(With thanks to Gill Butterworth, who is a Companion with Julian of Norwich, for this article.)
The experience of Julian of Norwich is relevant ‘for such a time as this’. (Esther 4.14) and I find she is a great comfort. Mother Julian lived through three waves of the Black Death, in 14th century Norwich. She knew people who died. She may have lost some people very close to her and mourned them – perhaps at a distance – unable to attend their funeral.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many people to self-isolate. Julian knew, by vocation, obedience and choice, what it is like to live isolated from others. She may have had access to a small enclosed garden, but we don’t really know. Those of us with gardens can get some fresh air and see nature growing, but that is less easy if you live in an apartment or high-rise flat. The solitary, limited, enclosed life has become a reality for many this year, with no choice in the matter.
Today we can keep in touch via e-mails, texts, Facebook, What’s App, Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, phone calls, post, etc. Julian had none of these in the 14th century. She had limited contact with her priest, spiritual director and servants. Also with the many people who came to her for spiritual counsel, but whom she did not see as her window was heavily curtained.
The Black Death spread differently from Covid-19, and we now know much more about hygiene and infection control, medical and scientific research, epidemiological mapping and vaccines. But we seem to be as susceptible to panic, fear, despair, selfishness and believing misinformation and ‘fake news’ as our mediaeval sisters and brothers were. The media is two-edged – a good way to disseminate helpful advice and information but also capable of whipping things out of proportion and worrying people. We are also seeing the best is being brought out in people in wonderful instances of love, care and self-sacrifice and community awareness..We should all follow the official advice we are given to stay as safe as we can. But perhaps we can follow Julian by filling time with thoughts of the love of God rather than being lead off-track by the media circus.
The God she shows us in the suffering and compassionate Jesus is the same God for us. “He did not say, ‘You shall not be tempest-tossed, you shall not be work-weary, you shall not be discomforted.’ But he said ‘You shall not be overcome’. God wants us to heed these words so that we shall be strong in trust, both in sorrow and in joy.
Two friends were discussing the vicar’s sermon on tithing. “Times are difficult,” said one, “but it seems an important subject and I suppose we should follow what he said.” His friend commented, “I wonder, though, how far you can take this tithing business. For instance, in this time of shortages, if I managed to buy thirty toilet rolls, would I be expected to give three to the church?”
Little Tommy’s Sunday School teacher heard him use some questionable language. She was shocked and said, “Tommy, don’t you ever use such language again, and certainly not where your friends and I can hear it. Where on earth did you learn that?” “I got it from my dad, Miss,” replied Tommy. “Well, your daddy should be ashamed. I hope you don’t know what all that means.” “Oh but I do,” said Tommy, “It meant the car wouldn’t start when we were ready to come to church this morning.”
Do you sometimes get pestered by unwanted telephone calls from people who want to either sell you something or get you to take part in a survey? If you see a number on your phone you don’t recognise, try answering the phone with, “Hello, thanks for ringing Radio Stoke. You’re on the air now!” Most of them will hang up.
A country conference centre which was much used by church groups had as its motto, “There are no problems here, only opportunities.” A minister booked it for a weekend retreat with a group from his church. The day arrived and they all signed in and were shown to their rooms. A few minutes later the minister returned to the reception desk and said he had a problem. The receptionist responded with a smile and said, “Sir we don’t have problems here, only opportunities.” The minister said, “Call it what you like, but there’s already a woman in my room.”
The call of God
(This is a translation of a poster found in a church in France) When you enter this church it may be possible that you hear ‘the call of God’. However, it is unlikely that He will call you on your mobile. Thank you for turning off your phones. If you want to talk to God, enter, choose a quiet place and talk to Him. If you want to see Him, send Him a text while driving away.
Why Jesus walked on water
A tourist, planning a trip to the Holy Land, was aghast when he found it would cost £50 an hour to rent a boat on the Sea of Galilee. “Goodness,” he objected to the travel agent. “In England it would not have been more than £20.”
“That might be true,” said the travel agent, “but you have to take into account that the Sea of Galilee is water on which our Lord Himself walked.”
“Well, at £50 an hour for a boat,” said the tourist, “it’s no wonder He walked.”
I’m not a complete idiot. Some parts are missing.
Top Ten Silliest Questions asked on a Cruise Ship – Paul Grayson, Cruise Director for the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line
1. Do these steps go up or down?
2. What do you do with the beautiful ice carvings after they melt?
3. Which elevator do I take to get to the front of the ship?
4. Does the crew sleep on the ship?
5. Is this island completely surrounded by water?
6. Does the ship make its own electricity?
7. Is it salt-water in the toilets?
8. What elevation are we at?
9. There’s a photographer on board who takes photos and displays them the next day… the question was asked: ‘If the pictures aren’t marked, how will I know which ones are mine?’
10. What time is the Midnight Buffet being served?
Good and kind
The retiring sidesman was instructing his youthful successor in his Sunday morning duties. “And remember, my boy,” he said, “that we have nothing but good, kind Christians in this church – until you try to put someone else in their pew.”
A wee bit too pious
A Scottish lady invited a gentleman to dinner on a particular day, and he accepted with the dour reservation: “If I am spared.”
A young man fell asleep in the Sunday morning service, and soon began to snore. The preacher stopped and impatiently motioned to the young boy beside the man to wake him up. The boy said: “Wake him up yourself, you put him to sleep.”
The Bishop was coming to speak at Deanery Synod and everything that could be done to make the evening a success had been done. There were fresh flowers on the table, and coffee and cakes prepared. When the Bishop arrived, however, he was in a crabby frame of mind. Looking around, he beckoned a nervous vicar over. “I would like to have a glass of water in front of me on the table, if you please,” he said.
“To drink?” was the vicar’s idiotic question.
“Oh no,” was the sarcastic reply. “When I’ve been speaking half an hour about parish shares, I do a high dive.”
“What is your kitty’s name, James?” asked the visitor.
“Ben Hur,” said James.
“That’s a funny name for a cat. Why did you name it that?”
“Well, we just called him Ben – until he had kittens.”
“We need a set of values and beliefs to guide us.” These words give a flavour of the maiden speech in the House of Commons by Danny Kruger a new MP.
At the end of his speech he said, “I want to finish on a more abstract issue but I think it’s one that we’re going to find ourselves debating in many different forms in this Parliament. It’s the issue of identity, of who we are, both as individuals and in relation to each other. Traditionally, we had a sense of this. We are children of God, fallen but redeemed, capable of great wrong but capable of great virtue. And even for those that didn’t believe in God there was a sense that our country is rooted in Christianity, that our liberties derive from the Christian idea of absolute human dignity. And today these ideas are losing their purchase. So we are trying to find a new set of values to guide us, a new language of rights and wrongs, and a new idea of identity, based not on our universal inner value, or on our membership of a common culture, but on our particular differences.
“And I state this as neutrally as I can because I know that good people are trying hard to make a better world, and I know that Christianity in the Western past is badly stained by violence and injustice. But I’m not sure we should so casually throw away the inheritance of our culture. There is so much to be positive about. I share the Prime Minister’s exuberant optimism about the future, but we need a set of values and beliefs to guide us. As we advance at speed into a bewildering world where we are forced to ask the most profound questions about the limits of autonomy and what it means to be human, we may have reasons to look about for the old ways and seek wisdom in the old ideas which are in my view entirely timeless.”
A group of 17 children aged 8-13 in Durham have been coming up with creative ways to share their faith and the love of God to their peers. The Children’s Council of the Church of England Diocese of Durham has been awarded £6,800 by the All Churches Trust. The award is for a project titled ‘Homegrown’ in which they will become ‘mini missionaries’ sharing their faith and the love of God with other children and young people across the region. The 18-month project has the potential to reach out to thousands of children and families in communities across the diocese. It is hoped that the project will further empower the children to take charge of the planning and preparation of mission events in their own home churches and to run the events themselves with support from others. The first event will be a silent disco followed by a family fun event in the summer.
Sharon Pritchard, Children’s Ministry Adviser for the Diocese of Durham told Premier: “Homegrown is a child-led project which will create events and activities for children, young people and families to share God’s love in the communities we live in. “Their eagerness to share God’s love within their own communities is inspiring and we hope ‘Homegrown’ will be a blessing to all who are involved.”
I have just received the following email from Neil Cornthwaite at Barnabus with an update of the charity’s work at this difficult time. Please take a few moments to view Neil’s message.
30th April 2020
As a valued partner of Barnabus we wanted to give you a further update on the fast changing situation we find ourselves in as we help the city and those experiencing homelessness in particular through the COVID 19 crisis.
I have recorded a new video update, we know a lot of you used the last one in your online content last time so thank you for doing that we really appreciate it – please feel free to use this new one again.
If you have further questions or ideas about how your church and ministry can support us at this time then do get in touch.
We hope and pray you are safe and well at this time- once again we thank you for your support and prayers at this time
Christian Aid faces a huge dilemma this year. For decades, it has relied on the generous donations of the general public to fund its overseas aid and development programmes aimed at alleviating poverty and addressing crisis situations. Last year the total raised was in excess of £8m and engaged around 57,000 volunteers. This year, due to Covid-19, there are no door-to-door collections, but we are still being encouraged to donate. This year the focus is on Kenya, which is experiencing its worst drought in living memory, and now has Coronavirus to contend with too. The prospect is extremely worrying. What were we all told to do to combat Coronavirus? “Wash your hands”. Well, that’s not difficult if you have soap and water. Christian Aid is helping Kenyan’s to build water traps and dams, without which many will die from a basic lack of water and hygiene. We remember from Holy Week how when Pontius Pilate could not find any fault in Jesus he ‘washed his hands’ claiming to be “innocent of this man’s blood” (Matt 27:24). Please let’s not “wash our hands” of the plight of our Kenyan brothers and sisters. If you can, please donate a little something to Christian Aid this year.
Holmes Chapel Ecumenical Christian Aid Group realised that handling cash would not be an option in the current situation and have set up a Just Giving page to enable supporters to donate online.
The link for the Holmes Chapel Group Just giving page can be found here:
The donations will go directly to the central Christian Aid Fund but by using this link, we will in due course, be able to give you the normal information about how much has been collected locally for Christian Aid.
We are very conscious indeed that at this unusual time, finances can be difficult and not everyone uses a computer. We would like all supporters of Christian Aid to be assured that the group will be resuming normal fund raising opportunities as soon as they are allowed, but in the meantime, we felt that we had to put some facility in place rather than not try at all.
If you have any queries, please speak to Sue Wood 01477 534842.