The Idol of Time

Throughout Lent, and even in the last few weeks of Eastertide, I have been struck by the number of things that I have not had time to do…or go to, or take part in, or even think about. Ministry for me has become one of presence, of noticing, and listening where the rest of the world continues to pass by in the frantic rush which we have all become accustomed to. What has concerned me over the last few days, perhaps weeks if I am truly honest, is how little I have been able to inhabit that ministry of presence, noticing or listening, because I have been too busy. This was made abundantly clear when a parishioner who I had hoped to visit during the week, but had not managed to, called me on my day off terribly upset and really in quite a panic…if only I had made the time in the first place.

During lent we had watched the television drama, Broken and used it to reflect on current issues in our society. One of the episodes features a mother calling Fr Michael as her son, Vernon, is upset. Vernon always listens to Fr Michael and so she hoped that he would be able to answer the phone and calm Vernon down. It was the end of a demanding day for Fr Michael and he let the answer phone pick the message up as he went to bed. After Vernon was shot dead by the police because his anxiety had escalated significantly, Fr Michael was racked with guilt – if only he had answered the phone, Vernon might still be alive. Equally, if only I had made time for this particular visit in quite a busy week, upset and panic may have been avoided. Is it helpful to think of things in this way though?

I have developed a habit of putting my diary on my prayer stand to signify that these are the plans I have, whilst also acknowledging that things may work out very differently when I follow God’s plans – and often they do! What are diaries and time really about in today’s world though? Who is really in control of it? And who ought to be held to account when things go wrong? Many seem to recognise the pace of life is too fast – this is something that the Bishop of Gloucester wrote about only this week. However much we seem to recognise the scarcity of time, it seems to be very much a state we are stuck in. As we was asked to consider during Lent, “when was the last time you afforded yourself the luxury of getting lost in something you truly love doing?” I suppose I am really wondering whether time is our latest idol….

If this is the case, time becomes something we all are fascinated with, be that around how much or little we have. There would be a hierarchy around those amounts held typically indicating those who have less due to being in demand being held in high regard, and those who have time in abundance potentially being held in much lower regard. This hierarchy would encourage individuals to actively seek to be busy, to be seen to be in demand. It may be difficult to resist such an attitude to time – busyness would become infectious, affecting even those who did not wish to become slaves to the idol of time.

And so this idol begins to swallow up the masses who blindly follow, failing to notice as significant moments pass by, completely unaware of all that is being missed as new life begins to bloom and the magic of springtime comes alive, testifying to the true beauty of creation.

So I ask…are you busy? Have you got a little time to spare…?

Thought provoking…

I’ve just finished reading The Good Immigrant which is a collection of essays about what it’s like to live in a country that doesn’t trust you and doesn’t want you…

There were a number of heartbreaking reflections but one of the saddest was Musa Okwonga who decided to leave Britain because of such deep-rooted institutional racism. He said:

“Britain was not great because of its papers and politicians who relentlessly denigrated us, it was great in spite of them. Britain was great because of the spontaneous community spirit you saw as soon as a small town was flooded, because of the volunteers who turned out in their tens of thousands to act as stewards for the Olympic Games. But that wasn’t a spirit that I felt my country was doing nearly enough to nurture.”

This hit me between the eyes as I read precisely because of the sadness and hope within it. A growth in our collective community spirit could be the grassroots response needed to tackle a number of issues in our midst, not least the divisions we have a tendency to draw due to race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality and disability.

Can we nurture this community spirit in order to look outwards rather than onwards? To welcome the stranger and care for the lonely? This book is a must read, an incredibly uncomfortable mirror to look into, but one which I pray will change hearts and minds for the better. Amen.

The power of words

I went to an event called Soulful Wordsmiths this weekend, and was reminded of the power of words. Whether we like it or not what we say, and how we say it, can carry a huge amount of authority. Our words have the potential to welcome or alienate as we choose, or as others hear. I was reminded of the great need to take care as I communicate; to be aware that what I say, and what people hear might be very different.

Life and death…death and life

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way death is held and handled in the natural world, how different that may be to our various societal approaches to death, and possible reasons for this.

It seems that life can flow through aspects of the natural world that have died and are decaying.

New light can shine through, giving new perspectives.

Unexpected growth can come, which may or may not prove useful as an end, but can be a process which brings a different kind of beauty.

A form of protection can also be found to enable a nourishing and healing end for the surrounding community.

Sometimes, rather than an end, there is potential and the possibility of a beginning. Before this possibility is realised there is a period of rest and recuperation.

That rest occurs in community; it’s each taking care of one another’s needs…

…until finally there are the first signs of new life, growth, a new season.

With news stories such as this Triple Death Crash or reports of 11 US School shootings this year, it is little wonder that we often struggle to see death as a positive part of life. Equally losing a long loved relative can feel like just as much of a tragedy to those who grieve as the stories which make up our headlines. How often do we stand in solidarity through these times, not only in the weeks following but, in the months and even years that those left behind seek to adjust to a different way of life…a life without. I was astounded to find that for a major bereavement work places generally give three days of compassionate leave, and that is it. There are many front facing professions where this is just not enough for a person to recover to a state of being able to function. Equally after a few short weeks, no more than months, you are expected to be back to normal and yet this season of grieving can last well beyond expected time frames. Do we expect too much of ourselves, of one another? Do we allow safe spaces to voice our pain, our loss and our grief? How can we do this better?

Fingerprints of God

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I have been really struck by someone’s words to me: “the fingerprints of God are all over the place.” Later someone else made a reference to the imprints of God on our hearts. I’ve been left with some really powerful images, and continue to ponder where I see the fingerprints of God, both around me, and within myself. How about considering these images throughout the week both in the world that surrounds and within the hearts of those we meet.