This links to an article by the Dean of Lichfield, Rev Adrian Dorber. Lichfield was the first cathedral to host a mass vaccination centre. Dean Adrian begins:
I was asked to write the following piece for a daily newspaper. Whether it gets printed, or it is mangled into something unrecognisable by sub-editors, is beyond my control, but I thought you might like to see the article. Here it is:
Last week the UK death toll from Covid-19 crossed the 100,000 mark: a grim milestone in our reckoning with the impact of the virus. The swathe of bereavement the virus brings is terrible. The mental and spiritual desolation of 2020 has shown us the fault lines in the way the world is currently ordered: pointing us to the inescapable truth of our relatedness and obligations to each other. One charity dealing with bereavement has predicted a “tsunami of unresolved grief” that will take a long time to heal. Compound the death rate with the anxiety, stress and isolation lockdown and home-schooling have brought, to say nothing of lost jobs, business closures and a contracting economy, then we are right to welcome the NHS’s vaccination roll-out.
The link above will take you to the whole interesting article.
Here is the latest bulletin from Rev Jo Richards of St Dunstan’s, Canterbury. Advent has been a bit different this year!
I must share with you the joy of yesterday – I was invited to take a Christingle service in a local primary school – last year they packed St Dunstan’s church, twice over, and for obvious reasons they couldn’t come to St Dunstan’s and I went to school. Two assemblies – one year R 4&5 year olds, and then year 3: 7 & 8 year olds. They are making Christingles, and I took my ‘giant Christingle’ and we talked through the symbolism of it all….despite all the covid disruption these children were a delight and so interested and engaging. Then we had Q&A session. The most profound questions that came from the Yr 3 children: If Jesus was such a good person, why was he killed, where is Jesus now? How did the Resurrection take place? And this went on for about 20 mins – just amazing, and all so thoughtful, and again the children all so incredibly well behaved. It was an absolute joy to share the morning with them.
You’ve probably noticed that the ‘Going Viral’ posts are well and truly out of sequence, and have doubtless concluded either that Will has lost it, or that some posts are scheduled a little in advance, while others are posted on or soon after we hear from someone with an interesting tale. Thank you, Jo. for today and other days!
This reading from Numbers seems appropriate for All Saints’ Tide; the picture too.
The Prioryschool football team from 1948, dressed as a team to play as a team, and not go astray after divers things. I remember hearing a British competitor from the London Olympics of that year telling how she was sent a white cotton running vest and enough red and blue ribbon to sew the stripes onto it for herself. in 1948, of course, sport was not highly paid, players were expected to follow their sport’s precepts on the field and be good examples off it. Wear your School strip or national running vest with pride, and reflect upon what it means.
The blue ribands seem to have found their way onto the Israeli flag.
The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt tell them to make to themselves fringes in the corners of their garments, putting in them ribands of blue: that when they shall see them, they may remember all the commandments of the Lord, and not follow their own thoughts and eyes going astray after divers things, but rather being mindful of the precepts of the Lord, may do them and be holy to their God.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that I might be your God.
There was an unexpected item on my shopping list, so I was taking my time, scanning the supermarket shelves. Before I found Mrs T’s ingredient, I overheard a conversation between members of staff: now this stand was empty, should they deck it out with their ‘back to school’ range, or would that be better on extra selves by the main door? – No, the floor there is uneven, the shelves will wobble and who knows what will happen.
On one level, an unremarkable and admirable conversation between three conscientious colleagues, on another a depressing indication of their employer’s world view. This was the morning of the last day of school for young Abel, and the store wants to sell his parents the back to school stuff before anyone else gets the chance to do so. Are we put on this earth to be customers/consumers/marketing targets? Is there more to post Covid 19 life than shopping? Miss Turnstone reminded me to pop something in the food bank; not everyone could even begin to think about new school gear when food is too expensive.
We pray that today’s families may be accompanied with love, respect and guidance.
Mrs Turnstone and I took pride in being around for our children. Then they started to grow up, and we had to as well! Actually, it was often the children who accompanied their parents with love, respect and guidance.
Love: how about breakfast in bed sometime before 6.00 a.m. – dry cereal in a sardine can, because the pre-schoolers could not heave the milk down from the fridge, and the can did duty for various games, usually as a doll’s bed.
Respect: as in wanting to go to work, gardening with one or the other parent, doing as we did.
Guidance: for example, shaking their father, guilty of falling asleep while reading bedtime stories, or dictating a dress code: If you ever come to school in that coat again …
Trivial examples which point to the love, respect and guidance there should be within the family. Sometimes it’s difficult: ‘Will,’ one mother said to me, ‘Annie is the first of my four kids to do exams. I can’t help her because I never did them either.’ Such families are often honestly doing their best and need support, not condemnation.
Let us remember them this month. Perhaps it’s as well exams were scrapped this year because of the corona virus!
During the 1930s the British Colonial Office was beginning to grasp its duty to provide education for the young people of Uganda. The overwhelming majority of schools were provided by the Anglican and Catholic churches, but they were receiving some government finance and so subject to inspection by British inspectors working for the Ugandan civil service.
One of these was a Scotswoman that the Anglican Bishop Stuart, who was based at Kampala, complained of. In retirement he recalled how she had turned up to inspect one of his schools, and gave it poor marks and a bad report.
This surprised him, since he knew his schools, and this was a good one. However, on enquiring, he was told that nobody responded to her questions because nobody understood a word she said.
We can reflect in the words of Scotland’s National Poet:
O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us! It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An’ foolish notion.
Robert Burns, To a Louse.
In particular, as parents or teachers, to see ourselves as children see us. We won’t find out by asking them, but by watching them in our presence.
Bishop Cyril Stuart was often at odds with his Christians, but when he retired to Worcester, he and his wife Mary were presented with a ceremonial scroll, on which they were portrayed with dark skin, because they were seen as one with their Ugandan Christian brothers and sisters. His memoirs are in Lambeth Palace Library. (see p 17).
Lawrence Tukamushaba, M.Afr writes from Kasama, Zambia, about youth work in Saint Anne’s parish. To read his post click here. After describing some of the successes of this ministry in a large parish with many communities, he touches on some challenges.
A good number of our young people are raised by single parents; others have been orphaned at a young age and were brought up by their grandparents. Some have never met their fathers. Dealing with such young people needs spending time to listen to them and counselling them. Peer counselling is a skill that is needed.
The widening gap between Urban and Rural Youth
There is a growing gap between young people coming from urban and rural setups. In some areas, children have to walk 10 km on foot to reach the nearest primary school. In the rainy season, roads get really bad and some bridges are washed away. Added to that, the grass grows tall so that it becomes risky to walk in the bush and on top of all that some villages are widely scattered. In such areas it is difficult to find someone who has finished secondary school. This poses a challenge of leadership in the Church. It also increases a vicious circle of poverty.
In the year 2017, I baptized 17 adults among whom were 8 school girls aged between 14 and 18 years of age who had dropped out of school. Later I discussed with their parents and church council how to ensure they go back to school. We must be interested in the formal education of our Christians if our ministry is to be transformative.
Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury
Of course we have no idea what date Mary’s birthday should be celebrated, she probably didn’t know herself. It was celebrated on this day in the VIth Century as an important stage in Salvation History; nobody is obliged to hold this feast, but we should always be thankful that Mary said ‘Yes’ to God, not just at the Annunciation but also in all those decisions a parent has to take when rearing a child.
Education Sunday is held in England and Wales by many churches. A time to pray for all involved in education, from Nurseries to Universities; indeed today’s writer, Maria Montessori, would have totally agreed with the Catholic Church’s assertion that parents are the first teachers of their children. Read her words and imagine Mary and Joseph’s parenting.
We must come to a full understanding of the state of being of the newborn child. Only then will the absolute necessity of rendering easy his initiation into life become evident, The newborn child must become the object of knowledgeable care. Even holding him requires the utmost gentleness, and he should not be moved except with great tenderness. We should understand that in the first moment, and even in the first month, he should be kept very quiet.
Maria Montessori, The Child in the Family, London, Pan, 1970, p23.
I don’t think the ancient Israelites were altogether fond of the forest. One of the most vivid forest stories tells how Absalom, David’s rebel son, was caught by the hair as he rode under an oak tree while his mule galloped on without him. Absalom was a sitting duck for Joab and his men, who killed him, bringing David to tears. (2 Samuel 18, 19). Earlier, in Joshua 17, we read how the tribe of Joseph cleared away the forest to have room to settle and farm, a process that continues around the world to this day.
But something is lost as we clear the forest and then build suburbs over the resulting fields. Closeness to creation and the creator. Abel, at 3¾ years has found it at Forest School: he spends a day a week in the woods with his nursery school, getting muddy and enjoying himself among the trees. We would wait forever for him to tell us what he gets up to, but my teachers’ magazine ‘Educate’ tells how children are equal partners in learning and can take over the leadership of such sessions, under the guidance of their teachers.
One teacher, Jen Hawkes, says, ‘It’s about shared experiences and making friendships. They build a bond in the forest that helps them in the classroom. We’ve had lots of children making friendships who have previously struggled with that – which is so important, especially for mental health.’ So what the children do is by no means all that they learn out of doors. They learn to trust each other.
Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic in sending us schoolboys into the woods on half-holidays. There would be one or two at least in July; the priest-teachers were probably as sick of lessons as we were, and whatever we may have fancied they were up to in our absence, they no doubt had meetings to discuss our progress and all the routine matters that arise in any school. But we were free for the day. Note the seven pound jam tins, blackened from being used to cook a shared meal on the open fire to the left. Glamping this was not!
Fifty-odd years after this photograph captured the moment, I am in touch with three of the lads shown. That says something for the bonds built in the forest and other parts of our shared life. Perhaps the Missionaries of Africa were prophetic!
I’m sure you’ll understand why I don’t usually take my phone to church, even if this one usually stays switched off when I switch it off. Not like the one that erupted into cacophonous life during an Archbishop’s sermon. This habit partly explains why I’ve only just added this picture of a passion flower from Saint Thomas’ Church in Canterbury. We looked at the symbolism of the flower a few months ago after we spotted some on tombstones in nearby Chartham. You can tell the Christian story with it.
Here is the real thing, a promise of summer to come, and also of heaven to come! Saint Thomas’ flower is next to the sacristy door, the priest and servers process by the passion flower on the way to the altar to celebrate the passion and death of Jesus.
As we have remarked more than once, Jesus lived a lifelong passion. He enjoyed the world, loved it. He told us parables about the flowers of the field, trees and fruit, wine and wineskins, seeds and sowers, so it’s appropriate that we should have this little parable in stone in our Church, even if Jesus would not have known one in his earthly life.
Would Jesus have known this plant, the hop? I don’t know, but it was very common in Kent back in the Nineteenth Century when the church was built, and is still grown in the local area for the brewing industry. Hops were harvested by hand until after the Second World War, with whole families joining in; school holidays in Canterbury were adjusted to allow children and parents to go to the hop gardens legally rather than as truants!
The hops can be seen between two arches on the opposite side of the Church. They represent the people of Canterbury, and the work of their hands. So Christ’s offering and ours, depicted in stone on the walls of our Church: Laudato Si!
PS: So far we’ve not found carved passion flowers in any local churchyard that we’ve visited since Chartham.