Sunday 24th May 2020
Two weeks have flown by since my last letter!
A lot has happened whilst we remain locked down here in Church Brough. I am getting better at spending money on the internet! Our cupboards and freezers are stocked up and food is not in short supply – how fortunate we are in comparison to so many.
In Woodhouse Close the Food Bank is a very necessary port of call for many. Rather than try to set up our own Food Hub at BABC we have thrown our efforts into helping at Woodhouse. Our weekly “Fair Share” from Asda is going there after more local distribution. We are also getting regular pick-ups from Tesco which again we are taking to the Food Bank. We are grateful to John and Vanessa Purdy for their help with transport, but they are now on “holiday” for three weeks, although their annual trip to Sedbergh Music Festival has had to be curtailed.
It was good to share this week with other Church Leaders in and around Bishop Auckland in our regular Re:generate group and look at how we are each reacting to the present situation and looking forward to a new reality – life will never be the same. I recently received a letter from Cornwall asking whether we would be going back this year to our favourite hotel, sadly I cannot see that being possible and I am even doubtful that our trip to Stranraer can be rescheduled. Our neighbours have rescheduled their wedding for next May, as has our eldest son. He will be getting married, for the first time, on his 50th birthday, so will never be able to forget his Anniversary!
I have three ongoing projects at home – one of which is tidying my study. I have found the floor again but the bed is still hidden! Whilst doing this I have been looking through weddings I have conducted going back to that of my Brother-in-Law 32 years ago. For Ian and Pauline, it was their second marriages and happily they are still together. I wondered how many of the other couples have remained together, some I know have lost partners, some I do know have succumbed. Yes, I can remember most of these occasions – they are all special. On a more sombre note, I have reflected on the many funerals at which I have officiated and again can remember many of the people whose lives we have celebrated over the past 40 years.
In all these events the one constant is God – His love and care for each of us never waivers even though we sometimes lose sight of Him. The Psalm set for this weekend is Psalm 68: 1 – 10, 32 – 35.
“May God arise, may his enemies be scattered. As smoke is blown away by the wind, may you blow them away. May the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; may they be happy and joyful. Sing to God and rejoice before him.”
As we move forward in life let us do so knowing that God is with us. Let us rejoice in his presence and take heart.
What of my two other projects? My spring cleaning of the kitchen continues at a rather leisurely pace, but likewise I am finding things that I had forgotten about. When I venture into the kitchen it is more often with a specific task in mind, i.e. food preparation! As I go about this task, I am reminded that we all need renewing in body, in mind and in spirit regularly. Thankfully, there is a wealth of material being beamed across the nation for us to tune in to each week and I recommend the service material coming out from the NBA. Here in Upper Eden, our Baptist Church has a Zoom worship each Sunday. Last week the preacher was Zooming from Gloucestershire, instead of driving from his second home locally in Ravenstonedale. In speaking to my brother’s partner this week, I was reminded that not everyone is connected to the internet and we need to be more active in providing for them.
The final ongoing task is to clean the drive – it is block-paved and over the years much has started growing between the blocks. It is a long job with a long-handled metal brush, but the end result is good to behold. Like the Forth Bridge it will never end, for as I complete the task it will need doing again. Sometimes in life we need to understand that our journeys are ongoing. We learn so much from our study of the scriptures, but that learning is ever an on-going process. The more we learn the more there is to learn. The joy of the hard work in this task is the ability also to socialise with those passing on their daily (or more frequent) exercise or with those stood out on a Thursday evening as we remember the people we know who are providing vital services at this time. Remember especially Hannah (from Influence Church) working in the CCU Unit at Darlington alongside Caroline from Hamsterley. Remember also Marion working in Social Care in Darlington and having to travel by bus – there are so many continuing to work upon whom we depend.
We are also drawn to 1 Peter this Sunday. Towards the end of his letter he calls us to “Live for God” and “be not surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” We are living through painful times. We should not be downcast, rather look to God in Christ, who suffered so much more for us.
5v6. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s almighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast ALL your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Let us follow this teaching – relevant in its day, equally relevant for us today.
5v10. “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ. May you all remain strong, firm and steadfast.