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At the Meeting Place – for 18 October 2020

 

Dear Friends

This has been the week of Elders meetings. Somehow we have fallen into the pattern of holding both Elders’ Meetings on consecutive days. Sometimes it is useful as it allows us to share information quickly but sometimes it feels a bit rushed between Ansty Road on Monday evening and St. Columba’s on Tuesday morning, and this week was a rushed one. However, it was good to meet with the St. Columba’s Elders mostly in person and to support one another as we made some practical decisions about clearing the church building. If you have not yet contacted one of us about something you would like from the building please do so. There are a number of plaques we would also like to find homes for.

At Ansty Road we spent the meeting making plans to re-open for live worship this coming Sunday. In doing so, we hesitated, wondering if in the current situation we should open at all, but decided that for the sake of those who want to be in church and unable to meet on zoom we would create that opportunity. However, there are some of us who need to stay in for good reasons, please do so. Please do not put yourself or others at risk. We need to continue to look after one another.

The rules are that:-

  • if you feel ill or particularly vulnerable, please do not come
  • you must either use the QR code or sign in the test and trace book
  • you must remain socially distanced from everyone who is not in your bubble. 
  • you must wear a face-covering and sanitise hands as you come in. 
  • we have set the church out with the chairs in pairs and threes, but you can only sit with someone in your bubble. 
  • we will fill up from the front left hand corner and we will leave from the back right hand corner.
  • if we have more than 12 households/bubbles we can open the screen and use the hall
  • the offering plate will be in the welcome area
  • we will play hymns, but those in church can’t sing – those at home can.
  • we will only open the accessible toilet and only one person at a time should go up the corridor to the toilets.
  • there will be no after church cup of tea/coffee and we ask you not to linger in the building. 

After that long list, which I know does not sound very encouraging please be assured that we will make every one who comes welcome. We welcome those who join us on zoom. And as ever you are welcome to stay at home and do your own thing. We each need to take good care of ourselves as well as one another.

Prayers & Reflection

Welcome back to Ansty Road, to our new entrance and upgraded rooms. 

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our past, our present, our future

Our moving on, our hanging back, our uncertain steps.

We have returned the soil and ashes from the memorial garden to a new space, it awaits fresh planting

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our memories of those we love and those who have gone before us

Our grieving and our living, our delight and our flourishing

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our fears, our dreams, our hopefulness

Our joys, our celebration, our pride.

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our gifts, our grace, our generosity

Our teaching and learning, our wondering questions.

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

Our preaching and listening, prayers spoken and enacted

Our good news telling, our grace filled living.

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

We name partners and friends …

We name those who we have been asked to pray for ….

Called by name, we give to God what is God’s

To the glory of God, In the name of Jesus, 

in the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen

© Craig Muir, 2020

Bible Exodus 33:1-23 

Reflection After the drama of the fight that ensues after Moses discovers Aaron leading worship before a golden calf/bull, Moses begins to meet with God in a tent on the edge of the encampment. You sense that the relationship is strained, perhaps God does not want to be in the midst of these rebellious people, whilst the people are grieving this soured relationship. Reconciliation is not easy, we know that, we know how hard it is to find the right words, to be in the same space with people we have fallen out with, and we each have our own ways of dealing (or not dealing) with such situations. 

Other than the young assistant Joshua, Moses seems to be on his own. There is no mention of Aaron in these encounters, and Moses prays, “you have not let me know whom you will send with me. … show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight.” There is uncertainty here because in verse 1 God has told Moses to take the people to the promised land and that an angel will lead them – but this is not the presence of God that Moses has become used to. Moses begs God to be with them, “If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here …” It is tense and just like on Mount Sinai, God concedes to Moses and agrees to be present with the people as they venture onwards. 

How do we perceive God to be present with us? In this account God is perceived as a pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the meeting tent; as a disembodied voice in conversation with Moses, as a friend; and then anthropomorphised into a hand and a back, but not a face. However much we may perceive God’s presence, there is still a hiddenness, a mystery that we can not get beyond. Yet, at times of decision, dilemma, doubt we must seek God’s presence and goodness in all that we discern.

This has been a time when we have been reminded that God rests wherever we are – we don’t need special holy places. God’s presence can be with us in our home, on a walk in the park, in a zoomed prayer meeting, in a telephone conversation, in our quiet reading of scripture, a prayer,  a poem a photograph, a piece of art. Yet here some of us are – in a meeting place that is special for us, amongst friends who can be no closer than 2m unless they are in our bubble, not allowed to sing just listen and watch those who join us from home. Is God more present here than somewhere else? I don’t believe so, but I do believe that we need places to meet with one another, to work from, to be a base for all we do – and that is how our church buildings function for us. Of course they can also be places of memory, we have experience here – some for a lifetime, others much less, and at the moment we are all re-learning those experiences, not only is the space different to the one some of us walked out of in March, but the way we have to use it is different from how we imagined – because we didn’t imagine setting chairs out 2m apart. 

Where is God presence in all this? On Thursday I was sitting in the new welcome area, I could see across the labyrinth, to Ansty Road, it was late afternoon and the road was busy. Through the other window, I could watch Hocking Road, as a steady stream of traffic edged along to the junction, children were heading home from school and those who had parked all day returned to their cars – it was good to watch the world go by and hold it in prayer. There was no cloudy pillar, no disembodied voice, just the quiet certainty that God knew each person by name and here was a place where God presence can be still known through the loving actions of the community who gather here, whether in person or online. 

As God met with Moses in a tent on the edge of their community, Moses was being prepared for the future. He didn’t know it, but with him, quietly minding the tent, was Joshua, being prepared to take over from Moses in the future. It would be Joshua who leads the people into the promised land, not Moses. Moses though, still had work to do. He would intercede for the people, he would be a witness to God’s glory, he would enable the people to be aware of God’ presence in their midst even when the relationship was uncomfortable. So we dedicate this meeting place to be be a place where each person may know God’s presence in their own lives.

God of the Meeting Place

May those who stand away afraid to meet with you

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those aware of their own failings and sinfulness

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who feel anger rise in their heart

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May each plant and creature, that you have named

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May our earth, created and placed by you

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who struggle to arrest climate catastrophe

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who seek reconciliation between peoples

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who stand in the role of peacemaker

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May all who solicit your goodness and mercy

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who grieve all that is lost

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who grasp for healing

Know your blessing and your peace

 

May those who gather in your name

Know your blessing and your peace

© Craig Muir, 2020

 

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