Friday, 27 March 2020

Friday 27th March 2020

Recording pieces for this week's audio service yesterday!
Last week a neighbour of ours sent everyone in Cedar Grove a 'call to arms'.  She has been a most effective organisor so we now have a spreadsheet of contact numbers enabling us to keep in contact and look after each other, if and when the time comes.  What struck me was that she spoke in her first letter of us all re-discovering the 'Dunkirk Spirit'. 

I fully understand that, yet, upon reflection this crisis is very different to a war time one.  From what I can make out my grandparents' generation drew great strength from physically being in it together.  That longing for 'community' drove them to the cinema to see the latest Pathe newsreel, to church for national prayer services or simply into each other's kitchens for a cup of tea and a chat.  None of that physical contact is available in this crisis, so we are inventing new ways of expressing 'community'.

One such way is to speak to each other more often whilst out on a walk.  As I've taken the dog out on my one 'exercise' outing per day I've noticed that although we are observing that 2m rule, most people do it with a smile on their face and a cheerful 'hello'.  Ironically, I've felt more connected with my fellow walkers since the 2m apart rule than before!

Yesterday the Green household did a bit of recording for this Sunday's audio service.  Although there was lots of laughter as we all pretended we were at the BBC, I hope the end result will be helpful and uplifting.  Even as I write Michael is putting it all together.

I'm delighted that The Revd Heather McIntyre will be writing a short Prayer and Reflection devotional every Friday throughout the Crisis for our website and the first one appears today. Thank you Heather!

May you, today and this weekend, know the blessing and peace of God in all you do.

Ian

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Thursday 26th March 2020

Our two boys, well they are grown men really, both standing 6 foot 5 inches tall, did the Green family shop yesterday at Tesco.  I think it was a seminal experience for them!  They joined a long queue to get in and headed straight for the loo roll section to claim their one packet.  So elated were they at this achievement that they immediately Whatsapped me with a picture of the afore mentioned item safely in the trolly! 

These are strange days, yet in many ways they are also days in which we are re-evaluating what's really important to us, and the ability to go and do the weekly shop succesfully is one 'ordinary' thing that now feels quite 'special'.

Today, on our website and through your emails and letter boxes, we have posted a Minister's Letter.  This, amongst other things, will contain some of the issues we discuss at our regular Wednesday Church Officers Meeting - which, I'll have you know, we successfully (well almost) held via Zoom yesterday!  We are going to get better at this.

It's been heartening to hear of so many people signing up to be volunteers as a result of the Government's appeal.  We have our own band of volunteers here at AFC and yesterday one of them helped one of our older folk with a prescription delivery.  Do contact me if you, or someone known to you, needs practical help.

And a lovely thing to finish with.  We did a broadcast service on Sunday and one member of our congregation realised not everyone has access to the internet.  So, he made some CDs of the service and gave them out to three church friends who don't have a computer.  Hearing that news yesterday made my heart glad - small acts of kindness - that's what I call living Lent well!

May you, today, know the blessing and presence of God in all you do.

Ian


Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Wednesday 25th March 2020

I awoke early this morning and heard the Dawn Chorus.  It's odd, isn't it, to think of the birds, animals and flowers making their way through this spring quite 'normally', unaware of their context on Planet Earth!

We've had some super offers from members of the church community to help with shopping if required.  So if you, or someone known to you, needs such assistance don't hestitate to contact me and I'll put you in touch.

This morning I meet with the Church Secretary and Church Tresurer 'virtually' by something called 'Zoom'!  Being something of a Luddite when it comes to technology I'm not entirely optimistic at the prospect.  What I do know is that these 'meetings' have become very important so that discussion can be had and decisions made.  The notes of these events are then circulated to the Elders for any further input - and that's the way we are working at AFC at the moment.

I'm delighted that our first Thought for the Week is published today on the website and Janet has wrtten a wonderfully uplifting piece for us.

One of our Regional Ministers, Colin Pye, wrote at the weekend: It used to be said, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, well now we've all discovered that you can...

It's true - we are all learning how to do things differently - and how to do them well.

May you, today, know the blessing and presence of God in all you do.

Ian

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

The Consequences of Struggle

1816 is sometimes described as ‘The Year without a Summer’.

A massive volcanic eruption in Asia sent so much toxic smoke into the sky, over such a prolonged period, that world wide temperatures fell by a couple of degrees. 

That year, even as far away from the volcano as Britain and the USA, people woke up to dull, dreary and cold summer days.


Mary Shelley, along with other writing companions, happened to be spending August at a house by Lake Geneva.  The party was so frustrated by the weather that they launched a competition between themselves to come up with a novel.  From this ‘housebound’ experience Shelley penned her book The Modern Prometheus, better known to us today as Frankenstein.  

I wonder what will emerge from our lives as a result of these ‘Lock Down’ days?  For Shelley it was a horror story; for us, pray God, could it be something more hope-filled?


Last week, whilst listening to Rishi Sunak, I was struck by the way The Chancellor of The Exchequer finished his press conference.  He talked of ‘this moment defining us’ and went on to express a hope that throughout the crisis we might become a nation characterised by ‘small acts of kindnesses'. 

Instead of the Year without a Summer, we are going through a Worldwide Pandemic.  Already, I sense, we have a re-ordered sense of priorities and maybe the start of a long term re-evaluation of what really matters in life.

Our prayer is that, over time, the consequences of this crisis will not be solely tragic and horrific, but ultimately positive and constructive.


Monday, 23 March 2020

Monday 23rd March 2020

I hope your weekend went well.  For all of us it no doubt seemed very different, especially 10.30am on Sunday morning!

We have now planned for there to be something different every day on the web site.  I hope you find this helpful and a good way to feel 'connected'.We've had a lot of positive comments about yesterday's audio service and thought you might like to see some of these.  I found them very touching...

...so lovely to hear Eric on the organ, good job I was at home, as tears flowed...

...what a wonderful experience, it really brought us together...

...lovely to hear familiar voices coming out of my computer...

...the last Sung Amen has brought a lump into my throat...

...many of us are feeling concerned and vulnerable, yet the feeling of warmth and belonging that the service provided was truly wonderful...

...it brought me great joy...

...I look forward to logging in next Sunday...

...it is so helpful to feel one belongs...

...perhaps a good job nobody else could hear me singing the hymns - full voice!...

May you, today, know the blessing and presence of God in all you do.

Ian

Friday, 20 March 2020

Friday 20th March 2020

We have a Team Meeting today at 11am at which we'll review measures we have put in place this week and discuss what needs to be done over the next seven days.

We are very grateful for all the caretaker duties Peter undertakes at AFC, and in this quieter time he is engaged in doing some of those jobs that have been on the list for some time, which we've never got around to.

The Sunday Morning Service has now been put together, we did the last bit of recording yesterday evening.  Michael is tweaking it today and later on we'll put the 'Order of Service' on line for you to have a look at.  Tomorrow we'll attempt a trial 'upload'! Do tell others about this if you have a chance.

Today we are going to agree on a rolling programme for Website updates, so that everyday of the week something 'new' appears.  We will also be looking at how we can maintain church finances over this time of not meeting together with no offerings, plus the significant loss of income from lettings.

I am spending part of every day making around 20 phone calls, working my way through the church directory.  I was pleased yesterday to learn that people are back safely from holiday, some told me they appreciated this opportunity to 'slow down', others had family members who have symptoms, whilst others shared with me their new practise of 'family video conferencing' via Whatsapp.  People are very resourceful!

And don't forget, if you have a moment at noon, do stop and pray the Lord's Prayer and The Grace, remembering the AFC community as you pray.

May you, today, know the blessing and presence of God in all you do.

Ian

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Thursday 19th March 2020

 A 'new normal' is beginning to settle in amongst us - we hope just for the time being.

I've been struck by just how many churches will be trying to 'stream' a service on Sunday.

I hear the Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested we light a candle at 7pm on Sunday evening and place it at a window; showing solidarity with each other and affirming our belief that light is stronger than darkness.

Lent has always challenged us to 'slow down', and this year that opportunity has come in a most unexpected way.  So, just the thought, that we might grasp this moment to do one or two of those things we've been putting off for years, making the most of the spaces that have now appeared in our diaries.

And people are talking more.  I've just had a lovely conversation with our postman, and we don't often do that.  He asked about my 'job' with great interest, and I thanked him for all he was doing.  He gave me the post and said with a cheery smile: 'Now wash your hands'!  So I have.

Of course, we continue to hold in our thoughts and prayers those who are suffering and those who are working so hard to keep us as safe as possible.

Please also remember today Mary and her family as they gather for Jamie's funeral service this afternoon.

May you, today, know the blessing and presence of God in all you do.

Ian

Friday 27th March 2020

Recording pieces for this week's audio service yesterday! Last week a neighbour of ours sent everyone in Cedar Grove a 'call to ...