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An Icon ‘for such a time as this’

(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.               

Source : Association for Church Editors                  

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Values and Beliefs

“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.”

Mini Missionaries

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.”