Looking Ahead
After the Lock Down
A note from the Life & Work Team

During this challenging period, Life and Work is committed to helping keep our Christian community connected and so we have made the May 2020 issue available on our website. This can be accessed by visiting 

https://www.lifeandwork.org/resources/free-download-may-2020.

Letter from Interim Moderator for
St Ayle linked with Crail

To the members and residents of Crail and St Ayle

The season of Pentecost comes 7 weeks after (50 days) Easter and celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit as described in the Book of Acts to bless and empower the Church.  It is often associated with the colour red and the images of flames and fire depicting its energy and power.

Fire is often a feature of religious life, and takes place in a number of world religions.  Fire is, from one perspective cleansing and cleaning, and from another, destructive and dangerous.  It is the burning of voting papers in the Vatican which tells us that the election of the Pope is completed or not.  The palm crosses which are used on Palm Sunday are, in some traditions, burnt and the ashes kept and used in the next year to mark the faces of the worshippers on Ash Wednesday.  Fire and ashes symbolising repentance and cleansing. They are physical reminders of a commitment to change and live according to God’s law and mourn (or perhaps destroy) our failures in word, thought and deed.

I worked for nearly 7 years in Australia where the horror of bush fires often ravages the country. In my first year there the most powerful fire started, significantly on Ash Wednesday, in the midst of the summer’s heat.  The fire consumed vast stretches of territory in a similar way to the past summer in Australia, and ravaged homes and destroyed the environment of many citizens.

It is a dangerous and terrifying place to be on the edge of a bush fire, but after the fire is over, in the ash strewn land left behind, a very strange event occurs.  Plants and wild flowers which are never seen at any other time emerge from the ground as a result of the fire and the cooling ash in the soil.  New and different life appears and all sorts of beauty in colour and shape emerge out of the ashes.

Perhaps in this Pentecost we need to see the flowers that may – God willing – spring forth from the ashes.  The Church in every land, as well as the whole of society, will be changed by the impact of the virus on us all. There can be no swift return to what we assumed was ‘normal’ in our daily lives.

This will mean we have to embrace change – some of it not welcome, or what we find comforting or fitting.  There may be massive changes required due to the impact on the finances of the Church.  The attendance may not, as some have predicted, return or even grow dramatically as a result.  What is interesting and new, are the thoughtful and creative uses of the internet and the various means of communication employed by congregations at this time of social distancing and isolation.  New forms of worship have developed.

I learn in my email and telephone conversations of dramatic increases in the engagement of people with the message of the Gospel at this time, many of whom are not usually found in our congregations.  It will be foolish, and indeed a rejection of a God given gift of communication, if the Church fails to grasp these new found means of proclaiming the Gospel message.  These must continue to be used appropriately in future.

Of course there is no alternative, or equivalent, for most of us other than attending physical services with those in our community of faith and those seeking the message of grace and hope. In future, these services will have to engage with people who have not only survived the pandemic and its impact, but also have been changed and transformed by it.

In the many articles and reflections I read, there is a new understanding and respect of the fact this virus, so tiny that we cannot see it, has caused many nations of the world to shut down and face economic and social gridlock. There is in some of the writings a clear understanding that the new ‘normal ‘after this has to be different.  A time when our appreciation of the service and valiant efforts of our key workers has been sounded so loudly every Thursday.   It should, in the future, become a daily observation of how much the rest of us depend on them for the way of life we treasure and enable us to transform the values of our society. 

The Church had the wonderful opportunity, while weary of isolation and perhaps a bit bruised and battered by the impact of the virus, to be renewed and discover new places and fresh ways to proclaim the Word of truth and life.  The Church is always in need of reform and reformation (as our Church of Scotland has articulated in its symbol the burning bush).

May we be ready in the post Pentecost season to grasp the new adventure and walk in the new avenues of faith and witness which God has granted us.   Now is the time to give thanks for what we have and how we have fared throughout the crisis and in giving thanks, trust the One who has gone before us and given us the Spirit to transform our lives and those whom we encounter.

With a new ministry promised to begin in the now foreseeable future, we have every reason to give thanks and celebrate what wonderful new signs of life God has and is granting us. Perhaps new and beautiful growth will result and enrich all or lives.  May it be so.

With the hope that you are all keeping well and safe in these strange and difficult times.

 

Nigel J Robb (Revd)

Interim Moderator of Crail linked with St Ayle.

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