If our Christian discipleship is real it needs to ‘accompany’ us during difficult days such as we are experiencing personally and corporately at the moment.
Others in the diocese are far more capable than I of sharing important information about practical and institutional matters. Perhaps it is part of my task, as the person with ‘Lay Discipleship’ in my diocesan title to share some of the helpful spiritual insights that the faithful and creative people in our diocese and chaplaincies, and in other Anglican jurisdictions in Europe, are offering – largely by digital means – at this time.
I intend to collect and share such reflections about twice a week, using ‘Exploring Faith in Europe’, the blog I established a year or so ago, and which is accessible via the diocesan website homepage, to do so. Please do feel free to contact me with any reflections that you would like to see shared more widely.
Clare Amos, Director of Lay Discipleship Clare.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Holy God, who created us for & from love, in this time of social distancing hold us close in your arms. Comfort those who are afraid, enliven those who are bored, give courage to those who are distressed and warm those who feel the cold touch of loneliness. Breathe in, with & through us as we walk through uncertainty into a new future knowing that you are with us now and await us there. In the name of Christ the Beloved we pray. Amen. (Ellen Clark-King, found via Anglican Menorca website)
- Be at peace. Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise. God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them. He has kept you hitherto, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in his arms. Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering, or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination. (St. Francis de Sales, bishop near Geneva and in the Haute-Savoie 1567-1622)
God bless the state,
and keep our fists from hate,
lest we fall apart
God bless the hearth,
the kitchen and the garth,
that we may rest.
God bless the city
with justice and with pity,
lest we seek to blame.
God bless the towns,
the festivals and clowns,
that we may laugh.
God bless the village,
the grazing and the tillage,
lest we cease to care.
God bless this place,
with presence, silence, grace,
that we may pray.
God bless these days
of rough and narrow ways,
lest we despair.
God bless the night
and calm our trembling fright,
that we may love.
God bless this land,
and guide us with your hand,
lest we be unjust.
God bless the Earth
through pangs of death and birth,
and make us whole. (Prayer of intercession by Jim Cotter, included in an service of spiritual communion led by Revd Louis Darrant on 15 March 2020, in Costa Azahar)
‘Like as the hart desireth the water-brooks : so longeth my soul after thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea even for the living God.’ Psalm 42
Lent is a time to experience this kind of thirst; we think of the thirsty Christ, of the wilderness and temptations, meeting the woman at the well and engaging in conversation with her, and through her with us; the Christ of Gethsemane with the chalice and the angel; the ‘I thirst’ of the Cross.
The Psalms are our never-failing resource through Lent and beyond. They have sustained the Church through thick and thin. The 23rd Psalm really includes everything that we need, for all times. (Alan Amos, Geneva)
Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.
Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders. Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.
Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.
Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.
Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.
Jesus Christ, heal us. (Jesuits, USA)
The biblical scholar, Walter Brueggemann, writes: “The wilderness wanderings are a surprise to Israel. This is not the promise of Exodus…Wilderness is the most radical memory that Israel has about landlessness. Wilderness is not simply an in-between place that makes the journey longer. It is not simply a sandy place demanding more stamina. It is a space far away from ordered land. It is Israel’s historical entry into the arena of chaos that, like the darkness before creation, is ‘formless and void’ and without a hovering wind (Gen. 1:2).”Today many throughout the world, including us here in Geneva, are bewildered by the speed of events brought about by the Coronavirus Pandemic. We are in a metaphorical wilderness where the bearings of our normal life have been swept away. This is not what we were expecting; our ordered lives are disrupted; fear stakes our world. At times we wonder if life will ever be the same again. And it is okay to feel like that. This pandemic will make spiritual demands of us perhaps such as we have never known before.
Within the chaos of Israel’s experience, God provides water to replenish their thirst and to rejuvenate their souls. The extraordinary memory of water gushing out of rock points to the providence of a loving God when we find ourselves at the end of our tether; where our human resources are depleted and when we are forced to turn to God for deliverance.
… When Jesus sits down tired and weary at Jacob’s well and strikes up a conversation with a Samaritan woman, whose name we do not know, we find the very incarnation of God who knows us inside out. The Samaritan woman quickly cottoned on to this. Her testimony is “He told me everything I have ever done.”. Have you ever had a conversation like that? Where you open up about yourself? Where you are listened to and understood? What is it that you find yourself sharing about yourself? How is it that your deepest thoughts and yearnings come tumbling out of the cavern deep down in your soul where you have hidden them, taking you by surprise? When I think of Christianity and its transformative power in the world, it is this gift of the listening, understanding, inviting Christ of listening that I value most highly. … At this time of total disorientation, may we see Jesus sitting at Jacob’s well beckoning us for a conversation. May we open up to him and tell him how life really is with us: He knows already of course. But it is important for us to have this intimate talk. And may we emulate, by the grace of God’s Spirit, this listening, conversational ministry one to another, that the living water of Christ’s love might refresh and sustain as we journey through this wilderness called Covid-19. (Revd Michael Rusk, Rector of Emmanuel Church Geneva, sermon preached on 15 March 2020)
* The story we share together, in all of the communities that make up our Convocation, begins and ends with the same words: “Do not be afraid.” Those are the words with which the angels greet the shepherds tending their flocks on Christmas night; those are the words with which Jesus greets Mary Magdalene in the garden on Easter morning. We often hear those words as words of comfort. But they are not. They are words of command. Followers of Christ give no quarter to fear. We are meant to be too focused, too determined, too intent on walking the Way of Love—caring for the sick, binding up the broken, defending the defenseless, forgiving the sinners. Christians cannot waste time on fear. So take the unexpected freedom of this time as a gift. Use it to pray. Use it to reflect on what we miss when we miss the fellowship we create as communities of faith. Use it to check in on your friends—especially those you are most worried about. Use it to risk the possibility of contemplative prayer—a time of quiet, a time of opening our hearts fully to God, a time of listening for the still, small voice. (Bishop Edington, Bishop of Episcopal Convocation in Europe)
* Keep us, Good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us
from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Diocese of Exeter)