View from the Pew

 May 2020 –A new Togetherness

How could we have imagined this current world we are learning to inhabit, when I wrote the last “View”? All of us at St. Matthew’s send love, and prayers for our many friends across the Benefice, and those further away.

In the last few weeks we have all had to adjust our thinking, our patterns of life, and our attitudes to each other: the underlying fact is that in this time of isolation, we actually need each other much more than we had realised.  Maybe, as we rid our lives of some of what we deemed essentials, it left room for LOVE to come in and warm our spirits.  It has been said that the pandemic is a great leveller, and can strike down anyone, regardless of creed, colour or social status, etc., but no one can deny that those least able to cope, or indeed obey the new guidelines, are often those who are least privileged in society, and will inevitably, bear a terrible burden. For those of us who view the enforced isolation as a sort of prison sentence, it is pertinent to remember most of us have food in our cupboards (some more than we need, shamefully!) and we have roofs over our heads and beds to sleep in.  We do not inhabit cold pavements, hungry and desolate, or wait terrified for the next bombing, or anguish over how to feed our starving babies.

The situation has brought out the best and sadly, though perhaps less obviously, the worst in humanity. I personally. have experienced such kindness and love that it has brought me close to tears. We are filled with admiration and awe for those in the most tiring, dangerous and undervalued jobs which are least rewarded, Heroes are not difficult to find, and we must not make the mistake of having short memories when the day of reckoning comes. Rather than imagining things will go back to “normal ” eventually, we would be wise to understand that it must indeed be a very different “normal”.  We can be hopeful that those values which we aspire to, as part of our faith, are in plentiful supply:  Hope, love and trust and better understanding of each other will, with God’s Mercy, not be as thin on the ground as PPE has been for some doctors, nurses and carers and other service providers.  As many of us have held our hands cupped for years to share communion, we have had to learn that this symbol is of giving and receiving, graciously, this is no time for a misplaced sense of independence. There is grace to be learnt in receiving.  Big lessons in humility. How pertinent the words ” Deliver us from Evil…” as we all know of someone who is gravely ill, and perhaps dying. Lord, have Mercy. Christ have Mercy, Lord have Mercy.

As the smaller things in life take on a new significance, the tiny celandine and intricate minute moss form, become a galaxy of pattern, in their own right. I watch the sunlight scud over the fields, and spread out across the peaceful dale, so quiet, so still; and I can see the signs of new life in young lambs. There is a symphony of birdsong like we haven’t heard since I was a child  .My garden is full of fledglings revelling in the bright blossom of quince and early fruits, signs of bluebells in my wild wood, guide us to take heart and respect the natural world in a more responsible way. Whilst our church pattern of togetherness recovers from the body blow of being apart, built so firmly on Our Lord’s own words, “when two or three are gathered together in my name…”, we are led to strive for new and inventive ways to be together. After all He made us in His image and as creative people embracing that gift, we can become more creative, more inventive and resourceful.  We are blessed with gifts and graces, each and every one of us, and we must not forget the sustaining gift of laughter, one of the world’s best medicines!

My Prayer is that we step forward with courage, in a new spirit of togetherness, In the sure and certain knowledge that nothing can separate us from His love.  May God bless us and walk closely with us in these days to come.

With love, Lesley


February 2020

It somehow seems a long time since the Christmas Festivities as we enter the next season of the church year, Epiphany. It is a time for reflection and change, an opportunity to take stock of our spiritual lives, and maybe have a spring clean, hopefully rather more enthusiastically than Mole in “Wind in the Willows”.

It can be very therapeutic to stand back and take a look at the way we respond to life’s challenges, which often involve those we love, and those who we find difficult to love. The Diocese has suggested that we look at the subject, in our various parishes, under the umbrella of Mission: to discover what our mission might be in each parish. It is true that the word mission has sometimes taken on an unhelpful meaning, carrying the notion of a too controlling and organised way in which to live out our spiritual lives. Indeed “pushy ” Christians can soon discover their pathway to be counterproductive. It is truly amazing how God opens up the most interesting opportunities to share His Love, which seem to drop right into our laps, and turn conversations into what might be described as conversion (if it wasn’t too churchy a word!). I love a spiritual conversation, which springs apparently from nowhere, when someone turns to me and says, “You’re a church goer, what’s your take on this?” Or when a friend says she doesn’t “get” why Jesus was created by God the father to suffer in order to complete the Trinity, then I know I am in serious theological territory and it is time to think on my feet, and very likely learn something new myself! It is a blessing to discover and explore ideas together and to sharpen up our own beliefs.

As we move into 2020, with all its attendant national and international problems somehow seeming to be still so vast, I know in my heart that on a parish level, there is always Hope. Because God is good and through all our frailty and flaws, He loves us, unconditionally. He made us and loves us …. as we are… and that is something to be excited about and to find deep comfort within. St Matthew’s will attempt to approach this time of Mission, by doing what we do best: by offering our hospitality with more shared lunches in church. and opening our doors to those who will hopefully find the peace, love and tranquillity which keeps this small community so strong and faithful.

I heard someone talking on the radio, suggesting we must change, in order to live graciously with those who think differently from us: it is destructive to Peace not to listen to those with opposing opinions. Not easy! But anyone who has learnt lessons from a challenging life, knows the best in life, costs! We can reflect on what it cost Jesus … and back we come to the Trinity. St Matthew’s welcomes you to share our hospitality and invites you to grow in the Spirit with us on our journey through Epiphany and share with us A Happy New Year full of Grace and Hope and Love.

God Bless, Lesley x

Lesley Coates Jones