Previous letters 22nd May 2020
Once again, thank you to those who have responded to my weekly letter. It's been really nice to hear from you. We seem to be starting to share our struggles a bit in these conversations and that's a good thing to be able to do. I've shared some of mine too. It's always hard when you're in pastoral office to know how much personal struggle you can share with others. In training I can remember being told: ' be careful you don't reverse the pastoral relationship'. And there can be a danger of that. But these are extraordinary times and we're all finding it difficult. It's mental health week this week and well known figures such as Prince William, the Archbishop of Canterbury and famous footballers are talking about their own struggles with anxiety and depression.
We don't yet know when we will be able to resume church services and what form they might take. I think it will be a while before we can do anything approaching normal. All kinds of things which seemed straightforward in the past are now fraught with difficulty, such as communion and even singing. (I'm always ill after carol services, so why didn't I make that connection before?) But I think one of the things we're going to have to do as churches is to look after each other's mental well-being. Now more than ever. So I imagine that we might be doing things like offering sacred space at certain times where people can sit quietly, offering resources for people to take home and think about and sharing some gentle conversation. We are going to need to be kind to ourselves and kind to one another and patient with one another. It's going to take us a long time to feel properly 'better'. In the Bible, patience, kindness and gentleness are described as ' fruits of the Spirit'. In other words, they are characteristics which show whether we have a sense of God. In the letter to the Galatians which is one of the places where we find a 'fruits of the Spirit' list, the writer goes on to say:
' Carry one another's burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ'. The burden we have at the moment is a very heavy one. But together in the strength of Christ we can come through this time and things will get better. For now, let us have faith in him and kindness for ourselves and one another.
Stay safe and stay in touch.
Yours in Christ,Helen.