Let it be to me according to your word
Updated: Mar 28
25 March 2020 - Feast of the Annunciation
Understanding the values of the first century A.D. – and even the values of today – a fourteen-year-old unmarried woman was an unlikely person to be chosen as the channel by which God would reveal himself. And yet, the Gentile physician Luke describes the angel Gabriel appearing to this young maiden, to tell her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her and that the child Mary would later give birth to would be the Son of God. Mary responds simply, “Let it be to me according to your word”.
Much is made in tradition of Mary’s submission. I’m not so sure. I think that as a fourteen-year-old, Mary’s sense of what is possible was larger than that of most adults, such that this openness and creativity is the root of her ‘yes’ to God’s plan. Mary doesn’t know – at this point – what that plan will entail. She is just ready to step out and see what happens.
Adapting to the new world of ‘lockdown’ is a similar process of stepping out into what we are called to, to see what happens.
So far, I’ve been very busy, and a lot has been getting done. I’ve set up a matching scheme for volunteers and those who are self-isolated and needing support. I’ve called the scheme, ‘For such a time as this,’ echoing Queen Esther’s words at Esther 4.14. Entry to the scheme is possible through the parish website at https://www.st-lawrence-eastcote.org.uk/coronavirus-precautions. Volunteers are completing baseline safeguarding training online ahead of being matched with those they will support, to provide as much as we can for everyone’s safety and well-being. I’ve produced a booklet which outlines expectations in relation to the scheme.
Dan Bishop’s working commitments in church and at Bishop Ramsay have changed with the lockdown, so Maria Smith has kindly handed over to Dan on a temporary basis the reigns of Stewardship recorder. Dan is now clearing the backlog of stewardship recording so that the task can be picked up by someone else on an on-going basis. We clearly need to have this income now, as our income from rental of the hall, Elsie Fischer room & library have fallen to £0, and this seems likely to remain the case for some months. As rentals provide about half of the income which keeps the church running, this is a serious change which will need our attention. Whilst the hall is closed, Jenny is working from home to keep church administration ticking over. With the PCC having had a chance to examine the accounts for the 2019 calendar year, the final version of the accounts went to our independent examiner on Tuesday.
Church meetings have continued through video conferencing on the app Zoom. This has meant that familiar people such as Alan and Sadie Wright, Elaine Wigginton, Rosemary Ryder and Barbara Plummer have used video conferencing for the first time. I had a very constructive meeting with the Standing Committee on Monday this week about the Scout Hut. There are now proposals going to the PCC. I may be able to say more about these once they’ve been considered by the PCC. On Tuesday I had a very creative meeting with the Safeguarding subcommittee, and we did some work to help us familiarize ourselves with the different roles that are needed in the Parish Safeguarding Team. I’m glad to say that I have one volunteer already, but I will be posting role descriptions on the website for the other people we need, to help the Safeguarding subcommittee in the search to fill the other roles.
Our first confirmation classes went ahead on Wednesday evening this week. Dan managed to ensure that this went took place by video conferencing, so we saw into the home environments of eight younger members of our congregation as they looked at and discussed the first of the youth alpha videos online. The course is due to continue for ten weeks. Zoom seems an apt medium to use with younger members of our congregation.
The government’s injunction on businesses doesn’t extend to builders and electricians. This week, representatives from the company Tencer have been on site setting up new lights around the car park and replacing faulty wiring in the hall kitchen and Lady Chapel. I’ve also been delighted to have Mike Williamson, Mark Kimsey and Jack Edwards on site, keeping the grounds of the church smart and attractive through their gardening skills. There is more to be done if anyone else would like to spend their exercise time outdoors in the church garden. Public Health England’s two metre separation requirement.
I am grateful for all the feedback you gave on the live-streamed Eucharist and the Mothering Sunday reflection I put up last Sunday. It sounds as if St Lawrence knew itself as one family in spiritual communion through these resources, even if we couldn’t meet face to face.
In the meantime, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued new instructions on Tuesday of this week. The Archbishops have said that our church buildings must now remain closed – both for private prayer and for public worship. At present they have said that it is not permissible for parish priests to use the church for private prayer, as much as they have encouraged that food banks remain open and that voluntary work in the community continues. As such, they have asked clergy to stay at home and to live stream services from home. I have set up a chapel in the vicarage so that I can live stream a Eucharist on Sunday at 10:00. The Archbishops’ advice is more stringent than the government’s, as the government is permitting live streaming by clergy from church. If the directions from the Archbishops over live streaming are revised in light of the updated advice given by the government on 25 March, I will let you know.
Finally, the St Lawrence food bank. Alan and Syvlia Hooper, as stalwarts of ethical living have now to remain at home. They’ve briefed Sarah Watts on what needs to be done by way of taking food items to the Hillingdon food bank. Sarah took her first delivery of food bank items from St Lawrence to the food bank on Tuesday. Sarah’s daughter produced a lovely poster explaining the present need, which has been circulated well beyond the congregation. The need is acute with 100,000 people newly seeking benefits from an already overloaded DWP system. As this need has increased, supply has become more precarious with panic buying and individuals stockpiling. I have left the lobby of the church building only open, so please continue to deposit items for the food bank at church, even whilst the building cannot be used for private prayer.
Mary had the openness and creativity to respond to and embrace a situation which on the surface looked like it might destroy not only her reputation but also her personal security. I’m glad to say that so far we are responding to the very challenging environment that the Coronavirus pandemic is leading to with similar receptivity. The immediate result is a lot of change and a lot getting done. Whilst I’m sorry to have sent you such a long letter, there has been a lot to tell you about – so I hope you will forgive me this.
“Let it be with me according to your word.” Luke 1.38
I pray that we may all be open to what God is calling us to in these challenging times.