Rector's Letter - June 2017

By the time this appears in the June edition of the magazines, I am hoping I shall on some level be back ministering within the benefice on a gradual phased return. The first thing to say is how grateful I am for everyone who picked up much in my absence: Revd Sandy Emery and Parish Administrator Christine Gibson have ensured everything has run smoothly, for which I am immensely grateful. Thanks need to be given also to the church wardens of both parishes, and to the wider clergy and reader team, who all contribute so much and have helped enormously in covering my absence, and who continue to do so as I gradually resume duties.

I have been off with exhaustion and recurrent tonsillitis, which first struck me in November, and which has taken longer to recover from than initially I was expecting. I have been really well supported by the Diocese during that time. A phased return will enable me to begin to pick up different aspects of ministry as I am eased back into full-time ministry.

During my time off, as I have rested and recovered, I have found wonderful inspiration in the Psalms. Each day Common Worship Morning Prayer involves praying through the Psalms, and I have found myself compelled to sing them each day, not just recite them. There is something spiritually profound about music, and singing such a health-inducing activity. St Augustine said those who sing their prayers pray twice. And indeed, I felt I was singing my way back to health and energy.

The Psalms are fabulous, because they put every human experience into colourful language and give us permission to say whatever we like to God. I see the Psalms as the first half of a conversation, which in their completeness are a wonderful dialogue with God. But for me, the Psalm itself isn’t the end of the story. It’s the human half of the conversation, coming before God just as we are. It’s as though in the silence after singing it, God’s reply comes. It comes from God who comes with a love beyond anything else, who comes with gentleness, graciousness, compassion, tenderness, and deep rest. I can imagine that as the psalmists sang and wrote these psalms, they were changed in the process: that glory of transformation we find in prayer. And sometimes you see that turn in the Psalms: after many verses of something being given to God, the end will suddenly give us a revelation of renewal. It is a transformation that is also held out to us through our experience of prayer. To me that echoes the transformation of the Easter story. And as I travelled through the Easter journey, particularly this year through the Psalms in the daily readings, getting the rest my body needed, it was good to feel health being restored – a kind of personal resurrection.

I don’t apologise for writing about Easter at the beginning of June, for our Easter Season doesn’t end until Pentecost, on 4th June, when we celebrate the outpouring of God’s Spirit. But more than that, we go on living Easter beyond Pentecost. We are the Easter people always – not just on Easter Day. Easter Day is the beginning of how we live the rest of our year, in the promise of renewal.

I was desperately sorry not to be sharing Lent and Easter with you all, but in reading the Lent book we were studying and in remembering you all in my prayers, I nevertheless felt connected, and joyful in that. I hope the joy of Easter and renewal is something you found for yourselves. With the Revd John Spiers now in place, with Revd Deborah Curram about to be ordained priest, and with myself making a gradual return, I look forward to all that this year holds, as we move towards being a full team once again. That warrants another Easter Alleluia!

With best wishes

Helen Signature