April 2020 – letter 1
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
These are indeed strange times we are living in. Times that frustrate us in all we may wish to do, times that may worry us in what may come. But it is a time for us to stand away and apart from some parts of our society. Not away and apart as in not engaging, though that is limited anyway, but in the way we behave and show ourselves.
We have an opportunity to be church where we are, each one of us. When the Israelites went into exile they asked in Psalm 137:
“By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”
Well we are in a strange land, but we can still sing the Lord’s song. Whilst we may not be able to meet together to share worship, we can still share our support, fellowship and love, with those around us and those of our church.
Some of us can still be able to get out and about, then we can offer to get shopping or medicines for those who are self-isolating for one reason or another, for our neighbours. There are a number of local support groups that are being set up on social media and through local advertising, there is the chance to be involved while still adhering to advice given. We can also make phone calls to those again of our fellowship and in our neighbourhoods, who are self-isolating. We have an opportunity not to let them feel alone or at worse, forgotten.
So, sisters and brothers, in this strange land sing as Wesley says in his ‘Instructions for Singing’ at no.4 “Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength …’
God bless you all,
April 2020 – letter 2
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
What a difference a day makes let alone a week. I hear some of you saying ‘that would be a good song title’, well it is.
“What a Diff’rence a Day Makes”, is a popular song originally written in Spanish by María Grever, a Mexican songwriter, in 1934 with the title “Cuando vuelva a tu lado” (“When I Return to Your Side”). The song is also known in English as “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes”, The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams, and was played by Harry Roy & his Orchestra. It was published in late 1934. The most successful early recording, in 1934, was by the Dorsey Brothers, In 1975, Esther Phillips recorded her version of the song. Her record had a disco feel to it which some of us remember very well.
This may all come in useful when this is over and you are in a quiz team.
But what a difference from where we were on Monday morning until now.
We are being asked to change the way we live for the good of others around us.
But for us as Christians that is nothing new. We have sought to live in a different way to the world for so long. We have striven to put other’s needs, fears, and situations if not before ours then certainly alongside.
We also have within our fellowships a huge capacity for caring for others and while this initial period of three weeks will be difficult for different people for different reasons, we can come together to help each other through that time.
As I said before, and will continually say, we must keep in contact with those in our families, but also in our church family. We can all pick up the phone and make a call, we can still use social media where we can.
BUT do not try to do too much, do not try to do everything. As always do what you can, take time to rest and take time to be with God.
“Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”
That well-known Wesley quote has the words ‘you can’ not as an order to do more, more, more. No, it is an understanding that there is only so much we each can do, but if we each do something then great things can be done.
Keep well and keep safe,
In Jesus Name
Rev. Mark Barrett
Superintendent Presbyteral Minister of the North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit.
Presbyteral Minister for Bath Road, St. Andrew’s and Rodbourne Methodist churches.