Genesis 29: 15-28; Psalm 128: 1-11; Romans 8: 26-end
Gospel: Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52
Our Old Testament reading from Genesis
If you have read our Old Testament reading from Genesis, you will find that there is a natural dove-tail with our Gospel reading from Matthew. Most of us have lived long enough to know that, despite our desires and hopes, our planning and hard work, we do not always get what we want. The good and the bad, the dirt and the treasure, are never far from each other. Nothing is as it seems. What you see is not always what you get. Look what happened to Jacob in our reading from Genesis. He chose Rachel, but he woke up with Leah. I suspect that has happened to all of us. Haven’t there been times in your life when you wished or worked for one thing but got another? Haven’t there been times when your life seemingly changed overnight? Your life was one thing and now it is another, and you didn’t choose it or want it. That is when we have to make a decision about our faith and how, or even whether, we will move forward. Do we trust that there is more happening in life than we can see or understand? Can we look at a mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, and see contained within it the greatest of shrubs, a tree in which birds nest? Will we persevere in searching the market place of our life trusting that there really is a pearl of great value waiting to be found? Or is our faith limited to what we see now, and can be verified by facts and logic, to what fits our desires and expectations? Is what we see now all there is or ever will be? Is this as good as it gets?
The return to regular church services
I continue to get responses to my appeal to those who are considering delaying their return to regular church services at St Mary’s. I would like to thank all who sent me emails/texts regarding their intentions for the near future. Some of you have opted to remain in situ until a vaccine is available. Some of you just feel too vulnerable at present to take the chance, whilst many of you feel that a further relaxing of restrictions is required before making the decision to attend. Most of you will continue to make use of the many and varied online services that are available. Whatever your preference, it is important that you know it is both respected and understood. The past four months have been extremely difficult for many of us and there is absolutely no need to rush in at the first opportunity. Whilst it is always heart-warming to see a full church, I am acutely aware that the current situation, coupled with the prevailing uncertainty that we are over the worst, is framing much of our decision making when it involves our faith communities. Be assured that you are all in my prayers as we look to the future with hope and expectation.
Last week I mentioned that I was hoping to open St Mary’s for Sunday worship on Sunday the 2nd of August. Unfortunately this will definitely not be the case. I have completed the Risk-Assessment which now needs to go through a process of initial comment from Bishop Anne, after which it needs Vestry approval and then formally re-submitting to Bishop Anne for final approval. This may seem very protracted; however, it is absolutely necessary if we are to observe both the Scottish Government and Provincial guidelines. We cannot afford to take any chances and we must ensure that all bases are covered if we are to open our doors. Bishop Anne is overseeing all risk assessments for our City Churches which is clearly an onerous task, one which requires 100% attention to detail. In view of this it is only prudent to expect that this may take a little longer to complete. Therefore, after a brief email correspondence with the Bishop, both she and I are confident that St Mary’s will open for the first Sunday service in four months on Sunday the 9th of August at 10.15am. For those attending, you will be immediately aware of the restrictions that will exist within the church for some time, such as socially distanced seating arrangements combined with signage and the requirement for using the anti-bacterial hand wash, which will be strategically located within the church. There will also be a requirement to wear facemasks (these are provided if you haven’t brought your own). Suffice to say, things will look decidedly different. The maximum capacity allowed, due to the new seating arrangement has been vastly downsized. Family groups may sit together, however single attendees will need to comply with all social distancing measures on the day. Many pews have been removed to accommodate the new arrangements. For those who will attend, please expect to be seated by a sides-person in a pew which is not necessarily where you would normally sit. This is the ‘new normal’ and we all must work with it rather than resist.
As I have mentioned in previous newsletters, St Mary’s still has to attend to its many financial obligations despite the Church being closed, and it is more important than ever to ensure we have the resources to honour those commitments. Some of you have sent me cheques/envelopes for your weekly giving donations and for that I am extremely grateful. I would encourage those who may be saving their envelopes up until a full return to normal Sunday services, to consider making a direct payment into St Mary’s Church bank account. I can provide the necessary information if you contact me on the details below. It is my utmost desire to ensure that we are able to observe all opportunities to cut down the risk of infection. However, if that method is not suitable and you would still like to contribute your envelopes, or make a donation, again, just contact me and I can make alternative arrangements to pick it up. Your continued support is so very much appreciated in these trying times.
The Zoom Breakfast continues each Sunday at 10.am for those of us with computers/smart phones and internet access. Should any of you wish to join us for a 45 minute ‘gabathon’, please let me know and I can provide you with the login details required.
The pandemic has, and continues to be, a strain on all of us. It has affected many facets of our lives that in the past we have taken for granted. It has caused many of us to stop and reinvent ourselves as the world around us changes in response to circumstances. It has made us think about how we are ‘being church’ and how we respond to the challenges that God has asked us to negotiate. Many of us have become more attuned to the simple things in life that in the past we forgot about or simply ignored. We are more thankful than ever for the many people who work in industries that kept us supplied with essential items we needed to carry on. Our National Health Service have been our ‘Special Forces’ during the past 4 months and we will never forget the sacrifices they made to care for those who suffered during the current crisis. There are many more I could easily mention, but then this newsletter would never end. I pray for all who have helped us, I pray for all who have suffered and I pray for all of you who I miss so much.
‘And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light’.
(Dylan Thomas – excerpt from ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ 1947)
Fr Terry Taggart