Previous letters 29th May 2020
I hope you are all keeping well. Thank you once again for the replies to last week's letter. It's good to keep in touch.
I keep finding myself thinking about people from the past. In the days when I was still referred to as 'the young Minister', I had two church members, an elderly married couple, who used to keep me on my toes by asking me all kinds of hypothetical questions. I particularly remember two versions of the same question which preoccupied them (and me) for quite some time. The first version of the hypothetical scenario was that the two of them were drifting out to sea in a tiny rowing boat miles from anywhere and faced with certain drowning. They wanted to know whether in such extreme circumstances they could celebrate communion together without a Minister on board to consecrate the elements! The second version of the scenario involved me being the one alone in a boat drifting out to my own certain drowning. What would I do? Would I celebrate communion just for myself and would it mean anything without a Christian community gathered round?! I did point out that in either scenario, we would be unlikely to have bread and wine with us, but they refused to be put off their search for answers! I wonder how you would answer those two questions. I suppose the point of the questions was to do with how to operate as Christians in extreme circumstances. Are there situations in which normal practice is suspended and we might do things in a way we haven't before out of pastoral necessity? It's not the only time such questions have come up. You can find similar discussions in the Bible and in other literature. You can see where this train of thought is leading me.
Whilst I was on sabbatical, one of the things I did was a certificate in Church music. There were lots of different units to choose from. One of the ones I chose involved choosing a theme from a Psalm and writing a piece of music to help people think about that theme. Given what we are going through, the theme I chose was 'How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?' It's a real privilege to share in the circuit YouTube services on a Sunday morning and one of the things we manage to do is have hymns to sing along to. It is indeed strange to sit at home singing along without being able to hear the other people. Yet there's something special about doing it. As we adapt, we are learning to sing the Lord's song in a strange land. In these unprecedented times we are still the Church. Our buildings are closed, but the Church is not closed. The Church is God's people worldwide and that community is still open, still singing and still serving. I don't know what you think about the boat scenarios, but I hope you'll agree that the Church still has a song to sing.
Stay safe and stay in touch.
Yours in Christ,Helen