Categories
Minister News Prayers

14 June 2020

It is now almost three months since we were able to meet together in our church buildings and whilst various activities are opening up, the advice from the United Reformed Church is to be in no rush to open. Our style of church believes that private prayer happens in the home, or street or park, we only need buildings to gather together or reach out from. Even if the government advice is that we can gather in the building, we are still going to be cautious. The Elders believe that too many of our normal congregation will still need to be shielded and that the precautions we would need to put in place would make our already small congregation even smaller.

So far, we have encouraged you to use the material on the reverse of this page, along with television, radio and internet resources in order to worship on a Sunday morning. We have produced some podcasts and have gathered online for a bible study. Elsewhere, I have learnt how to use a conference facility called Zoom. It can be accessed by computers or telephones and allows us to see and hear those who use computers, whilst those on the telephone can hear and talk. I have hosted services for Chapel of Unity, sat in on a service with North Warwickshire Group, as well as sitting in lots of meetings from the comfort of my own chair.

At both Elders’ meeting this week it was felt that the time had come to use zoom to create a space where we could be with one another on a Sunday morning and so from this Sunday we are going to offer an online service each week. I will continue to send you a weekly outline for those who do not wish to join with us or find the technology too difficult. But I would also say that many people have been surprised at how easy it is to use – so please give it a go.

To join by phone dial one of the following numbers

0131 460 1196

0203 051 2874

0203 481 5237

0203 481 5240

If you have problems try another number. When asked to enter your Meeting ID key in 831 4268 9496#-  if asked for a Participant key just dial #. If asked for a password it is 512001 

To join by computer,  click on this link  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83142689496

and say yes to the various questions. (It gets easier the second time). 

Meeting ID: 831 4268 9496       Password: 512001

Please come and join us, we will all be learning as we go.

On other matters. The work on the church building has begun. I know some of you have been past for a peek. There have been a couple of surprises once the builders were able to uncover previous work and that has caused a bit of adjustment, but I hope we have found the right solutions. If you are able to support the work financially then that would be helpful. The budget is tight and the more leeway we have the better. So far the grant applications have not been successful. If you can, please send your contributions to Caroline, preferable by a direct payment into our Barclays account Sort Code 202355 Account No 60995746. We also need to meet ongoing costs. We believe we can do that as we have a reasonable reserve but of course all contributions help to sustain that confidence. 

Sorry to end with the begging bit – keep going and I hope you find something much more nourishing.

 

Prayer Powerful God, you strengthen us, no matter what storms we face in this life. We give you the glory!

United Church of Christ, Daily Devotional 10 June 2020

Hymn

Here in this place, new light is streaming 

now is the darkness vanished away, 

see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings, 

brought here to you in the light of this day. 

Gather us in the lost and forsaken 

gather us in the blind and the lame; 

call to us now, and we shall awaken 

we shall arise at the sound of our name. 

Bible Genesis 18:1-15

Reflection Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”

Is this a God-incidence? Kirsty is in the process of finalising the details of renting a shop on Ball Hill so that we can start the work there that some of us have been talking about for many years. And I asked, what are we going to call it? What name do we put above the door? As is my want, I then began throwing out suggestions. Amongst the things I played with, was the current address – 185 Walsgrave Road – what if we called it 1/85 or 18:5? I began looking at bible passages that fitted, there are lots of them for 18:5 – and one is the verse above. It comes in the midst of this passage about creating hospitality. God’s self as three strangers is welcomed into the camp. This is what we want to do at our [Unnamed] shop – welcome, refresh, pass on, serve. 

Having dashed something off to Kirsty, I turned to thinking about this Sunday and looked up the lectionary readings. Here we were again, Genesis 18:5. Abraham knowing he has to welcome these strangers – however in the next verse he is mansplaining to Sarah, how to make cakes (Whoops) and then rushing off to instruct servants on picking out some meat to serve. Eventually, he settles down and he has time to hear the message, “Sarah will have a son.” Sadly, Sarah hears this by listening from the tent, but her mocking laughter is noted and her son Issac (He laughs) will be named for that moment.  

For some of us, this has been a busy time. Sometimes it’s been difficult to take time to sit down and listen to God. And yet when I do it is all about the future and some plans seem ridiculous enough to create mocking laughter. Next week Kirsty and I will be at online Ministers Summer School, instead of meeting at Swanwick. There is no planned content in the afternoons and we are being encouraged to rest and reflect. Makes you laugh!

Prayer God, you disrupt our calm. Continue to be our peace. Amen.                                         United Church of Christ, Daily Devotional 8 June 2020

Hymn

Not in the dark of buildings confining 

not in some heaven, light years away 

but here in this place, the new light is shining 

now is the kingdom, now is the day. 

Gather us in and hold us forever 

gather us in and make us your own 

gather us in all peoples together 

fire of love in our flesh and our bone.

Marty Haughen © Gregorian Institute of America

Categories
Minister Prayers Walking the Way

7 June 2020

I wrote last week about beginning a series of Prayer walks, so I thought I would share something from those. Monday was Ansty Road, beginning outside the church where I could inspect the early work on the redevelopment, trenches a dug for the footings, there is a big hole where the steps used to be and all the muck from broken drains has been cleared out. Inside some of the walls have been removed. Already a different view into the building is emerging. That, for me, is the purpose of a prayer walk, not just to pray but to have a new view emerge.

Ansty Road is shorter than I thought, I had to consciously slow myself down. I noticed various building projects in progress, the closed pubs/club and the taste of pollution beginning again as the roads become busier. We wondered if the climate might get an extended break, but it seems not. There were various other people walking as well, most looked as if they were exercising, most keen to nod hello, whilst maintaining distance but each engagement remembering the joy of being amongst people. 

Around St. Columba’s, it’s quieter. Drapers Field isn’t being used to park for the City Centre and there is very little movement. Along the canal, the ducks were negotiating a collection of lilies, cans and bottles. There is still no rest for our environment. Along Widdrington Road and Aldbourne Road cars are parked tightly, seemingly with nowhere to go. I’m reminded that I wanted to focus on environmental concerns through this period, but have been distracted, The climate crisis will not go away and will not do so if we return to business as usual.    

On Monday of this week  we will pray on Hocking Road, Farren Road, Oldham Ave, Hyde Rd, Edyth Rd, Belgrave Road, Arch Road.

On Tuesday, St. Columba’s Close, St. Nicholas Street, Ellys Road, Sandy Lane, Somerset Road, Dorset Road, Kingfield Road, Pridmore Road, Foleshill Road.

Please join in however you can.

Some of you have been kind enough to ask after my parents. They have both been ill with Covid-19, as have many others in their care home. They have both recovered from it, but are a bit weaker and a bit more confused than they were before. Thank you for the prayers and messages of support, it has been particularly difficult when we have been unable to visit and wonder what news each phone call will bring.

Sunday 7 June   Trinity Sunday

Prayer In the name of God we come to worship

As followers of Jesus we come to worship

Welcomed by the Spirit we come to worship

Hymn Eternal God, your loves tremendous glory

cascades through life in overflowing grace,

to tell creation’s meaning in the story

of love evolving love from time and space.

Bible 2 Corinthians 13:5-14

Reflection I watch the news from the United States with a heavy heart. The ease and arrogance with which a Police Officer killed a man whilst the public watched. The threat to violence from the President enacted with ruthless efficiency and then protesters being cleared from the White House with tear gas so that the President can strut across the road and hold a bible up outside a church. And then sometimes I’m heartened by peoples humanity -, the images of many peaceful demonstrations and the voices of speakers such as William Barber II (https://www.facebook.com/anewppc/videos/268796894477061/)  and Traci Blackmon (https://youtu.be/QwpjH2ZkdSI)  But mostly I’m appalled.

And I’m worried. We might sit here and say, “Look at them over there” but I know that many of our communities feel similarly marginalised and discriminated against, and you wonder what spark might set off similar scenes and whether a government that likes it’s militaristic language, may respond with similar aggression. It seems so far away, and yet so close.

On Trinity Sunday we focus on the oneness of God, whether presented as Creator, Son or Spirit. We remember that relationships are complex and many faceted and yet we are called to be one body. Whenever Paul writes to the Corinthians he knows that divisions are not far from the surface and so he challenges them, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith” and then he encourages them, “Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.” None of those strike me as passive responses. If we care about the things we see on the news, then we need to be active in examining ourselves, listening to others, finding agreement, creating peace, dwelling with love, greeting with a kiss.

Prayer

We seek blessing upon your church

that we may be one as you are one

that we may follow the path you lead 

that we reveal your glory

May your Spirit rest upon each one. 

Hymn

Love’s trinity, self-perfect, self-sustaining;

love which commands, enables and obeys:

you give yourself, in boundless joy, creating 

one vast increasing harmony of praise. 

Alan Gaunt Rejoice & Sing 33

© Stainer & Bell Ltd

Categories
Minister Prayers Walking the Way

30 May 2020 – Pentecost

On Sunday we will arrive at Pentecost. It is the Sunday that remembers and celebrates the birthday of the church – when (according to Luke) the Holy Spirit arrived 50 days after Easter and gave the disciples enough courage in their hearts and fire on their tongues to emerge from the upper room where they had been hiding and to proclaim the good news that Christ was risen and the world had changed.

This Pentecost may feel similar to us. We are being encouraged to venture out from home a bit more, to gather with a few more people but still to take care. More businesses are being encouraged to open to the public and we wait to see just how effective that will be and whether this will allow us to live with this virus or whether it will all be too much. But, even with restrictions gradually lifting, we are not yet allowed or being encouraged to open church building. However, the delight is that all across the country the church has proved itself open for business in a variety of new (and old but slightly adapted) ways. Long may we continue to speak God’s word in new ways.

As I explained last week I’m going to spend this month engaged in old customs (slightly adapted for modern times) by walking our streets in prayer. I hope those of you who are allowed out and are active will do the same. You can plan your own prayer routes and make your own commitments to walk a particular area. The way to do so is to go to https://www.openheavencoventry.org/the-app, register, and mark the roads that you wish to pray for. When you have done so you go back and click on it to say that you have prayed for those roads and pick some more. If you find that there are no streets to pray for in the area you can access, then go and walk them anyway and pray for them again.

My plan this Monday, (1st June) is to start from Ansty Road church about 10am, walk to the Forum, cross the road and walk back up the hill all the way to B&M’s, cross back over towards the westbound side and walk back to the church. I think it will take a couple of hours, but you might want to send some time following the route on a map and somewhere along it we will have prayed together, I am aware that some who are housebound have committed to joining me in this way.

On Tuesday, I will start from St. Columba’s about 10:30am and go into Drapers Field, and then along the canal to Electric Wharf and back along Sandy Lane. It’s not quite so far, but I have a meeting before and after. Join me where you can.

Prayer

May God’s Spirit dance in our hearts, sing from our mouths and rest in our minds. May God’s Spirit fill our souls with joy.

Hymn

She sits like a bird, brooding on the waters,

hovering on the chaos of the worlds first day;

she sighs and she sings, mothering creation,

waiting to give birth to all the Word can say

Bible Acts 2:1-4

Reflection

I love words (you might have noticed) –  the sound, the feel on my mouth, the way they can surprise, shock and be misheard. The way they take you somewhere else altogether. I love to know their meaning – I discovered this week that the Greek word we translate as hospitality is philoxenia – literally “love of strangers”. It is the exact opposite of xenophobia. Wow, that puts a different perspective on how/who/when we give hospitality. I love how words can convey solid ideas and wild imagination. The way they bring me up short, inspire me forwards or make me think again about which words to share.

Of course words can be dangerous things – when they are twisted, slanted, weaselled; when they conspire to create lies and half-truths; when we are reminded that some words are never kept. Sadly, my words are on the whole English. I have a splattering of other languages, but I’ve never been adept at retaining them and have forgotten almost as much as I’ve ever learnt. Even when I think I know another language, I go blank when I have to use it and sigh with relief when I can revert to English – a Scots/Mancunian English that conveys harsh consonants, short to the point vowels and the lilt we called home.

When the disciples emerged into the Jerusalem streets, their listeners heard their mother tongue, the dialect that had been whispered in their ears as infants, the sounds they had learnt on their home streets. They know the nuances, inflections, intimacies and they understand this brogue in a way that they could never quite understand the language of empire and oppression that was supposed to bind them together, but in truth whispered lies.

On this Pentecost, we hear the Holy Spirit in our own tongue. We hear God’s truth become embedded in our hearts, we see the excitement of people hearing good news for the very first time, we share the passion of those being confronted by grace once again. In his commentary on Acts, Willie Jennings calls these verses “The Sound of Intimacy”. What a wonderful way to become aware of God’s Spirit alive in peoples lives.

Prayer

May God’s Love bring us together

May Christ’s peace be shared with all people

May the Holy Spirit blend our voices in one healing breath.

 

Hymn

She dances in fire, one with God in essence,

waking tongues of ecstasy where dumbness reigned;

she weans and inspires all whose hearts are open,

nor can she be captured, silenced or restrained.

John Bell & Graham Maule

© WGWG. The Iona Community

Categories
Minister Mission Podcasts Prayers

Praying with Questions

Our final podcast of this Easter to Pentecost series finds us playing with questions and responding in prayer. We hope you have found them useful, we will return if we feel we have something to say.

Credits: Music – “Spirit of God” © Ray Stanyon

Categories
Minister Podcasts Prayers Walking the Way

Pausing for Breath

The fifth in our series of conversations explores our response to John 17 and the prayer of Jesus for all who would walk the way of Jesus.

Categories
Minister News Prayers Walking the Way

Sunday 24 May  Sixth Sunday after Easter

I wrote last week about the way in which this time has created a new routine in the way I work. But routines can’t last for ever and already it’s time to change to a new pattern. Throughout June we are going to join with churches across the city in praying for Coventry. This is going to be done by walking every street whilst we pray. When this was planned we had no idea that it would coincide with a time when we have been unable to go out unless absolutely necessary, and just at the moment when those who can are emerging to look around a world that feels very different to the one we knew in March. Yet, it is still a time when we are unable to open our church buildings – so how apt that before we can imagine going back into our buildings we must walk through our communities and pray for them. 

So I am going to commit myself to a prayer walk every Monday and Tuesday through June. So there will be no time for Podcasts, or the Bible Study unless something new emerges whilst I walk and pray. I would love you to join me in this enterprise. We could walk as two or three together, but you can also plan your own prayer routes and make your own commitments to to walk a particular area. The way to do so is to go to https://www.openheavencoventry.org/the-app register with it and mark the roads that you wish to pray for, when you have done so you go back and click on it to say that you have prayed for those roads and pick some more. If you find that there are no streets to pray for in the area you can access, then go and walk them anyway and pray for them again. 

But the other way that you can support this is by following the route I give you each Sunday, follow it on a map and pray with me. I will begin on 1st June by walking the whole of Ansty Road and on 2nd June by walking from St. Columba’s and around Drapers Field. Each Monday I will be somewhere around Ansty Road and on Tuesday’s around St. Columba’s. 

But this week, we finish our May routine. On Tuesday will be the final bible study in our 1 Peter series join us at 7pm on Tuesday at  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4043156568. And next Sunday will be our podcast for Pentecost bringing that series to an end. We will return at another time having listened for something new to say. And at Ansty Road another change will begin, on Monday the builders will move in and so whenever we return to church it will be to something new. It means that none of us can go in the building without first checking with the builders. Please do so through me. But also, how exciting, nothing stands still. 

be blessed, 

Craig

 

Prayer May Jesus be glorified through the life of his people. 

May God be glorified through all who know God’s presence in the world

Hymn I heard the voice of Jesus say

‘Come unto me and rest;

lay down, O weary one, lay down

your head upon my breast.’

I came to Jesus as I was,

forlorn and faint and sad;

I found in him a resting place,

and he has made me glad.

Bible John 17:1-11

Reflection This is the prayer of Jesus for disciples who are going to negotiate the world without him. In some ways this is the real Lords Prayer, the one we know by that name was a teaching aid. Here in John, Jesus is commending disciples into God’s care. They know God’s name, that Jesus has come from God. They have been given God’s word and know the truth that comes from God. They will remain in the world and so need God’s protection in order to remain a united community of God’s people. 

This is a prayer for people who are going to be pulled so many ways by so many different demands. The pull of family, religion, and tribe. The complications of work, loyalty and ambition. The love of pride, wealth and status. These are people we recognise, facing similar pressures to those we face and Jesus fears that these fragile disciples will crumble under this pressure and yet also knows what he has trained them for. I can remember when I was first ordained as a minister, so full of expectation and hope, ambition and ideas. Suddenly I was faced with an enormous pastoral situation, a baby was born with severe brain damage and lived just six short days. I found myself with these parents I had only just met, grandparents I met in the lift on the way to the ward and I didn’t know what to say or do or even if I could cope. I didn’t know if my training had equipped me for this situation – but discovered it had. Somehow I ministered to them (and they ministered to me) and we discovered that God had given us just enough resources to live the next day. And every June for the last 22 years we remembered Ella and her short life amongst us. 

Prayer Righteous God, though the world does not know you, we know you, and we know that you have sent Jesus to make you known to us, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for us may be in all people and that Jesus may be in them.’

Hymn I heard the voice of Jesus say

I am this dark world’s light;

look unto me, your morn shall rise

and all your day be bright

I looked to Jesus, and I found

in him my star, my sun;

and in that light of life I’ll walk,

till travelling days are done.

H Bonar (1808-89)

Categories
Minister Podcasts Prayers

Welcoming Another’s Truth

The fourth in our series of conversations explores our response to John 14 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever.” 

We explore some issues around mental health, suicide, asylum and violence. So if those are issues you need to stay away from or be warned about before you listen, then please be cautious.

Poem: “Lesson”  © Craig Muir

Music: Gonfalon Royal (And Art thou come with us to dwell) played by Brenda Beauchamp

 

Categories
Minister News

For 17 May 2020

As we come to our 9th Sunday without being able to meet in the churches, I have found myself in a new routine that now works towards having these letters prepared to catch the last post on a Thursday. Sadly, last week I didn’t factor in the bank holiday and so I believe that for many of you the posted version arrived on Monday morning. I hope you still found the reflections useful, if a touch late to be used on Sunday morning.

Life has shifted online, meetings (work and social) using Zoom – a video conferencing platform that has done very well out of this pandemic. Join us for a Bible study 7pm on Tuesday https://us02web.zoom.us/j/4043156568 

My brother and our cousin are spending the time going through old family photographs and posting them on Facebook. We are currently looking at photographs from the mid-1920’s and trying to work out who is who. I must admit it’s sometimes a distraction when I’m supposed to be working, but also a lovely way to remember our grandparents and their cousins & siblings enjoying life as young people. But also that some of these relationships were complicated – who is that man with Aunt Jeanie?

In our Podcast this week, (chat through some ideas on Tuesday, write on a Wednesday, record on Thursday) Kirsty and I are thinking about the Spirit of Truth that Jesus promises to send to advocate for us, and the way truth can appear different from another perspective. That can make life complicated but if we are to welcome people into our lives, then we also need to love them for who they are, and the truth of their life.

As to returning to church, we will be cautious. The government advice suggests that we will not be able to do so until at least the beginning of July. We also have a document from the URC that the Elders will need to work our way through. The big issue is how we keep one another safe, and how we clean up after every use of the building. This will be less complicated at Ansty Road by the commencement of the building works on 25 May, which will mean that the building can not be accessed during the week and so the only thing we need to judge is whether we feel it is safe to return on a Sunday and whether we wish to do so if we still need to maintain social distancing and perhaps not sing. At St. Columba’s, we will need to work out the way each group can return to using the building, and whether we also wish to return on a Sunday morning when so many of the congregation will remain in the vulnerable category. When you speak with Elders it may be something that you wish to discuss to help us in our deliberations. 

But one thing that we can continue to do wherever we are is to pray. Earlier in the year churches across the city began planning to prayer walk every street in the city during the month of June. We did not realise how well timed that would be – but God did. Next week I will be able to share some plans.

 

Sunday 17 May  Fifth Sunday after Easter

Prayer Risen Jesus, through our interactions may we recognise someone else’s truth and learn from them.

Hymn

And art thou come with us to dwell

our prince, our guide, our love, our Lord?

And is thy name Immanuel,

God present with his world restored?

 

The heart is glad for thee, it knows

none now shall bid it err or mourn,

and o’er its desert breaks the rose

in triumph o’er the grieving thorn.

Bible John 14:15-21

Reflection “If you love me …” says Jesus and I wonder how conditional our love is. Must we prove our love by our behaviour or do we only love those who love us? Can we love those who are very different from ourselves or can we only draw close to those with whom we have a connection? 

In looking at old family photographs with my cousins we are looking at the young faces of our grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles – we are sharing family stories, but aware that each family will have a slightly different version passed down. Sometimes that story wasn’t told in that family. We are talking about people we love – but we know that sometimes the relationships were difficult. At my Grandpa’s funeral I described him as cantankerous – because most of us had fallen out with him at some point or been at the sharp end of his temper. But my Australian cousins never heard a bad word said about him – he was far enough away to be a friendly letter or photograph. Which was the truth? Well for each of us, something a little bit different because our relationship was different. But, he loved us and we loved him – sometimes that was why his tongue was so sharp! 

Jesus promises to be revealed to those who love him, perhaps it is only when we love one another that the real complexity of a person is known, the public face is put away and we welcome another’s truth.

Prayer Loving God, may we see you in the lives of all who seek to dwell in peace and love. May we see you in the welcome we give to one another. May we see you and know you as you sanctify each precious, holy life.

Hymn

Thy reign eternal will not cease;

thy years are sure and glad, and slow

within thy mighty world of peace

the humblest flower hath leave to blow.

 

The world is glad for thee; the heart

is glad for thee, and all is well

and fixed, and sure, because thou art,

whose name is called Immanuel.

Dora Greenwell (1821-1882)

Categories
Minister Podcasts Prayers Walking the Way

Dwelling with Prejudice

Our third podcast explores John 14 and the ways we dwell with prejudice.

Credits

Lemn Sissay “Colour Blind” in Gold from the Stone

Alison Phipps and Tawone Sitholé “border crossing in Togo (insert place of choice) in The warriors who did not fight

Piano played by Brenda Beauchamp.

Categories
Minister Prayers

For 10th May 2020

 

This coming Sunday we arrive at Christian Aid Week and so the worship material that we have produced comes to us from Christian Aid and will allow us to focus on matters beyond our immediate situation and into the wider world where this virus can not be managed with expensive ventilators, a well funded health service amongst a population who have the means to isolate in small units.

Coronavirus has shown us that our futures are bound more tightly together than ever before. And now it is spreading across the world’s poorest countries, putting people living in poverty at great risk.  These people are already facing a lack of water, food and healthcare. Some are homeless. Some are living with underlying health issues such as HIV. As coronavirus infection rates speed up, they will feel the impacts of the virus deeply. We must respond now. Coronavirus impacts all of us. But love unites us all.

Together with our local partners, we are working quickly to limit the impact of coronavirus in some of the most vulnerable communities around the world.

  • We are drawing on our experience from the Ebola crisis and helping communities to prevent and delay infection.
  • We are providing essential soap, water and handwashing training.
  • We are ensuring urgent health messages get through to help keep people safe.
  • We are working through our networks of church partners and faith-based organisations to reach the most vulnerable at this critical time.

Christian Aid is responding to the coronavirus outbreak in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. We’re working together with partners and faith leaders to inform people about the risks, offering hygiene and hand washing sessions, equipping health facilities with supplies and providing training to frontline aid workers.  We’re providing food packages to some of the most marginalised families and ensuring protection for women affected by domestic violence.

To support Christian Aid we have had to change our methods of raising money. We can not do the door to door collection from Ansty Road, or Soup & Roll at St. Columba’s. We each need to take responsibility for making our own donations rather than relying on the church taking collection and submitting it for us. Those who received this electronically should also receive an e-envelope. Please respond as generously as you can. To those who receive this as a letter, please ask someone who can make online donations to do so for you at https://www.christianaid.org.uk. 

Sunday 10 May  Fourth Sunday after Easter

Prayer God of all the earth, be present with us in each of our homes, as we connect together. Build us a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to you through Jesus Christ, our risen redeemer and healer. 

Hymn Let us build a house where love can dwell

and all can safely live.

A place where saints and children tell

how hearts learn to forgive.

Built of hopes and dreams and visions,

rock of faith and vault of grace;

here the love of Christ shall end divisions:

all are welcome in this place. 

Bible Psalm 31 & John 14:1-11

Reflection Look at your hands. Have a good look. Our hands really are the most remarkable and useful tools, involved in so much of what we do and how we do things, even in these days of social distancing. The psalmist writes of committing their spirit into God’s hands, and at times of being in God’s hands. They also describes the desire to be delivered from the hands of oppressors and from a hidden invisible net that threatens to entangle them.

Our hands have become even more significant in these days of physical distance. We might long to hold the hand of a person we can no longer touch. We pray for the hands of medics to bring healing and comfort. We are grateful for hands stacking shelves and delivering groceries and post. And we are extra wary of everything our hands touch that comes from outside our own home.

This Christian Aid Week we also think of how our hands can be far from idle. They can still reach out virtually to our neighbours around the world. Neighbours in refugee camps and cramped living conditions, neighbours without adequate hand-washing facilities, neighbours who face the devastating impact of coronavirus with even less of the medical resources we have struggled to access here.

We reach out by clasping our hands together in prayer, and holding our hands open before God as we declare our needs and concerns for all communities.

Prayer God our refuge, we come with open hands, some of us with hearts full of questions, bruised by bereavement, fearful of what the future holds, stunned by the events of this year. Draw close to us in each of our homes as we place our honest questions and hopes into your open, resurrected, scarred hands.

Hymn Let us build a house where all are named,

their songs and visions heard

and loved and treasured, taught and claimed

as words within the Word.

Built of tears and cries and laughter,

prayers of faith and songs of grace.

Let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:

all are welcome in this place.

Marty Haugen © Gregorian Institute of America GIA Publications Inc