Making the most of our time

A couple of months into the pandemic, Bishop David recorded a message for Select Vestries which we were asked to listen to on the same night, right across the diocese. One of the things he said, which stuck with me, was about making the most of our time and investing in things that would have value and significance for the Kingdom of God. He reminded us, as members of Select Vestries, we can have a strategic role in equipping ministry and mission in all of our parishes. It’s not just about finances, but it’s about prayer and looking at the opportunities that are there, wherever we are situated for service, and for making Christ known.

Last Sunday, we returned to in-church worship after a period of over 4 months when the doors were closed. I found it a very moving experience and there are a few photos of the day. They capture the sense of anticipation we felt as a community to be able to gather together to worship, observing social distance, implementing good hygiene practices, using new technology and cautiously entering this new world we now have to navigate.

Over the past 4 months I have felt very proud of how people have looked beyond themselves and taken on new pastoral responsibilities and roles through phoning people to check if they are ok. The Select Vestry and Back to Church subgroup have made big decisions, that were carefully considered, and tried to look to the future and the best means available to us to continue to reach as many as possible with our services. Systems were set up to assist those who don’t have technology at home to be able to phone in for services and we hope this will continue, though the timing of their availability may be slightly later in the day. If the service is streamed live at 11 am, a recording of that service will be available to listen to probably by 2 pm, we expect. While we are currently not allowed to sing, there was a tangible spirit of engagement with our recorded music on Sunday past and a real sense of drawing close to God in thanksgiving and praise.

One of our older parishioners gave me a lovely phone call on Tuesday. She described having seen the ‘Return to Church’ video last week on her iPad and decided she would come on Sunday evening. Even though she was familiar with the service of Evening Prayer, and admitted to knowing most of it off by heart, she spoke of how seeing the words on the screen and reflecting on them gave it a whole new life for her. She said it just meant so much to be back in the building and I wanted to thank all your team for all their hard work in making it possible. 

This time of year is often the time when people look ahead to autumn activities.

Maybe you are a bowler, or you attend groups like the Mothers’ Union, the Ladies’ Open Door Friendship Group or the Men’s Society, and you look forward to a new season with the varied speakers and guests. Perhaps, you are one of those people who like to take a class in the evenings to try something out or find out more about a subject of interest? I know that in autumns past I have done things like computer courses or first aid courses because I felt they were important skills to know a little more about.

At this point, we don’t know what activities we will be permitted to run, but could I put forward a recommendation for the online Alpha course?

We will be opening registration for Alpha by Zoom on 25th August. It’s a 12 week course that will look at the basics of Christianity through looking at a video each week and following it up with a small group discussing what they have seen together. Each session lasts one hour and we hope to run on Thursday evenings from early September from 8-9 pm. Each week you will be given a Zoom link and, by clicking on it, you will be admitted to the meeting. It’s a great opportunity to do something of spiritual benefit for yourself and maybe explore questions you might have about life and faith in a safe environment. You can do it from the comfort of home with a cup of tea and a biscuit and you don’t have to face going out and coming back on a dark evening.

If you want to express an interest before 25th August, please drop an email to office.cregagh@down.anglican.org

I heard a story, some years ago, about a man who came across hundreds of jellyfish stranded on a beach and started throwing them back into the sea. Someone saw him throwing them in and was jeering him because they said there are so many you’ll never make a difference. The man picked up another jellyfish and showed it to those who were jeering him and he asked the question, “Do you see this one?” When they replied that they did, he threw it into the sea and pointed out that his action had made a difference in the life of that one!

When it comes to sharing faith, and maybe getting used to doing things in church terms in a totally new way, we can easily get discouraged. We miss the old ways and we wonder will we ever get back to what we remember as normal. I have often found that, whenever I have taken part in an Alpha course, as a participant or leader, someone’s life gets changed. Faith comes alive in a new way, someone finds peace who was troubled, someone learns to pray or starts reading the scriptures for themselves.

Small things done with great love are the things that matter. As I write this blog today, the funeral has taken place of John Hume. Whatever you might think about his politics, the whole country and, indeed, the world, lit candles and applauded his unstinting contribution to the building of peace in our land. He is someone who, to me, embodied the Bishop’s challenge of making the most of our time. He invested in things that were important and, while it was a costly thing to do in terms of his health and frequent opposition and misunderstanding, he saw its importance and gave himself fully to the task with the support of his family.

Could the Alpha course be an opportunity for you to invest in your spiritual life? Might it be a nice way to connect with others for an hour over the months autumn? We hope you might consider it as we take a little break from the blog for the next couple of weeks.

If you wish to take part in the parish prayer meeting on Thursday please email zoomtostfinnian@btconnect.com

Look forward to speaking again soon.

Much love to everyone,

Jono.