On this page:
- Paintings and sermon
- Remembrance sonnet by Malcolm Guite
- From an article in the Church Times by Pádraig Ó Tuama
- Link to 'The Book of Hopes'.
- Quoted in the Church Times
- 'This is the time to be slow' by John Donohue
- Prose poem by Kitty O'Meara, a retired American teacher
- 'Down to the River' - Virtual Choir
- 'This little Thingummyjig' by Moustapha Dahleb, from Chad
- From 'Walden' by Henry Thoreau
- Terry Waite speaking about his ordeal
- Malcolm Guite article
- Faith in the time of plague
Four paintings to which John refers in his sermon below.
Julia Stankova Nigel Groom Wayne Forte Daniel Gerhatz
November pierces with its bleak remembrance
Of all the bitterness and waste of war.
Our silence tries but fails to make a semblance
Of that lost peace they thought worth fighting for.
Our silence seethes instead with wraiths and whispers,
And all the restless rumour of new wars,
The shells are falling all around our vespers,
No moment is unscarred, there is no pause,
In every instant bloodied innocence
Falls to the weary earth ,and whilst we stand
Quiescence ends again in acquiescence,
And Abel’s blood still cries in every land
One silence only might redeem that blood
Only the silence of a dying God.
From an article in the Church Times by Pádraig Ó Tuama
I have lived a nomadic life for decades. To be in the same place for two weeks without even a short trip was unimaginable. In March, contracts began to be postponed. Then, everything was cancelled. Months of unfilled space opened up, with yawning anxiety. Ten weeks into lockdown in the Irish countryside, I’ve found myself more rooted in the Fermanagh-Donegal borderlands than I ever thought possible. It’s a beautiful and strange place, this. Animals and birds and water and air do not recognise the borders of empires or maps.
For the last year I’ve been watching a pair of hares. Big beasts: powerful, gorgeous, with eyes on the side of their heads and muscular hind legs. In Irish mythology, they’re messengers of the Underworld. No surprise — they can reach a sprint speed of up to 50 miles per hour.
Watching them, I’ve wondered about collective nouns for hares. A husk; a trip; a down; a drove. And, do they have a patron saint? I looked it up. They do. Melangell.
In the sixth century, Melangell — the daughter of an Irish king — fled Ireland to avoid an unwanted marriage. Living in a copse in Wales, she prayed outside. Hares abounded. When the Prince of Powys, Brochwel Yscythrog, was hunting hares, one fled to Melangell and found shelter under her cloak. Not even dogs would approach the woman at prayer. The hare was safe.
The Prince was so moved that he gave land to Melangell, who became the abbess of a small religious community, offering sanctuary to those who sought it there. The church still stands, and is a place of pilgrimage.
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The short piece by Kevin Crossley-Holland on Adam and Eve is excellent, appealing to all ages.
A doctor quoted in the Church Times writes:
"Social distancing is a privilege. It means you live in a house large enough to practise it. Hand-washing is a privilege, too. It means you have access to running water . . . Most of the ways to ward off the corona are accessible only to the affluent. In essence, a disease that was spread by the rich as they flew around the globe will now kill millions of the poor.. All of us who are practising social distancing and have imposed a lockdown on ourselves must appreciate how privileged we are."
This is the time
to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
We may be shut into our homes, but here are girls who have got together across the world, whilst still in isolation!
This little Thingummyjig
Humanity shaken, society collapsed by a little thingummyjig.
A little thingummyjig, microscopically small, called coronavirus, has upset the planet. Something invisible has come to establish its law. It puts everything in question and shakes up the established order. Everything is being put back in place, but in another and a rather different way.
What the grand Middle-eastern powers could not achieve in Syria, Libya, the Yemen . . . this little thingummyjig seems to have managed to do (cease-fire, truce . . . ).
Suddenly, we notice in the western world that the price of fuel has gone down, pollution has lessened. People now seem to have time on their hands, but they don't know what to do with it. Parents are learning how to get to know their children, children are learning to stay within the family, work is no longer a priority, travel and leisure activities are no longer the norm of a successful life.
Suddenly, in silence, we are turning ourselves upside down and we are coming to understand the value of words like 'solidarity' and 'vulnerability'.
Suddenly, we are realising that we are all in the same boat – rich and poor. We are realising that together we have stripped the shelves in the shops, and together we notice that hospitals have become full, and that money isn’t important. That we all have the same human identity when it comes down to this coronavirus.
We realise that in our garages, those top-of-the-range cars are stationary, because no one can go out.
It has only taken a few days to establish a social equality that had seemed impossible to imagine.
The world has been invaded by fear and fear has changed sides. It’s left the poor to go and live with the rich and powerful. It’s reminded them of their essential humanity.
May it serve to make us realise how vulnerable those are who want to go and live on Mars or those who strongly believe human beings can be cloned to live for ever.
May it serve to make us realise the limits of human intelligence . . .
Let’s stay at home and think about this pandemic. Let’s love to be alive . . .
Moustapha Dahleb, a writer from Chad
(translated from the French)
“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us even in our soundest sleep. I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavour. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
From Walden by Henry Thoreau
When Terry Waite came to open the Norman Jones Annexe in Harston Church in October 2015, many of us were lucky enough to speak to him. Last year, he spoke on the radio about his time of 1763 days in isolation, which rather puts into perspective our present ‘confinement’:
"I had a limited amount of suffering. . . I had nothing. I never saw the sun, or the sky or felt the wind in my face. That’s an extreme situation, but from an extreme situation you can take something that is applicable to normal life. . . I slept on the floor and had nothing. And I just had to say, “How am I going to utilise this time? What am I going to do?”
I wrote a short poem about anger because I was angry at times, and I had to learn how to master anger . . . it’s a natural human force, we all have it. . . But take that force and utilise it constructively. . . This is your life now, not tomorrow, not yesterday, now. And in this moment, don’t be defeated. There’s no reason to feel sorry for yourself. . .
I was forced to use my imagination. . . The brain is like a muscle. You use it or you lose it. Today it’s a great regret to me that the arts, music, literature, poetry, are seen as not being necessary. Because at times of life, you need to have in your mind something that you can draw on, something you can refer to, something that will fill out your life.
So many people are suffering from mental illness. From strain, from stress, from having so much pressure forced on them. And somehow we need today more than ever, this ability to be at peace with ourselves within. . . I suppose all I can strive for is to have a greater degree of inner contentment, which is in fact part of the road towards happiness."
In the midst of the present crisis, Malcolm Guite, in his weekly column for The Church Times, senses the rumour of resurrection:
LIKE most of the dogs in Britain, George and Zara are both pleased and puzzled at seeing so much more of their owners. Fortunately, they — and we — are still free to go for walks.
As they lead me blithely along familiar paths towards the clear flowing stream of the Granta, I can feel the spring warming and unfolding all around me. Just as we are locking down, the earth herself seems to be opening up and breathing her flowers into being — not only the crocuses and daffodils that we have been enjoying for a while, but now the delicate white blossoms of flowering thorn transfigure the hedges, and the trees are quickened and sticky with the first buddings of what will soon be tender green leaves. The Granta itself, whose stream had of late been so muddied and swollen, darkened with floods and detritus, now runs clear and limpid, purling swiftly over its gravel bed, translucent and sparkling in the warm spring sun.
For the dogs, this is all of a piece, but we poor humans feel the contrast between the outer and the inner weather.
Fellow dog-walkers and I keep the requisite social distance from one another on the rare occasions when our paths cross, although “social distancing” has, in fact, made us far more sociable. We make sure to greet one another, to enquire after health, to exchange news of anyone who may need messages taking or shopping delivered. But, even as we speak, six feet apart, we sense each other’s anxiety. We feel the contrast between all the promise and allure of spring and our own experience of hunkering down through dark days, of waiting out the worst.
And yet the sun still shines and the buds open, and our terse exchanges are interrupted by bright scatterings of birdsong. Do we belie the promise of spring, or does the spring hold a hope for us, a rumour of resurrection?
I find myself remembering the wonderful passage in C. S. Lewis’s essay “The Grand Miracle”:
“The miracles that have already happened are . . . the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise. . . To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, ‘The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago’ in the same spirit in which he says, ‘I saw a crocus yesterday.’ Because we know what is coming behind the crocus. The spring comes slowly down this way; but the great thing is that the corner has been turned.”
So, however worried my mind may be, I will open my heart to the spring as it comes, and receive it as a sign of hope.
Rebecca was interviewed for an article:
Faith in the time of plague:how medical staff cope
You can read the article at:
Our thoughts and prayers are with Rebecca and all medical staff.