Month: November 2020

Hailstorm above Tarn Hows

A reflection by my friend Gill Henwood inspired by the area around her home in the Lake District. The reflection is illustrated by a poem she has written which is quoted here in sections. The photos are by Gill.

All around us the heavens have given us dark blue grey clouds bringing rain, hail and mists. The natural world is entering the winter, ripping leaves from the golden, bronze trees. Creation is showering a bumper harvest of acorns in Crag Wood, the mossy carpet peppered with plump seeds. All life is sensing shorter days, darkness growing. Sunlight spotlights the bracken fells. Mists scatter sun into rainbows.
In a hailstorm high up on the fells, a poet* reflects:

How fleeting is a rainbow
fractured hues
dazzling sunlight
breaks through rain.
Cloud edges
scatter laser white
arcing colours ‘compass
all life beneath.

Long ago, in a time of devastation, the sign of the rainbow was God’s promise to Noah and his family that the world would be renewed. The rainbow brought hope in the darkness of the storm. Courage to endure, perseverance to wait, solace to trust. The gift of the rainbow came in the darkest storm. Yet, the poet reflects:

How fleeting is a hailstorm
stinging ice
freezing crystals
melt dis/appear.
Cloud mists
soften warm renew
dancing waters re/fresh
all life beneath

The story of the flood, of Noah’s family and the animals shut up in the ark, is so long ago. Yet now a new storm rages around us in the coronavirus pandemic, rumbling around the whole world. We are within another hailstorm, seeking shelter from the stinging ice; seeking protection from disease, from isolation, from hardship.

We too long for hope, for renewal, for the world to find a safe future.
People around our world long to ‘come out of the great ordeal’ – this crisis we encounter in our lives, as described in the book of Revelation 7:9-17. The hailstorm is sharp, acute, real, sending us fleeing into shelter. We are in the midst of another month’s lockdown under the storm of the pandemic. Yet the psalms tell us storms will pass. The scriptures give us psalms of lament from those in times of trouble long ago, such as  Psalm 34.

‘I sought the Lord and he answered me/ and delivered me out of all my terror… I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me/ and saved me from all my troubles’ (v 4,6).

In this time,  we can turn to the Bible and re-read the story of Noah. We can pray the psalms of lament and sing in our hearts the psalms of thanksgiving for God’s promise of hope and renewal. Jesus and his disciples knew these scriptures, heard and prayed and sang them in their times of crisis.

Jesus gives us the sign of the rainbow as he teaches the crowds about God’s blessing. He is up the mountain, atop a fell, with his followers and the curious crowd about him. As the rainbow gives us hope in the storm , when light breaks through and kisses the rains into glorious colours, Jesus gives us hope in God’s promise of blessing.

All who are suffering and struggling are called into God’s shelter, the safety of heavenly love and care. Jesus’s good news brings God’s care for all his children into our crisis too. When we turn to him, we hear God’s promise of comfort, of provision for our needs, of mercy, peace and justice. When we turn to Jesus we see him living God’s way through the crises of our lives, even through suffering and death, as he endures. Jesus trusts God the Father, the creator, source of life and love, to deliver him from evil. He gives his followers the prayer we call ‘the Lord’s Prayer’ – we too pray, ‘deliver us from evil’, deliver us from the crises of our lives, from this crisis.

‘I sought the Lord and he answered me/ and delivered me out of all my terror… I called in my affliction and the Lord heard me/ and saved me from all my troubles’ (v 4,6).

As we share holy communion , we join Noah and his family who trusted God, who received the sign of the rainbow, the gift of God’s promise to save us. We join the psalmist and all who have lamented in poem and song. In the quiet of our hearts we sing hymns of hope in God our creator, in thanksgiving for Jesus our saviour, in trust that God’s Holy Spirit is with us now. We join the saints throughout time, praying, ‘thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.’

Let us trust in God today, during lockdown and beyond. Let us turn to the story of Noah, to the psalms, to the gospels of Jesus’ good news of God’s love and protection. Let us find God’s shelter in our hearts as well as in our daily lives, and support one another as God guides and prompts us day by day. Let us be open to God’s Holy Spirit, inspiring us and empowering us to endure.

Once more from the felltop a sudden rainbow dazzled, and the poet reflected.

How fleeting is God’s Presence
glimpsed sensed
surging power
jolts wakes calls.
Cloud hides

God’s revealed
rainbow Spirit,
all life beneath.

We may only sense God’s presence as fleeting, but the rainbow /and the gospel Jesus brings us / are signs that God is always with us, Emmanuel, dwelling among us, the Spirit hovering to bless us.
In this time, let us turn anew to find solace in the scriptures. As we, our nation and our world lament, let us turn anew to God for comfort, for shelter, for hope, / for Jesus saves us in our crisis/ as we answer his call and turn to God’s love. As we, day by day, seek God’s love, may the Holy Spirit warm our hearts and give us inner calm, to endure, to give hope to others around us, and to aid any who we encounter who are in need.
God is present with us, throughout time, every moment.
May we turn anew to him in our hearts today.

*Gill Henwood 1 Nov 20

Voice of the voiceless

Another picture reflection from my friend Joyce Smith.

“This little cygnet is trying to use his voice on behalf of others!

This year is the 40th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Oscar Romero, beatified in 2015. In 2018 Pope Francis declared him a saint.

As Archbishop of San Salvador he spoke up for the ordinary people who were living in increasing poverty whilst the ruling elite gained more and more political and economic power.
There was civil unrest which led to the military murdering many to such a degree that Oscar Romero appealed to them to stop killing their own people. “No soldier is obliged to obey an order which goes against the law of God,” he said. . “I beseech you. I beg you. I command you! In the name of God: ‘Cease the repression!”
He had become the voice of the voiceless and, as such was a target for Assassination.

At 6.30pm, on Monday 24 March 1980, he was celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Divine Providence hospital. A car pulled up outside, and a single gunman fired a single shot from the doorway straight into Oscar Romero’s heart.  Moments earlier, the Archbishop had been speaking about how “those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grain of wheat that dies…”. 
He knew it was likely and had warned, I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection. If I am killed, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people.

A statue to this modern martyr, by the sculptor John Roberts, was unveiled in Westminster Abbey in July 1998.
At the ceremony of canonization, Pope Francis wore the blood-stained belt that Oscar Romero was wearing when he was shot.

Christmas gifts

Pagli writes:

I’ve been very busy lately catching up on my sleep. Though I no longer go ‘clubbing’ as they’ve all closed down because of Covid, I still patrol the steets most evenings. I am a member of Neighbourhood Catwatch though our main watching is of dogs and foxes. It can be very dangerous work.

When I am not out on the streets, I have been turning my attention to Christmas. I have made a very long list of things that I find essential at this time of year. The important things, I’ve found, is to make as big a list as possible knowing that the Servants who look after me are usually prudent (their word) or mean (my word).

I find that they are wise to the fact that items put at the top of the list are not as important or as expensive as those at the bottom of the list. In the past they have worked downwards from the top and they never reach the things I really want. So, this year, I have placed my ‘desirable’ items right in the middle! Clever ploy, I think.

But you mustn’t believe that all I think about is myself.

I have been searching for the ‘purrfect’ gift to give to my servants. Surfing on Amazon I found just the thing! So, I’m sharing it with you so that you can leave the details lying around for your cat to see. I believe there are similar items for dogs, rabbits and parrots but you can imagine that I am less interested in them.

So here it is, the purrfect gift for our slaves to purchase as a reminder of the their need to keep quiet during these cold months.

I look foward to speaking with you again once I have caught up on my sleep.


Samuel Seabury, first bishop of North America

Consecration of Samuel Seabury

On 14th November we remember the Consecration of the first Bishop of America – Samuel Seabury. He was made a Bishop by his Episcopal colleagues in Scotland.

In 1783 the Anglican Church in the American colonies had been governed by the Bishop of London for over a century. Naturally he didn’t spend a lot of time there but attempts for the Christians there to have their own bishops fell on deaf ears.
After the War of Independence the clamour for this grew even greater and in March 1783 Samuel Seabury, a godly and faithful priest and a native of America was chosen. He was sent to England to be made Bishop and head of the American Church.
It was expected to be a formality but in England bishops must swear allegiance to the Crown and Seabury, from a newly independent nation couldn’t do this, so the Bishops refused to Consecrate him. Eventually, he packed his bags and travelled to Scotland.
The Episcopal Church in Scotland was free from the English Church and owed no allegiance to the Crown of England.
Three of the Scottish Bishops – those of Aberdeen, Moray and Ross, quickly agreed to ordain him Bishop and this took place on the 14th November 1784.

The Bishops imposed just one condition and it was to bind the Churches of America and Canada into a fellowship which opened to door to the beginning of the Anglican Communion – a Communion which, despite differences of opinion and practice, unites us Anglicans in a joyful fellowship, love and mutual prayerful support. The simple condition the bishops imposed on Seabury was that he would adopt the Scottish Prayer Book with the Scottish service of Holy Communion.
He readily accepted and was faithful to his promise.
The first American Prayer Book of 1789 was based on the Scottish Prayer Book.

Even today the 3 churches are close to each other in the forms of public prayer they use.
The growth of the Anglican Family and its sharing of practice, faith and fellowship can be said to be because of the witness of those 3 Scottish Bishops and Samuel Seabury.
Through this we are given a bigger picture of what it means to be the Church – the worldwide family with a mutual responsibility for Christians and those we serve throughout the world.
It is good for us to be reminded of the Church as a bigger and more united family.

A family in which all of us have dual nationality.
It is not however with Scotland or Ireland or Wales or Canada and the USA but rather – we are citizens of heaven. We live in another world as well as this one.

As  citizens of this ‘other’ Kingdom, Jesus turns us into people with a great task.
He  calls us called to be proclaimers of God’s love and care for his sheep, his loved ones. He asks us to share compassion and watch over those whom he gives us to tend as He did Samuel Seabury.

Ezekiel talks of God’s people (his sheep) being scattered and in need of rescuing. (Ezekiel Chapter 34) They are to be fed and brought to new pasture; to good grazing. The wounded are to be tended, the weak strengthened and they are to receive justice.
Because of dual nationality and being watched over by God followers of Jesus we are called to this ministry.
We are not just to see the bigger picture of the Gospel – we are to live it and be part of it.
As citizens of heaven, like Samuel Seabury, Jesus invites his followers :

  • to go out
  • to bring in
  • to open up
  • to grow love in people
  • to be a blessing to others.

We are to live in the world, to serve it, to show people the joy and love of God  and that our hearts are fixed on Him. We belong to Him, to His Kingdom which is our true home. I think Samuel Seabury understood that very well and lived his life accordingly.