A message from our Vicar
Who could imagine that 2020 with its COVID-19 pandemic crisis would be a hinge point for our life as individuals and together as a church community? By reflecting on what happened in the year 2020, we realise that we have been through a lot. But maybe the great realisation is that we are still here, and up to this point, the LORD has helped us, and this awareness is soaked in hope.
At the time of the prophet Samuel, the whole nation went through a big defeat that hit them to the core. They lost everything, including the Ark of Covenant, which symbolised their identity as people of God and His presence among them. In this time of turmoil, we feel the earth is shaking under our feet, and there is the urge to figure out what's next and how life will look like after the crises is declared over. In response to this, Samuel took a big stone from the same land under threat, and he named it "The Stone of Help". According to St. Augustine the stone set up on the new border between the threatening enemy and the people settlement. The people chose to look back first to reorient themselves to the future. They chose to remember how they were still there, despite the threats, because God’s grace had helped them that far and would continue to help them if they would trust God and keep following him. The founder of the China Inland Mission, Hudson Taylor, had a plaque displayed in each of his residences that read "Ebenezer—Jehovah Jireh," Together, these Hebrew words say, "The Lord has helped us to this point, and He will see to it from now on."
In our massive disruptions, it's understandable for us to be anxious and seek solutions. But what about first, we together build a stone of help. We can make it like a jigsaw puzzle from all the pieces of the previous year and beyond (please find below a collage of pictures that could remind us of few moments on the journey). By learning how we become a people discerning together what God is already doing among us in the present, we may offer a hopeful alternative to our society which in its anxiety, become obsessed with knowing, planning and controlling the future. As Alan Roxburgh says, "Our unravelling present is the womb wherein the Spirit is gestating the future. We don't need gurus pointing to some future. We need to release one another into the ordinariness of our neighbourhoods.".
In doing so, we may notice Jesus, who is sleeping in the stern of the boat amid the storm. We might be able to see the blessings of the previous year side by side with its upheavals. During the last year, God provided us with the opportunity to do new things that we never thought possible, like worshipping and meeting online, and outside our church building. We have stripped back to essentials, especially during lockdowns, and this made us reflect on the essentials to be a church, and the answer mainly was not the institutional stuff but the "people / us", being led by the Spirit and living out in our community. I was delighted to see many of you take heart and rise to stand in the gap to move the church mission forward. And if you are like me, I am excited to see how the Spirit is shaping churches and what form this will take after the pandemic.
What is your piece in the stone of help from last year? Whatever its size, please bring it on, let us say together, "Up to this point the LORD has helped us!" let us say it as we live in this space between where we can't see what's ahead and what the Spirit is forming here and now. It is by discovering how to discern the Spirit in our communities that we live into God's promised future.
Revd Adel Shokralla
21 June 2021