Apart and Together

(April 2020)

A word from Geldeston Rectory.

“It’s been a busy couple of weeks and a whirlwind 48 hours for the nation and for us as a family,” wrote Revd. David Smith on 18 March.

Covid-19 continues to take hold, bringing our world, our government, our communities, neighbours, families and friends to more extraordinary measures to protect each other and take care of ourselves. It has affected every element of our life and work and, indeed, I sit here as one who, with his family, has had to self-isolate as our youngest daughter Emma has just come down with a high temperature and is feeling under the weather. We hope to be emerging just as this copy gets out to you but we’re all certainly OK for now.

I hesitate to use the phrase that we are living in “unprecedented times”; perhaps never before have we had to take such measures in the face of a health crisis: isolation and quarantine; closure of public amenities, churches, borders and, soon, schools inevitably; door-to-door assistance, albeit at a distance; financial protective measures and stimulus. We’re experiencing unbearable strains on every public service, healthcare institution, supermarket and stock market, alongside the permanent closure of businesses whose balance sheets have tipped too far into the red to be redeemable as footfall and income streams dwindle.

There will be many in our community, however, who have been here before, and certainly amid times which no-one would ever wish to be repeated: war-time rationing; loved ones lost in conflict; towns, cities and villages ravaged by bombardment; the daily round of sirens, shelter and fear. We have a great deal of careful and measured wisdom to cherish and learn from in our communities and we would do well to heed it and measure ourselves against it. As we reflect afresh on the daily lives of others around the world today in light of our current experiences – those who have to walk miles for water, those living without appropriate sanitation or medicines or under the fear of bombing, sniper or persecution – we realise that we have always had much to be thankful for and perhaps also realise how indifferent we may have been to the plight of others in desperate need on our planet.

Togetherness of Spirit

Since I have been here among you as your Priest-in-Charge, one of the things that has been very apparent to me is the sense of close community and togetherness of spirit; indeed, in my visits to schools, pubs, shops and in conversations with so many of you it is something which is keenly recognised and acknowledged by everyone. There is a wonderful spirit of thankfulness as the many kind graces that are shared around our villages are received with joy. There are many people at the centre of all that is good and laudable and their generosity of heart and energy fans across our villages. As Covid-19 seeks to grip us, I’ve been so heartened to see and experience first-hand the spirit, endeavour, selflessness and determination of people to care for their communities and for one another and I truly believe that this spirit will stand us all in good stead. Bless you all.

In this most important reflective and preparatory season of LENT, as Christians around the world and in our communities resolve again to journey with Jesus (even as our churches suspend corporate worship) we are reminded of his words that to follow him we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him to his own. We come to realise that the crosses we must bear have many different shapes, sizes, weights and textures; we are starkly and perhaps forcibly reminded of the crosses others have already been carrying. We remind ourselves of Simon of Cyrene who shared the carrying of Jesus cross up the hill of Golgotha to his death and the words of Jesus himself who asked us to “love one another as I have loved you”; the cross reminds us that Jesus’ love – and so also the love that we are asked to share with others – is a self-sacrificial love, a love that joyfully bears our own cross whilst also seeking to carry the cross of another. The way of discipleship, the way of godly love, asks everything of us and even more still, but we know that our Saviour journeys with us and helps us every step of the way.

After the Cross came Resurrection; we journey to the cross, but our journey does not stop there. We are beckoned to the empty tomb where Jesus greets us, gloriously alive, defeating death and all that the world and all the powers of evil could throw at him. In these most difficult and challenging times, Lent and EASTER remind us that hope and joy not only await the end of even the most arduous of paths and the most distressing of journeys but that it also permeates every inch of the landscape if we resolve to seek it out as we go.

We are blessed with so many Simons in our benefice – please do be mindful to bear one another’s cross with fortitude, determination and with the greatest of love, as we also each endeavour to receive the loving support of others with grace and in gratitude to them and to our Father in heaven.

“Love one another as I have loved you”.

With every blessing,

David

Revd. David Smith, Priest-in-Charge
Waveney Benefice and Raveningham Group of Parishes

(First published, 20 March 2020)

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