A Pastoral Message – Sunday 3rd May

Dear friends

As the weeks of the “lockdown” unfold, I wonder what it is that you are missing most of all?  Is it your favourite drink from a coffee shop?  Is it a regular visit from your friend, or child or grandchild?  Is it the chance to watch your local football team or get you hair cut?  Is it your regular house group meeting or gathering for Sunday worship?  Are you missing the thinking time that the journey to work gave you or the space in the day when the children had gone to school or nursery?  Is it a visit to your favourite shop or park or gym?

This list of things that we are missing will be different for all of us, depending on the routines and patterns of our life and work before we entered this particular chapter of our lives.  But when I’ve been talking to people recently, there is one thing that has been mentioned more often than anything else and that is the simple touch of another human being.  For those who live alone, the absence of a hug, a handshake, a kiss, a grandchild sitting on your knee, a comforting hand or a shoulder to cry on can be acute and painful.  The virtual hugs that we send to each other via our social media platforms are just not the same – they just don’t cut it or have the same effect!

Touch is, apparently, the first sense to develop in the womb and research has shown that physical contact with another human being can reduce the effect of stress.  That’s why the physical touch of another person is so fundamental for our wellbeing.  The friendly arm around our shoulder, the gentle pat on the arm or the hug are generally reserved for our closest friends and family members, but they are really important and can actually make us feel happier, more satisfied and more trusting of each other.

Genesis 2 v 18 says “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”  We are social beings who are not created to be alone, we are created for relationships. So, it’s no wonder that many of us are feeling this deprivation of human touch and long for the day when we can physically meet again with those who are closest to us.

However, Ecclesiastes 3 also reminds us that there is “There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

So, we find ourselves in this period where we are required to retreat, to withdraw and to reduce our physical contact.  In the context of the words of scripture above, this is perhaps a time to weep, a time to mourn and a time to refrain from embracing. However, I wonder if it may also be that in these days it is a time to heal and time to mend.

There are resonances here of the words of the covenant prayer in which we are invited to share each year where we say “put me to doing, put me to suffering, let me be employed for you or laid aside for you.”  All of these experiences are part of the sometimes messy and painful, yet rich tapestry of our lives as we seek to follow the way of Christ.

So, these periods of our lives in which we are unable to be and to do all that we might hope are to be expected.  We may not like it much but we can be assured that God will still be working his purposes out in the world and in our lives during these days.  It is our calling to look for and recognise that activity which may in fact resource and empower us for our future in some way.

In the meantime, in these days, when we are laid aside, when we cannot embrace and when we are perhaps weeping and mourning, may we hold on firmly to the hope that in future days we will embrace, we will laugh and we will dance again, rejoicing that our God makes everything beautiful in his time.

Every blessing,

Gill Newton, District Chair