On being let down by the Church

I’m supposed to be doing my Wednesday Worship right now but I’m feeling rather shaken today following the publication of the report into abuse in the Church of England.


It’s not really news to me but as a survivor of several kinds of abuse, not by clergy but by people close to me, the publication of the final report has touched old wounds.


I was let down as a teenager by a vicar who didn’t take my report of abuse seriously, which was painful enough, so I can only imagine how hard it must be like to live with the pain of being abused by those who we should be able to trust most.


In that light, and with the hope that it might help someone, here is a prayer for survivors that I found online:


Come, Holy Spirit, to rest in our broken hearts and tend to our broken lives.

Bear us up on wings of eagles when our hope lies crushed below the cross of our past.

Release us from the shame and grieving that hobble our pursuit of joy in our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

Comfort our pain.

Help us trust in Christ’s complete victory over evil, so we may endure what we have suffered until that day when all we cannot see and cannot know is finally made clear.

Heal us with a fuller understanding God’s grace, so we may be open to sustenance to continue our recovery.

Help us discern the sure direction of God’s whisper when noise and confusion threaten to send us on mistaken pathways.

Provide us generously with Your counsel, so we may not be lost in a wilderness of sorrow, doubt and despair but, rather, are able to hear over our shoulder which way to go, what way turn to choose, which time to rest and which time to push forward.

We ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen

Travelling in the Dark

“At the moment many of us feel like we’re travelling an unfamiliar path. We’re not sure where we’re going or how long the journey will last. Yet, in all this God offers us his hand to guide us through the unknown, whatever happens. Here is prayer I find helpful from the book “Rooted in God’s Love”:

I can’t see very well, Lord.

I certainly am not familiar with this path.

Are you sure you know where this leads?

This feels like a pretty rough trail to me, Lord.

Are you sure I can make it?

Be my guide, Lord.

I am afraid. I would be lost without you.

Guide me, Lord.

Turn darkness into light.

Make the rough places smooth.

Do not forsake me.

Amen.

Refuge in a time of coronavirus

At the moment I know a lot of people, including me, are worried and uncertain about the coronavirus.

Sometimes it seems like things are falling apart and there’s nowhere to turn.

But I hope you will find these words from Deuteronomy comforting.

They remind us that whatever happens God is always with us.

He’s a safe pair of hands waiting to catch us and hold us close, whatever happens, and he will be our place of safety.

Keep well everyone, and may God bless you.

Sorrow and the Heart of God

While thinking about today’s horrible news from New Zealand I found some words from a hymn coming to me and giving me some comfort.

So I am sharing them here in the hope that they might be of help to others as well.

God is Love, Let Heaven Adore Him

Verse 2:

God is Love: and he enfoldeth
all the world in one embrace;
with unfailing grasp he holdeth
every child of every race.
And when human hearts are breaking
under sorrow’s iron rod,
then they find that selfsame aching
deep within the heart of God.

Happy New Year!

“God Knows”

 

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

 

Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)

The Art of Advent

I am reading The Art of Advent: A Painting a Day from Advent to Epiphany by Jane Williams.

As you might guess, it gives a painting for each day with a reflection and a short prayer.

Today’s picture was the above – The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt.

It’s a very familiar picture but I had never noticed what Williams points out – that there are 3 sources of light within it.

There’s the dawn light struggling through the dark trees – which makes me think of hope, far off perhaps, but still fighting through the gloom.

Then there’s the lantern that Jesus carries – a friendly light to my mind, calling us in.

And finally there’s a light coming from Jesus himself, shining round his head – this I see as the light of holiness, reminding us that this stranger knocking on our door is God himself, humbly asking for our attention in a strange and wonderful turn of events.

And the prayer that Williams gives us at the end:

Lord of gentle might, may we hear the patient knocking of your Son, Jesus Christ, this Advent, and open all our doors to the flood of your mercy, poured out for us in the power of the Spirit. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Transitions

A few things recently have got me thinking about those times when everything changes.

 

I read about someone who’s recently left his church after a long period of soul-searching and with a lot of hurt and confusion.

This reminded me of a similar thing I went through in my early twenties when I could no longer feel at home with the very conservative theology and ways of doing things that my student church promoted.

There were several issues in my decision to move back to the more middle of the road Anglicanism I had started out with –  but one moment really stands out in my mind now, even 20 years or so later.

I spoke to someone about my difficulties with the idea of people suffering in hell forever and their response was that it didn’t matter because God would make it so that we didn’t mind.

To me this was (and still is) a horrifying idea – not only the idea of people suffering forever but that God would want to make us hardened and indifferent to it and that this was a good thing.

 

There are other changes going on just now though.

 

There’s autumn, of course, a time that’s linked with another turn in the year both in nature and in the human world.

This autumn I’m starting an MA in Church History, along with many other people beginning or continuing or returning to academic studies.

I hope in this course to combine my interest in both theology and history, and to gain a better understanding of the Church through the ages and perhaps how and why it has developed in the way it has.

I also hope this will help me understand something of how the Church and Christians think and act today, and maybe I can share some of that in my ministry – both in preaching and in my writing.

 

Last year I also took up clarinet after a long break, and I began running after a lifetime of thinking I couldn’t do it.

They’ve both gone well and now I’m working towards Grade 3 on the clarinet and running 10km.

These are also changes in that I see them as new ways of taking care of myself, warding off the depression and anxiety which I’m prone to by taking responsibility for my own well being.

They are also ways of taking care of my physical fitness and getting more music and beauty into my life, all of which are important if we are to be healthy, happy and well-rounded human beings.

 

So there’s a lot going on, a lot of excitement and purpose, but also a need to adjust to new projects, timetables and priorities.

At times like this I find it helpful to remember that whatever the outcomes of new projects or ideas, regardless of how much change is going on around us, whether its’s positive or negative, God remains the same: faithful, constant and loving, ready to cheer us on, pick us up and keep us on the right path.

 

A Prayer for Times of Change:

God of Love,
You are with us in every transition and change.
When we enter new eras with excitement and even some anxiety,
help us to recall your deep compassion, presence and abounding love.
We thank you for the gifts, talents and skills with which you have blessed us.
We thank you for the experiences that have brought us to this moment.
We thank you for the work of others that gives breadth and depth to our own work.
Be with us as we move forward, rejoicing with you and supporting one another.
We ask this in your Holy Name.
Amen.

 

 

 

Witnesses and Curators

Listening to a sermon this morning one particular phrase jumped out at me and has stayed in my head ever since:

“I would proclaim the gospel from the rubble of this church rather than become its curator”.

The preacher was talking about focusing on what really matters: putting Jesus at the centre of what we do, reaching out to others in mission and generosity, rather than focusing too much on our financial security, maintaining our buildings, and propping up our institutions.

Now, I (and indeed the preacher) do see the importance of our church buildings as signs of witness, as centres of mission, and as places for Christians to gather and worship.

But in that person’s passion for the gospel, for being a light of witness in an often dark world, I believe I caught a glimpse of God.

For it’s the good news of the gospel that matters above all – that God loves us, that Jesus died for us, that we don’t need to struggle alone because God is with us, and that sin, darkness, death and evil will not ultimately win.

This is an important message, especially right now, when we see hatred, prejudice, discrimination and bigotry spreading through society at all levels, when it’s government policy to create a “hostile environment”, when people are forced to rely on handouts and food banks because of a heartless and unfair benefits system.

At such a time do we, as the Church, really want prioritise our buildings and desire for security above reaching out to help people in desperate need?

Or do we want to say yes, we need our buildings, but let’s also look beyond the walls to the people in urgent need of help?

Sadly, for many people, Christians can be anything from irrelevant to nasty, idiots to prejudiced.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were known as people who love, care and welcome, as people who stand up for the vulnerable and share love and generosity?

Would it be wonderful if we could all share in God’s urgent desire to find and save the lost, bind up the brokenhearted, and to bring as many people into his kingdom as possible?

May God give us grace to show his light in the world.

The Holy Trinity

This is my favourite depiction of the Trinity.

I am drawn to its sense of community and togetherness, and the space left for us to join in the eternal relationship within our God – who is one in in three.

Blessing for Trinity Sunday

In this new season
may we know
the presence of the God
who dwells within our days,
the mystery of the Christ
who drenches us in love,
the blessing of the Spirit
who bears us into life anew.

Amen

Making Mistakes

“We are sometimes crippled by our weakest moments and embrace that weakness as our unalterable fate, but the reality is that ‘there is always time for endurance, time for patience, time for healing, time for change. Have you slipped? Rise up. Have you sinned? Cease’#BasilTheGreat”.

 

I feel like I’ve maybe gone a bit too quiet on the posting front. Life got in the way in the form of lots of work and then a small car accident when I drove into someone else in a lapse of concentration. There were no injuries but it left me feeling shaken up and insecure. I have a habit of beating myself up when things go wrong, something I try to change as I know it feeds into feeling depressed and anxious.

After the car accident I was busy feeling bad and blaming myself when the words above came up on my Twitter feed. I definitely fall prey to thinking that weakness is my unalterable fate at times, and it’s good to be reminded that I’m not the only one who sometimes feels that way, whether it’s about an accident or doing that thing we know we shouldn’t do.

I also found the words of Basil the Great to rise up a helpful call to not sit around and worry about what’s done and can’t be helped but instead to take a deep breath and try again. Every day is a new chance to live, laugh, work and laugh, knowing that the failures and mistakes of yesterday can be forgiven as we go on in God’s grace towards our goal of becoming more like our Lord and Saviour.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

                                                            Lamentations 3.22-23