and space to stop and reflect and deal with the strange experiences we have under COVID19 lockdown. Over the past week we have added to or updated much of our website with support and help at this time and we have been busy trying to create a virtual church that will give opportunity for many in our area to still meet together so we now use Zoom to host a home bible study, a service of Night Prayer and a virtual coffee time after church on Sunday morning and now daily through the week too. All accessed by our website.

On a more practical note all our church communities are working hard to support our villages with many volunteers supporting those who are locked in because they are vulnerable. All of these are things you would expect followers of Jesus to be doing as we seek to be good news to those we share our lives with.

For me one of the biggest challenges has been the Sunday morning Youtube live stream. Not something I have ever had a desire to do and certainly not on my own with just a laptop. Quite a bit of anxiety for me in that and I am very conscious that this needs to be a comfortable place for those used to a liturgy and some who may not normally come to a church service but all in very changed circumstances shut in our homes. Even so it does feel to me that this is a real expression of community and our shared spiritual life.

As part of our daily routine Elaine and I have been sharing a reading by Henri Nouwen a well-known Christian writer and I thought I would share today’s with you as we approach Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.

God’s Faithfulness

The resurrection does not solve our problems about dying and death. It is not the happy ending to our life’s struggle, nor is it the big surprise that God kept in store for us. No, the resurrection is the expression of God’s faithfulness to Jesus and to all God’s children. Through the resurrection, God has said to Jesus, “You are indeed my beloved Son, and my love is everlasting,” and to us God has said, “You indeed are my beloved children, and my love is everlasting.” The resurrection is God’s way of revealing to us that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste. What belongs to God will never get lost- not even our mortal bodies. The resurrection doesn’t answer any of our curious questions about life after death, such as: How will it be? How will it look? But it does reveal to us that, indeed, love is stronger than death. After the revelation, we must remain silent, leave the whys, wheres, hows, and whens behind, and simply trust.

From: Our Greatest Gift © Henri Nouwen legacy trust 2017

It is I think a wonderful thought that nothing that belongs to God will ever go to waste and that resurrection is not in a way terribly important of itself except as a sign of God’s faithfulness. With or without our knowledge of resurrection, it is God’s love and gift to us. It is the sign of life. Easter is the celebration of that relationship God invites us into. It is a sign of belonging and a symbol of love.

 

Blog 2  On enforced isolation  Day 4 March 26th 2020

As I said yesterday I expect at the moment most of us are just fine at the moment but as Boris Johnson has kept saying we are in this for the long haul. There is no easy solution and so this isolation in support of our NHS will continue for some time. As days slip into weeks it is going to become far more difficult for many so I thought I would put up a few thoughts on that to help us. We are of course very lucky living where we do as it is much easier for most of us living in a beautiful part of the country with access to many quiet footpaths as well as our own gardens. We do need to pray for those isolated in tower blocks and places where avoiding contact with others is much harder.

First of all and I think most importantly ROUTINE. Regular habits are always helpful. If we were to look at the old monastic communities (and others) there is a great tradition of ordered living. Having a regular time to get up, to eat meals and a regular pattern of activities will be really important for most of us.

Part of that may include dividing up our day so we make space every day for a domestic activity such as ironing or cleaning and keeping our space tidy. It may include getting out in the garden to weed or grow some seeds. Structure in some other tasks that you keep meaning to do like sorting out the spare room or the garage.

Have a HOBBY. Is there something you never have time for (like improving your Spanish or knitting or woodturning or bike repairs or drawing or jigsaw puzzles). Seek to start something new or improve something you do. Online there is access to how to do almost anything.

EXERCISE. Every day be disciplined about being active. ‘Use it or lose it’ they say don’t they but exercise is really good for our mental wellbeing. It may be arm chair exercise or an hour in your home gym or more likely make use of the green gym. Exercise has all sorts of benefits one of which is a positive reduction in anxiety for most people.

TALK with friends and family. It is really important to keep in touch with those around us and the casual is as important as the more intentional. Make a point every day to call someone and have a chat. I would say too if you can how about playing some of those games on your phone with a friend? Years ago I remember our family playing a lot of ‘Words With Friends’ on their phones. You can play with your neighbour or your family across the world and it keeps us in touch in a gentle way with those we care for.

SPIRITUAL encouragement, This is a good time to make daily prayer and reading the bible a good habit if you don’t already. There are a legion of resources available if you want some but the Daily Prayer app on your phone or laptop can give a rhythm to your spiritual life and also a sense of community with the Christian family around the world. https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer  or search Church of England from your smart phone app store.

All of these things and many others can help us through the isolation and reduce our anxiety too and now, at the beginning, is the time to design your own personal plan and start keeping to it.

As I was reflecting on this it did occur to me that Barrie one of our Readers as a retired submariner would have some good ideas on managing enforced isolation though of course a tin can under water is a rather different situation. You certainly can’t go for a walk! So here are some thoughts from him too:

PHoto of Barrie Cran

“While being in a submarine may have similarities, there are also considerable differences.  Firstly, you are cooped up with others away from your family and now we are cooped up with our family and away from others.   The other difference is that there is not a huge amount of time available on a submarine,  you eat / sleep / work /repeat with occasional breaks, whereas time is something some people may find they have too much of.

 

 

 

However, my distilled wisdom from being in a number of unusual situations for extended periods is:

 

1. Have a rhythm for the day including different activities.  Have some physically stimulating, some intellectually stimulating, some spiritually stimulating.  Force yourself into a get up / go to bed and eating rhythm even if you are the only one who knows!

2. Have a rhythm for the days.  Not every day needs to be different but mark the weeks; here the Sabbath is a real blessing.  Food can also be a marker I have cereal during the week for breakfast and toast at the weekend. Save treats for special days.

3. Have different spaces for different things.  if you are lucky enough to have a number of  rooms available then use them for different things. They don't have to be big, but going to a different space for a different activity can help break things up.

4. Don't stop communicating, phone, skype, facetime, email. even write a letter.

5. Set yourself a target for something you wouldn't otherwise do. I used a Falklands patrol in the 80s to read Les Miserables - it took the whole trip and sometimes I had to force myself.

6. I see lots of groups helping each other out.  there will be a temptation to focus on helping others but do leave some time to look after yourself and remember that some may actually want to be left alone for a bit.

 

 

 

Blog 1 Lockdown!

So now we are in day three of national isolation and my guess is most of us are just fine. Some of us are working from home, others are fortunate to be able to enjoy the wonderful weather we have had this week and some are worried about leaving home at all. It is a little like the phoney war in the Autumn of 1939 when mostly it was leaflets rather than bombs the planes dropped. That of course gradually turned into the blitz. I don’t want to compare COVID19 with that although this is having an impact on everyone’s lives and as then some people have taken the preparations more seriously than others. In the blitz failing to keep your blackout secure risked bringing the bombs down on your town or directing the enemy to their target. Everyone had to play their part for the good of the whole community. Some stood fire watch on buildings others were in the emergency services and some the frontline while most took shelter but none stood alone.

We do find ourselves needing to rediscover some of the power and responsibility of community in these days. The weakness of the individualistic society we have become is quite clear. I saw a report recently about drains blocked because people were having to find alternatives to toilet tissue. There is not a shortage but some people have selfishly filled their garage with it. The blockages are not the fault of those finding substitutes but those who have caused the shortage because they have no thought for the welfare of others.

On the other hand we also have a legion of good news stories to tell to.

For the past couple of week along with many others on our Parish Councils and other volunteers we as church have been working to set up support for everyone in our communities over the COVID19 outbreak. There have been plenty of people cuing up to offer their support which is a real joy to see. I have been given flowers to share out by a local store to shed a little extra joy and several dozen eggs for those who were short. Nationally a request was made for volunteers to support the NHS and within a day I believe there were more than 500,000 who had signed up on the website to support our medical services. Such community spirit is to be applauded and we should give thanks to God for all those around the country who are willing to do what they can.

In the darkness it is easier to see the light so I would encourage us all to do that. Look around and where you see that which is good rejoice in it and share it as our reading last Sunday called us to do (Philippians 4: 4-9)

 


 

 

Photo © Elaine Kemp


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