Letter from the Minister.
Rev Phil Summers
Strange Days Indeed.
As John Lennon sang, later in his career, ‘Nobody told me there’d be days like these – Strange days indeed!’. And it’s early days yet. Thank you for the way you have been looking after each other, through phone calls, social media and email. Please keep the contact and support going and if anyone is feeling isolated or ‘left out’ then can I encourage you to be brave, pick up the phone and call – who? Well, any one of us. In these strange days no one will mind receiving a call even if you just say – ‘I don’t know why I rang, I just needed to speak to someone.’ Jesus commands us to love one another; and love in action means phone calls for no other reason than for human contact.
Two things I’ve drawn from my involvement with the Northumbria Community. The first is a commitment to daily prayer. It has been good to pray and worship together at the same time, particularly Sunday morning or when candles were lit at 7pm on Sunday evening. However, what our social distancing and self isolation has done is to place the responsibility for worship on to each of us as individuals. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. It is good to gather for worship but often that simply means turning up and receiving what’s on offer. In our current situation we must make an effort to construct times of worship on a day to day basis. When to pray? Where to pray? What to pray? The answers are no longer 10am, at church, and whatever the preacher says. We have before us an opportunity to develop our personal rhythms of prayer and worship throughout each day. In these ‘strange days’ a regular attention to prayer will calm our nerve, uplift our spirit, widen our horizons and keep us grounded in the love of God shown to us in Jesus.
From simply finding a quiet moment each day (or more) to read a hymn, to watching or listening to broadcast worship on tv and radio, to finding the various internet-based resources, there are ways of building patterns of prayer that suit. You could even use the worship book which gives basic outlines of morning and evening prayer.
The other thing I have been thinking about recently is a concept that is at the heart of Northumbria Community. The community is a dispersed group of people living across the UK in in other countries. We have taken a vow that commits ourselves to God and to community. But how to be community when we don’t live together? We speak of being ‘Alone Together’. In our separateness from each other we are deeply aware that we have committed ourselves to each other. I think the same is true (or can be true) of our churches. We do spend a good deal of time committing ourselves to God; now is the time to remind ourselves that through Jesus we are also committed to one another. When we sit alone, we can take heart that others of our fellowship are doing the same thing at the same time. We are alone together. When we pray, again alone, we are united by the Holy Spirit’s presence with others of our fellowship who also pray alone. We are alone together; in prayer. For me it’s a very powerful concept. It requires each of us to be truly dedicated to each other, so that in our separateness we can realise the truth behind the images we use. We are one family, we are a community, we are a living building with open doors, we are one body and Christ is our head. We are Alone Together and nothing shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Not affliction or hardship, hunger or danger. Nothing. Not even Covid-19.
Keep safe. Keep caring. Keep praying.