28 Aug time of transition
By far the best known psalm is the 23rd Psalm, which has this memorable opening line, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” You can turn to this psalm at any time of your life, but it has a special gift in time of need; whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, or facing changes in your life, or simply feeling uncertain about the future, psalm 23 assures us of God’s abiding love and care.
St Martha’s has experienced two significant changes this year, both of which occurred at or around the same time: the closure of the church to public worship, due to the onset of the coronavirus, and the departure of the Reverend Mary, Rector for over seven years. With the church closed for public worship and the Rector gone, the question arises, “where do we go from here?” There are two ways of thinking about this question: the first is to say that things are bad and will only get worse, and that it will take us a long time to recover. The second approach is to ask, “what is God is saying to us in this time of transition?”, and to take comfort from the words of the 23rd psalm, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me.”
St Martha’s is not really in a dark valley, because although public worship is suspended, the church is alive and well. There is a strong leadership team who are looking after the church’s business. There are those who are making sure the building and grounds are kept well maintained. Prayer continues to be offered for the church and for the world. There is life bubbling below the surface, which in itself is testament to the faith which people have for the church and for its future.
The most recent change is the arrival of the new interim rector who now writes this letter. The Transition Committee recently organized a meet-and-greet at the church, which was attended by a large number of St Martha’s folk. I enjoyed meeting so many of you, and look forward to further opportunities to do so.
There are more changes in the pipeline, chief of which is the re-opening of the church for public worship, subject to approval by the bishop. Our plan addresses all of the concerns that people have about re-opening. Personally, I am very much looking forward to opening our doors again on a Sunday morning. The offering of public worship is vital to our life as a church, as the celebration of the Eucharist unites us to God and one another and forms us as the community (body) of Christ.
For a while we will exist as one congregation in two locations – one in church and one at home. It is important to remember that we are one congregation, since those who choose to remain at home have the intention to return but cannot at the present time. God looks at the intention, and will bless all of us, whether we decide to come or to stay. Blame the virus for dividing us in this way, but let us learn how to stay united despite the challenges.
“Your rod and your staff – they comfort me.” Change can disrupt our lives, but it cannot separate us from the love of God, who is unchanging. Rely upon God, therefore, to be there at all times – call upon him, and he will hear you, for he is our “strong rock” (Ps 62), “a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46) and “near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully” (Ps 145).