Message from Julia
As we face the extension of lockdown, with mounting loss and fear, and as we begin to wonder how life will be ‘the day after’, the church invites us to continue to reflect on the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus, as experienced by his closest friends.
Like the people who first experienced the resurrection of Jesus, at times it seems we are living in parallel worlds; a soundtrack with birdsong and sirens. We have only to open a window to see clear skies and the glory of all creation in tiny green shoots pushing up through every crevice in our streets and buildings and gardens. At the same time, we are acutely aware of the presence of death and loss in all the beauty that surrounds us.
All the tips on how to survive lockdown, if you are able to stay at home, make it sound like an extended damp bank holiday.
It’s a great opportunity to declutter, practice a musical instrument, go to virtual art galleries and concerts, learn a language, improve tech skills, make your own bread, cut your own hair, catch up with distant friends and family (over Zoom cocktails), all while grappling with remote working, home-schooling, shopping, health-care, mental and physical well-being. Stress is not conducive to concentration and learning. It is easy to feel overwhelmed and useless or to become hyperactive.
Dying and end-of-life ceremonies are very much in the news.
There has been a rise in virtual ‘death cafes’, sessions for people to share thoughts and feelings about death. Making preparations for death, both practically and spiritually or emotionally, can ease the fear and anxiety. Parting from loved ones in lockdown is agonising for all concerned; those dying, those grieving and the carers. It may be helpful to discuss your wishes with loved ones. I have forbidden death-bed video calls.
Funerals are now limited to a few minutes at a crematorium/cemetery with a handful of mourners. The Church of England has produced simple ceremonies for use at home – do ask for more information if you are unable to attend a funeral for a friend or relative.
How we conduct end of life ceremonies in the future is likely to change, as the use of digital media develops and direct cremations become normal, the focus for mourners is shifting to more personalised memorial or thanksgiving events and simple ceremonies with ashes.
The nexus between creation and destruction, death and new life is ever present in the world. Living with the reality of death in daily life and the anxiety of an unpredictable future is normal for most of humanity. In this part of the world, most of us had lost touch with the proximity of death and loss.
In these 50 days of Eastertide, as we live daily amongst birdsong and sirens, let us practise receiving each day as a gift to be unfolded by the God of abundant life.
This week you will find the first of a series of meditations to help the practice of contemplative prayer: The Empty Chair, adapted from Anthony de Mello’s Sadhana: A Way to God. It offers a way to encounter the risen Lord, in just a few moments anywhere.
Keep sending pictures of Easter gardens and greetings to share…
With my love and prayers
Read this week’s SERMON.