Updated 22nd July 2021
Pastoral Letter from The Revd David Minns
Gradually and carefully, blinking into the summer sun we emerge from the darkness of the oddest of times we could have imagined. Life has not returned to normal - as we thought it might even last year. Legal restrictions are being lifted, only to be replaced with moral ones. Though we are given new freedom, we are asked not to exercise it; we are asked instead to care for ourselves and our neighbours. It’s a strange new world we are entering, where things are permitted, but advised against!
And yet maybe, caring for our neighbours is not too tough a thing to ask. It is a keystone of Christianity: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, - and love your neighbour as yourself’.
Christianity often comes over as immensely complicated - full of rules, rituals and customs that would trip up the unwary. That is largely a man-made thing. In reality our faith asks us to love God and love our neighbour. I love that passage from the prophet Micah in the Old Testament: ‘He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’
It’s not that hard is it? Justice, mercy, humility, love God, love your neighbour. What a nice way to live the life that God has given you - to use your time making the world a better, happier place.
I used to visit Nigeria as part of a previous job and I often marvelled at the faith and joy shown by African Christians in the face of often unfairness and hardship. When I asked about this once my host replied: ‘David, here we have nothing - so we are totally reliant on the gifts that come from God - and we rejoice when he gives them. Maybe Western hands are too full to receive anything from God’.
Maybe we would be happier and more content if we appreciated what we have and looked to the gifts of God rather than the constant striving for more, newer, flashier, better.
And maybe now, the things we have been through together as a nation over the past long months have given us a fresh perspective on life. We have been weeping with those who have lost loved ones, we have been appreciating carers, supporting our neighbours, and giving to foodbanks and charities who support those whose misfortunes have placed them in need of help.
I enjoyed the recent Euro Football tournament and celebrated that the England team did so well. I didn’t enjoy the few who booed other teams’ national anthems and who disgracefully aimed racial abuse at some of the young men who so proudly represented their country. But I was struck, that in the wake of the vile abuse those young men suffered, there was a response, both from the players themselves and from the wider public, that this was not who we are and we will not be dragged down by those few with hatred in their hearts. The warmth of appreciation from the public was perhaps a sign that we are learning better to love our neighbour, to value, respect and care for the people around us with whom we share this life.
Coming out of lockdown won’t be an overnight thing. I’m itching to get back to singing in church, refreshments and conversation after services, visiting each other in our homes once again, sharing meals. I can’t wait to get back to fetes and events, to being able to see people smile again, to starting our choir at long last. But it will take some time for many people, before they can feel safe around others.
So, we slowly feel our way forward, appreciating the good gifts that surround us, that come from heaven above. We take care of ourselves and our neighbours and slowly begin to re-engage with one another as a community.
So, here’s my prayer for you:
Have a good summer, enjoy the freedoms that we have and appreciate what God has given.
Be gentle and kind with those around you - love God and love your neighbour.