Letter from Reverend Sandy Emery - Associate Priest - May 2020

This is the last time I will write an article for the magazine as your Associate Priest prior to my retiring. Little did I know that coronavirus would take over our lives and disrupt all plans of farewell. My last service was to be May 24th when I would have celebrated my final Eucharist as your Priest this last 10 years having the privilege of serving you and covering two vacancies. I am required to retire as I reach a significant age the next day!! I will then be on leave from ministerial duties for a period of 6 months before requesting the Bishop to approve me for PTO Permission to Officiate as a retired priest and join my colleagues whom serve you now as retired priests in this Benefice.

I would have been inviting you all to celebrate with me for my last service and lunch afterwards. However, we are not sure when we’ll be together again. I am like many others in lockdown for at least three months as recommended for vulnerable groups. What a change in our lives. I will however continue to be part of the Minchinhampton congregation and will worship with you on a Sunday.

Many of us may be trying still to make sense of this. Some will be anxious and some afraid. Many will be suffering from loneliness due to self isolating. Our world and life as we know it has been thrown into chaos much like in the  Genesis creation story everything has been thrown into chaotic directions. The experience that we have been through can be likened to bereavement. There has been denial and disbelief and gradually acceptance that our world for the next several months is utterly changed. There will be sadness and loss and each one of us will be affected.

Should we be asking ourselves what are we learning from this and how will it change us. Hopefully it will have given each of us time to reflect. Have we paced ourselves each day finding a rhythm to our lives? To consider what we have learnt? What will we change in our lives? Because our lives will be changed. Have we discovered what is it that makes us anxious? What allows us to feel good and at peace? Our relationships can be messy affairs, some are broken relationships, others withstand the strain and stresses placed upon them. We don’t always get things right. But God is there and everyone is loved and welcomed at his table and that is what we need to give thanks for.

Personally I believe that we have had the opportunity or perhaps been forced to do church in different ways and we have been sent out just as the disciples were sent out to bring others to Christ as we practise our faith every day.

Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment that they should love one another. When we see NHS staff and key workers and volunteers we see the love and service that Jesus commanded us to do love and serve others.

Prior to coronavirus many people were very focused on themselves and the one positive thing that coronavirus has done for us is it has encouraged people to come together as groups helping one another, whether community based groups or church based groups or just neighbours, to focus on the WE not the I and how we can help one another.

These are times like no other we have experienced. We must remember we are loved and cared for by our family, friends and God. Even if family and friends have been by virtual hugging and holding. Even though we find ourselves physically apart from others God embraces us in his arms. We must never forget this. The outpouring of God’s love is ever present and surrounds everyone. Please embrace the unexpected encounters you may have with your family, friends, neighbours and with God.

We will look back on 2020 and know we have survived, we have learnt, we have grown and we have changed. I am reminded of Julian of Norwich, 1342-1416 an anchorite, who is someone who for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer oriented, ascetic life.  In 2019-20, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic Julian's relevance to people around the world who are self-isolating was highlighted. Julian was living in the wake of the Black Death, and around her repeated plagues were decimating an already depleted population. As an Anchorite she was selfisolating. The other anchorites would have understood that by removing themselves from life this would not only give them a chance of preserving their own life but also of finding calm and quiet and focus in a chaotic world. I will leave you with the words of Julian of Norwich: “All shalll be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

With love and stay safe,