What a difference a year makes. This time last summer I was about to go on pre-ordination retreat, a period of reflection and preparation before being received into Full Connexion and ordained – one of the most special times of my life, made all the more so by your love and support. I feel for those probationers who were due to be ordained this summer. They will still be received into Full Connexion at Conference but it will be done remotely which, while it will confer on them the same authority to minister, will not have the ‘wow factor’ of being physically present in a large conference room, full of their peers affirming and welcoming them. As for their ordinations, those will be postponed until such time as ‘proper’ services can be held. I pray that when they eventually happen, their testimony and ordination services will be just as special as any other and worth their patient wait.
I doubt if any one of us a year ago could have possibly imagined the circumstances we have found ourselves in these last few months. Our lives have changed a great deal. Contact with others has been limited, regular patterns of work and home-life have altered, often dramatically, activities like shopping, meeting friends, even hugging family members, have no longer been commonplace and of course we have desperately missed gathering together for worship and fellowship.
I am sure, like me, you are really grateful to those who have enabled our online services, those who have kept producing the weekly notices and the monthly newsletter, those who have stayed in contact and ensured that people know they are thought of and loved even if we can’t see one another in the same way, and for all the prayers that we have prayed over one another.
Nevertheless, life has been very different and it seems that the turmoil we face within is reflected without. The brutal death of George Floyd was the catalyst that has birthed the Black Lives Matter movement, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that it has happened now. Perhaps his killing was the final straw but I also think it takes unsettled times like these to shake us out of our complacency and to make us think about what we value the most.
We are all peace-lovers – after all, who among us would not desire peace? – but being peace-makers is asking more of us. It demands our voices and our actions. It won’t allow us to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. The truth is that all lives matter and we are exhorted to speak up for those whose voices are gagged, for those who are discriminated against because of their race, colour or religion, for the oppressed, for the refugee, for the victims of trafficking, for those who are trapped in poverty.
Alan Gaunt, in his hymn, ‘We pray for peace,’* talks of the kind of peace we, as Christians, are to pray for and work towards. It is not a peace that is easily gained nor a prayer that is lightly prayed, but through Christ we are given the grace we need. Indeed, through Jesus we are given all that is needful for our present time and for the future.
One of my favourite Bible verses is Romans 8:28 which tells us that ‘In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.’ There is no situation where He is not at work, across the nations or in our individual lives. We will discover – if we haven’t already – that even in lockdown there are blessings. Some of those may lie in re-evaluating what really matters to us.
Over these next weeks, as we slowly edge towards a time when we can meet in church again, I would urge each of us to seek and to count those blessings so that when we gather for worship once more it will be with thankfulness in our hearts and praise on our lips. Until then, may God’s love and peace, which passes all understanding, fill your hearts and lives.
With every blessing,
*Singing the Faith 719: ‘We pray for peace’ by Alan Gaunt (b.1935)
We pray for peace, but not the easy peace
built on complacency and not the truth of God.
We pray for real peace, the peace God’s love alone can seal.
We pray for peace but not the cruel peace
leaving God’s poor bereft and dying in distress;
we pray for real peace, enriching all the human race.
We pray for peace and not the evil peace
defending unjust laws and nursing prejudice,
but for the real peace of justice, mercy, truth and love.
We pray for peace: holy communion
with Christ our risen Lord and every living thing;
God’s will fulfilled on earth and all creation reconciled.
We pray for peace, and, for the sake of peace,
look to the risen Christ, who gives us the grace we need
to serve the cause of peace and make our own self-sacrifice.
God, give us peace; if you withdraw your love
there is no peace for us, nor any hope of it.
With you to lead us on, through death or tumult, peace will come.