If St. Paul’s Were A Farm…
Harvest Festival was somewhat different this year – less festival, more symbolic gesture, though the generosity of the many who brought offerings of tinned food for distribution to a local food bank was as great as ever. (And so was the artwork from Puss Bank School!)
I live on a farm, so I am very fortunate to see at close quarters the seasons rotating and the constant cycle of new birth, growth and death as lambs and calves go to market. On a livestock farm one of many urgent tasks is to gather in the grass for hay and winter fodder. In years when the grass has been affected by bad weather and there is less to gather, farmers are forced to buy in winter feed for their animals, resulting in higher costs and a reduction in profit the following year.
This harvest time I fell to reflecting on how this relates to us at St. Paul’s in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. If St. Paul’s were a farm, and the virus were very bad weather, what are we still able to harvest? What has withered? What will cost us more if we are to maintain the work of the church?
Firstly we are still able to worship together and to pray. Offering our praise and thanks to God – our worship – is the primary purpose of our lives. Listening to God in prayer and through His word are the means by which we grow in relationship with Him. Listening to each other, reaching out and meeting the needs of our community are the means by which we develop relationships and fulfil His command to build the kingdom. Practising endurance in the face of suffering, sustained by prayer, is something all Christians are called to do, but it is important to acknowledge that this is very hard, and only possible when we are supporting each other in endurance. Our parish telephone pastoral system has been an important means of sustaining each other when for some there is little to look forward to beyond the sound of a voice on the end of a line.
We must acknowledge our losses, too. The loss of human touch has been a trial for many, given that touch is known to be necessary for our well-being, even while being the potential cause of serious harm. Our young people’s work has withered since lock down began. Given that young people should be at the centre of our mission if the church is to grow, I am working with others to restore a version of Fun@4 which can be enjoyed at home.
We have lost also the full variety of our worship, prevented as the congregation is from singing. The choir, however, is now able to sing for us in small groups, which brings a measure of joy to us each week.
Our income has also taken a big hit since March. This is a problem not confined to churches, and I am the first to acknowledge that many workers in our area are experiencing loss of income and potential redundancy as the government’s furlough scheme comes to an end. However let us remember that God gives to us abundantly and promises to ensure that we will have what we need. St. Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Corinthians that “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9.8) The ‘good work’ we do as a church to share the Gospel needs your support, which Paul reminds us is a direct response of gratitude for what we have received from God. So even while we are all being severely tested, God calls us into generous (but not reckless!) living and generous (but not reckless!) giving, in order that by sowing bountifully, we will also reap bountifully. So if you have not had a chance to give to the church for the past few months, or have not recently reviewed the amount you give each week or month, please would you consider doing so? Thank you.
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