I recently heard an army veteran say, “There’s no atheists on the front line”. This veteran, still a young man, had seen first-hand the power of God in the face of man’s fear, and could now say how important one’s prayer life was in the face of adversity.
In January, the Guardian newspaper had an article entitled ‘Non-believers turn to prayer in a crisis, poll finds,’ which said that for the non-religious, personal crisis or tragedy is the most common reason for praying; with one in four saying they pray to gain comfort or feel less lonely. For those that struggle to pray, and I include self-professed committed Christians in that category, it is often to do with either not having the words to say or not hearing anything back.
Firstly, God doesn’t need to hear your words spoken allowed. Prayer is something that is done from the heart and gut, not just from the vocal chords. Holding a time of silence with a candle lit, or taking a walk and listening for God, are both legitimate ways to pray. But then so is screaming at the top of your voice in lament, anger or frustration too. The point here is that God doesn’t set conditions for effective prayer he welcomes any time spent with him.
Secondly, prayer is a two-way thing. That’s why it’s so frustrating when you feel your prayers are falling on deaf ears. Listening for God is crucial to a healthy prayer life. Yes, you can give over all your concerns, requests, petitions and intercessions but like any correspondence it will always feel incomplete unless you get a reply. So how do we listen for God's reply? Maybe this will help…
A wise lady and her friend were walking near Times Square in New York. The streets were filled with people, cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, and sirens were wailing. Suddenly, the wise lady stops and says, 'I hear a cricket.'
Her friend is astounded. 'What? You must be crazy. You couldn't possibly hear a cricket in all of this noise!'
'No, I'm sure of it,' the wise lady said. 'I heard a cricket.'
'That's crazy,' said her friend.
The wise lady listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to where some shrubs were growing. She looked into the bushes and sure enough, she located a small cricket. Her friend was utterly amazed.
'That's incredible,' said her friend. 'You must have super-human ears!'
'No,' said the wise lady. 'My ears are no different from yours.'
'But that can't be!' said the friend. 'I could never hear a cricket in this noise.'
'Yes, you could,' came the reply. 'Here, let me show you.'
She reached into her pocket, pulled out a few coins, and dropped them on the pavement. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed every head within 5 metres turn and look to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs.
'See what I mean?' asked the wise lady. 'It all depends on what's important to you, on what you're listening for.'
So, what is important to you? If God isn’t, then you're probably not going to hear what he’s saying to you. If he is, then listening for him in the busyness of our lives is the most important thing we can do.
Luke 11:1 reads, "One day, Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray…"
What we forget to mention in this passage is that Jesus went and found a place to pray first before he gave us the Lord’s Prayer. He met with his father every day and modeled a pattern of prayer that sustained his human nature. Listening for God is made easier by committing time, energy and intent. Like the cricket in the story, God’s voice can be heard, it just all depends on what’s important to you.
May you hear the voice of God speak peace and comfort to you. Rev Jeremy Putnam.
Mr Holmes and Dr Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: "Watson, look up at the sky, and tell me what you see." Watson replied: "I see millions and millions of stars." Holmes said: "And what do you deduce from that?" Watson replied: "Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there. And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life." And Holmes said: "Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent."
Sometimes when we read the bible or hear it read, we try so hard to find the deeper truth that we miss the obvious, staring us right in the face. We are just like Watson, gazing up at the mystery of God’s word and missing the everyday truth of the gospel. And Christmas is no exception – at Christmas time we try and attend to the deeper truth of God Incarnate, Emmanuel, the Son of God coming to the earth and all that might mean, as a kind of protest to the commercial machine that Christmas has become, but we still miss the obvious.
At Christmas time we hark back to a moment in history, when something remarkable and miraculous happened long ago, imagining what it might have been like if only we had been there, and what it might be like when he comes again, but yet we still miss the obvious.
At Christmas time we attempt to say something about Christian hope, the deeper truth of God’s promise, that on the night when Jesus was born a new kingdom came into being. And these first days of God’s plan for salvation occurred in a humble setting in the middle of Palestine. In a dimly lit stable, God began the restoration of humanity. This new creation, the birth of God’s Christ, fulfilled an age old prophecy that began in a garden under a tree… where two people took their own path before God’s… despite all this, despite the rich tapestry of faith and tradition, despite the revelation, the life changing story of God coming to the world… we still miss the obvious.
None of these things, history, hope and the nature of Jesus are unimportant – in fact they are truly central to the Christmas story, but these things without the obvious are at best, just concerns for theologians and philosophers.
Christmas was never meant to be something that we only look back on, without somehow attending to the Christmas that is right in front of us. Christmas was never meant to just be about a miraculous night in Bethlehem, but was meant for the ordinary moments in our own lives today and tomorrow. The tent was the thing that Watson missed, but for many of us, the thing that is missing in our Christmas’ today are those things that are left unspoken of. Like the fact that there are family and friends that we love but see no longer, or the financial pressures that Christmas can bring, or the anxiety we feel when so much expectation is placed on making Christmas look and feel right, or the depression that some feel due to loneliness, even when in a room full of family. This is the obvious, and yet it is missed so often.
My father passed away 9 years ago, and each year since there has been a missing chair at the table on Christmas Day. It is at times like at Christmas we deeply miss those we love and see no longer. Amid the joy and merriment of the Christmas story the obvious that is so often missed by the world, is indeed the pain, and loneliness that many of us feel, in the Christmas today. And this reminds me of the true meaning of Christmas. Jesus came not for accolades, gifts, nostalgia or tradition – he came for the broken-hearted, the lonely, the forgotten, the homeless, the mourning, the widow, the poor and the despised.
Jesus was born in a backwater town of no significance, surrounded by animals, adored by shepherds, cared for by a teenage mother embarrassed and despised by her culture for being an unmarried mother.
The message of Christmas is the truth that Jesus was born so that God could show how much he loves us. To say ‘I am here’, I feel your pain.
I will like you, watch loved ones die, I will like you, weep at the grave of friends, I will like you share in the hurt of the world when I walk to Calvary. God stepped into our world so that love could win, over the law, our pain, our loss and even our death.
The obvious truth of Christmas which is so often missed in the sparkle and glitter of the season, is that God didn’t come just for the privileged, the religious, the blessed and joyous, he came for those who hurt. The Good News of Christmas, and Jesus’ birth is that when we are looking up at the stars, or out at the world, wondering whether we are alone, we can truthfully say at all times, we are not. God is with us.
Prior to Jesus’ birth, the people of God had heard and read in scripture four words repeated time and time again. In the book of Genesis, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Haggai, God says to his people ‘I am with you’. At Christmas these words come off the page of scripture and into our lives – Jesus is God with us, then, now and always.
May you know the peace of the God child, as your Saviour, the one who knows you and loves you always. Amen
Revd Jeremy Putnam
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
you are precious in my sight,
and honoured, and I love you, Do not fear, for I am with you;
December is always so full of being busy. Parties with work, parties at school, extra visitors, shopping for big meals, presents and outfits.
It’s one of the busiest times for the church also.
Carol Services, Nativities, Midnight Services and one of my favourites, The Christingle Service.
It’s fair to say I’ve been to a number of Christingle Services in my 39 years, from being a child myself, to trying to deal with Cub Scouts gathered around the altar trying to see who could get their lit candle closest to their hair without setting it alight. Hair burns fast when it’s covered in spray or gel. I’m not sure which the young lad had used that morning.
They might not have learnt what a Christingle was but hopefully they learnt not to mess with flames.
So what is a Christingle Service?
It’s is a celebratory service which thousands of churches and schools hold each year.
The idea of the Christingle began in Marienborn, Germany in 1747 where, at a children’s service, Bishop Johannes de Watteville looked for a simple way to explain the happiness that had come to people through Jesus.
He decided to give the children a symbol to do this. This was a lighted candle wrapped in a red ribbon. At the end of the service, whilst the children held their candles, the bishop said the prayer, ‘Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children's hearts that theirs like thine become.’
Now in its 49th year the modern form was introduced to the Church of England by John Pensom of The Children’s Society in 1968. This involved children decorating an orange with a red ribbon, dried fruits, sweets and a candle to create a new visual representation of Christ, the light of the world, celebrated by the lighting of the Christingle candles.
Each piece of the Christingle symbolises something to help us understand the importance of Jesus and the Gospel, and its relevance at Christmas time.
The orange is the world, while the red band is the love and blood of Jesus. Then the sweets remind us of all God’s creation and the lit candle is Jesus himself, the light which came into the world at Christmas.
Once again this year All Saints, Highertown will be hosting a Christingle Service and it’s a perfect way to remember in the middle of all the hustle and bustle what the ‘Reason for the Season’ is.
Because the service has children in mind it is perfect to come along as a family but ALL are welcome to come and join us, to share in the joy, warmth and celebration.
If you wish to find out more about the services at ASHT this Advent and Christmas Season please visit the church website asht.org.uk
Lydia Remick (LLM – Reader)
All this talk of recycling, protecting the environment, and green energy reminds me of one of my favourite dad jokes. It goes like this: I gave all my dead batteries away today… free of charge!
Since Sunday 1st September the Church of England has been keeping Creationtide, a period in the church calendar that concludes on the feast of St Francis 4th October. At All Saints Truro we’ve been thinking about what a Christian care for God’s creation might look like. We’ve been thinking about the impact of pollution and climate change, and about sustainable living and environmental justice. We’ve been blessed to hear some great speakers and preachers including Dr Tim Taylor (Senior lecturer at Exeter University for Environmental Economics), Luci Isaacson (Diocesan Environmental Officer), Janette Mullett (Director of Epiphany House) and Revd Dr Lucy Larkin (Tutor for SWMTC).
Hearing these people has reminded me of how important it is for Christ’s church to take seriously the instruction to ‘be fruitful, and to care for’ this incredible gift of life. As I’ve reflected on our discussions it has been increasingly clear to me how important this is, and how it’s not so much about the church being ‘green’, although that is important, but more about our walk with Jesus.
I’ve learnt that our relationship with creation is the great leveller, since all of humanity is dependent on God’s gift of life - through His Word and His Spirit in a spiritual sense, and through creation in a physical sense. We all require food, we all require fresh water, warmth and shelter to live. It doesn’t matter if we’re a wealthy oil tycoon, or a struggling unemployed dad of three, we still need the basic elements of life to flourish. Jesus’ ministry was always close to this truth. As he mixed with the rich and the famous and the poor and forgotten, his teaching was never far away from the essentials of human need. It was a grounded ministry, held close to the dirt and earthiness of life.
The more I’ve studied the bible over the course of Creationtide the more I’ve come to realise that Christian discipleship is lived out in our love for Jesus and in our delight for what was created through Him. In essence, how our love for Jesus can be reflected in our love for what was brought about through him. Sadly, much of the developed world has over-consumed and underappreciated God’s creation; and as a result, the poor and forgotten have paid the price.
Christ’s church can take a lead here by making small and simple lifestyle changes, such as recycling our batteries – despite my dad joke. As well as taking the Truro Diocese 10 pledges.
Here’s another dad joke (as they’re called in our household) – Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? The food is great, but there’s just no atmosphere!!
I’m really sorry.
Creationtide is about protecting our atmosphere but also about creating a new atmosphere of action in the church to protect God’s creation. And to see this environmental theology as an expression of our walk with Jesus. We don’t need eco-warriors we just need more followers of Jesus who want to keep breaking bread with the world, and want to meet more people at the well.
Revd Jeremy Putnam | All Saints Truro
Image is of the Bricklayers Hut in Jakarta.
A man who had been stranded on a deserted island for two years was at last found. The media accompanied the rescue team, and when they arrived they saw that the man had built three huts. When asked what the huts represented, the man explained.
"Well, this hut is my home. And that hut over there is where I go to church."
The reporters seemed moved by the revelation that he had a place of worship. But then one asked, "What is that hut over there?"
"That's the church I don’t go to!”
Life is full of preferences. Some more obvious than others, like choosing our favourite ice cream flavour, or watching our preferred rugby team. Some are more deep-rooted, predilections that we don’t even know we have. These are the kind that influence our judgements, decision and yearnings without us even noticing. Over time our environment and upbringing has its way of honing a ‘comfortable place’ for us. Consequently, as we go about our daily lives, we tend to look for reminders of our comfortable place; subconsciously searching for familiarity, comfort and safety. In many ways, this is a good thing, it can help us ‘get on with life’, without getting bogged down by decisions that in the great scheme of things aren’t that important. In other ways, it can be harmful.
Unchecked partialities and bias can lead us to become insular and narrowminded. In the worse cases, it can lead to the exclusion of others because they seem different, odd or even ‘wrong’ to us. This is where the tension and dynamic of life occurs, in all its complexity, diversity and colour. So how do we avoid the sinful reaction to the other’s uniqueness, and reflect something of the impartiality and generosity of God in our daily lives. In the Epistle of James (ch 3.17) we are reminded that there is wisdom in these things that we long to see, “but the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
One of the things I have delighted in recently is seeing the enthusiasm from all churches in Truro to be more aware of the differences between our churches, but at the same time acknowledging that our preferences are secondary to a more important shared truth. That we all find our identity in Christ. And that we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour.
In c.62AD Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus saying “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul’s letter is a wonderful reminder that the most important thing for churches is to proclaim aloud that we are united under one Lord – we may have a difference in worship style and practice, some will prefer drumkits, and others prefer robed choirs, some will cope with a 10min sermon, and others anything less than a 30min preach feels like being short-changed – these things only go to reflect God’s blessing, to be ourselves under God. Behind it all is the truth that Paul wrote in his letter.
On November 30th at 7.30pm all Christians in Truro, from all denominations and none, will descend upon Truro Methodist Church to pray and worship together. Witnessing to our single universal statement of faith that Jesus is Lord. I am absolutely thrilled that this is happening, and that it lights the second beacon for us in this year of prayer for a shared vision under Christ for our city.
I really want to encourage you to come. I’m telling you now, well in advance, so we can all make sure it’s in our diaries. Please come. Don’t let this be the hut that represents “… the church I don’t go to!”
Yours in Christ
For more information about Churches Together in Truro go to our new website www.churchestogethertruro.co.uk
A year ago someone came to the food bank in crisis because of an issue with debt. Last week she came back. Her husband had left to go off with their babysitter, leaving her with three young children to look after and their finances in a mess.
This is just one typical story. There are as many personal stories as there are foodbank customers, but the general common denominator is that people, self-respecting people who wish for nothing more than a normal life with a job and a happy home, fall into crisis and visit the Foodbank as a last resort, as a result of a referral from another charity or agency. It becomes all the more poignant where children are involved, and they make up one third of those we feed.
Truro Foodbank fed over 19,000 meals last year to 2,121 people in crisis who were referred to us by other charities and agencies.
We look set for an increase in that number this year. In each case those coming to us receive a food parcel with a three day supply of nutritionally balanced food and, just as importantly, a listening ear from one of our volunteers or staff and, where appropriate, and offer of prayer.
Truro Foodbank is just one over 400 Foodbanks within the network of the Trussell Trust, which last year gave 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis. Out of humble origins has grown this nationwide movement that has not only fed the hungry but has raised the consciousness of society to the issue of food poverty in our supposedly affluent country.
I can say with complete confidence that this has been a prophetic move of God, working through his church. I was privileged to be one of the trustees of the Trussell Trust in 2004 when the nationwide Foodbank network was launched, with a vision to grow 50 Foodbanks within five years from a starting point of one. It seemed huge at the time and was rooted simply in the faith that this was what God was calling us to do, rather than in the availability of finance (there was none) or even substantiated fact. There were no statistics to prove the need and indeed to begin with there was opposition in some quarters from those who said that food poverty did not exist in their communities; God alone knew the real need behind closed doors, which only became apparent once the early Foodbanks were opened.
The launch of the Foodbank network was inspired by Jesus’s words in Matthew 25:36: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in”. This was the spark that lit the flame that became the fire, and that’s what happens when Christians take small, faltering steps of faith in response to a vision God has given them. God provides the growth.
And so back to Truro. Truro Foodbank has grown from within the churches, with All Saints Highertown and Truro Methodist Church providing amazing support as the base and outlets for the operation, with a number of other churches also generously providing volunteers and financial support. But it’s also the community at large that provides so much of the vital lifeblood of the Foodbank – the ongoing donation of a tin here, a bag of pasta there as part of a regular shopping trip, or when we have food collections or donations at times such as harvest.
Now however, for the first time, we are starting to see food donations decline, even as our numbers fed look set to rise with the arrival of universal credit. This is not peculiar to Truro, it’s a national trend and perhaps is a result of people’s resources being stretched. Our other vital needs are for finance and for volunteers. Our finances are under pressure, but are essential in order to fund our overheads and our small but very dedicated team of part-time foodbank staff – Bob, Janet and Andy.
This continues to be God’s work, done in his way and trusting in his resources, as we witness to his name by feeding those in crisis. So thank you for the support of so many who will be reading this, and please go on. And if this is new to you, please consider joining the cause with donations of food, finance or time, as you are able.
You’ll be hearing a lot about the Foodbank over the next month, as we are calling this September “Foodbank Month” with a number of events going on.
For further information on how to donate or get involved, please visit https://truro.foodbank.org.uk
Chair of Trustees for Truro Foodbank
I’ve just finished reading an article about Glastonbury 2017. Every year, it’s bigger, it’s better, the acts are more sought after and tickets get sold on the secondary market for more money than before due to the sheer demand. Every year however there is something else that is bigger.
The immense pile of tents and camping equipment that is left behind. The article was about Cornwall Fire and Rescue and the trip they take to Glastonbury, along with a number of charities and organisations, to reclaim some of the thousands of tents that are left behind.
One could almost understand waking up from a heavy night in 2016, when it’s been raining all weekend, and your tent is half full of mud, and not wanting to take it down without making it more of a mess or even usable again, but I’m still not convinced that gives permission to abandon your tent and leave it for someone else to deal with it.
In August we have our own mini version of the same situation when Boardmasters hits Newquay.
Boardmasters wishes to explain in the next few years to be accepting 50,000 people meaning even more tents abandoned in the seaside town.
Earlier this week I read another article about such kind of waste, such throw away ideas. This time it was about the number of body boards which are just left on beaches throughout Cornwall. The article estimated around 14,000 body boards are bought and abandoned on beaches every year - just in Cornwall and not including the ones which are swept out into the sea.
Why do I feel so impassioned about this?
Because I believe we have a responsibility to the planet we live in.
You don’t need to be a Christian to believe we have this responsibility.
For me, I believe I was created by the same God who created this world and as such if he loves me (as I spoke about previously) then he loves this planet and he wants us to look after it. You don’t need to look hard in the Bible for scripture relating to our stewardship of the planet (Genesis 1:26-28, Psalm 8).
However, it is easy to see that ‘environmental stewardship’ is not something Christians claim for their own.
Whether you believe the world was brought into being by the word of a ‘Creator God’ or burst into life from a big bang, or whether you believe in ‘Mother Nature’ or we are all here by sheer happenstance I think most people find it hard to come up with reasonable points to say we don’t have some level of responsibility to not be wasteful with our planet and to not look after it.
I’d hope those reading this are not the kind who buy a tent and abandon it in a field or leave a body board on the beach for someone else to pick up but there is always something more we can do, be it recycle, reuse or upcycle; to find new ways to limit our packaging, remember our bags when we go shopping (something I awful at) or make sure when we put our rubbish out we cover it up so it doesn’t get attacked by seagulls and scattered across our roads.
Until next time.
Lydia Remick (LLM – Reader)
We will look back on this election as the beginning of a political and democratic paradigm shift. Today represents an existential alteration for the country, a change of heart, a change of character, a change of mood – for the better. And it represents a triumph over fear. Those young people (72% of 18 to 24s - see reference below) who voted yesterday are now participants in a revolution, a revolution over a politic of fear. Their violent (politically speaking) voice of defiance and change, may well have inaugurated an era in which their own voice is finally valued by the political elite; and their democratic freedom will be seen for what it is, a crucial part of the formation of a fairer and more just society.
Young people have for centuries been considered with suspicion. Plato (4th Century BCE) was once heard saying “What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets, inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?” Peter the Hermit in the 13th century said, “The young people think of nothing but themselves!” Such quotes exemplify a culture of fear, a culture that has conditioned young people into silence for a long time. I was told last week that if you have a room of primary school kids and ask them who can dance, thy all put their hand up, ask them who can draw, they all put their hands up, ask them who can sing and they all put their hands up. Ask a room full university students and the number of hands that go up are in single figures, and likely to be by those who have taken classes in those subjects. Ask the same question to room full of grown adults, and no one puts their hand up. What happens in that time? Why do we lose the joy of being free? We become frightened very quickly – or limited by someone or something.
We live in a culture that is quick to socialise children into a particular way of life, frightened of what might happen to them if we don’t incorporate them into social norms and expectations. As they grow older we move from being frightened for them, to being frightened of them. Frightened of what they might say or do if they are given too much power. In this culture of fear, young people are treated as sub-humans, whose thoughts and opinions don’t really count, or have no substance in what real life should look like. If you are a young person that voted in the General Election, let me tell you this... you are no longer seen and not heard. We hear you.
I am currently a priest for the Church of England. Before moving to Cornwall, I was also a Young Vocations Advisor for Bath & Wells diocese, and before being ordained, a Youth Leader for my local church. Since 2010 £387m has been cut from state youth provision (see reference below). In that time, I have seen youth centres come under threat of closure, youth workers lose their jobs because of cuts, and funding pots reduced that have previously gone to develop and sustain youth provision. Too often now, any development in youth provision is at the hands of a well written grant application to the Big Lottery.
And you know, young people shouldn’t care, they are justified in snubbing the system, what is it doing for them? For many years that’s how it was. And society didn’t really want this to change, a quiet population of young people suited a culture of classes and hierarchy. But yesterday, young people in large numbers have shown a counter-cultural politic of hope, dismissing any idea that they don’t care. They do.
What is so revolutionary is that this massive shift is in the context of a well-developed post-modern world, in which humans are largely engaged in the business of exercising power over one another, resulting in a violent world that is obsessed with the preservation of the self. It is a time when truth is a product of the beholder, and the idea of a shared truth is counter to a world where the individual reigns. This is really important in understanding why today’s General Election result could be seen as the indicator of a massive change in political character.
I am proud that my Christian faith stands as testimony to the power of young people, and their revolutionary attitude to justice. Samuel, Jeremiah, Daniel, David, Mary, Ruth and Esther are significant figures in the Bible who stood up for God’s plan for salvation, for justice and freedom. They were all too young to be heard initially, but were empowered and trusted by God to be voices against injustice and oppression, to speak out for the powerless (Jer 7:5-6). Check out Daniel (Daniel 1:3-6) who becomes an interpreter of dreams and visions, and leads an oppressive king to gain a vision of truth and justice. Look at David (1 Sam 17:33) who was dismissed as being too young, too foolish, too brash, but ended up being a symbol of courage and faithfulness to a whole nation. And Mary the mother of Jesus, who sang a song of defiance before a world of injustice and inequality; her revolutionary canticle has been sung in church ever since.
Just in my short time in Cornwall I have seen young people show how passionate they are about matters of justice, equality, fairness and social reform. I’ve spent time with a cohort of student architects and designers from Falmouth Uni who showed me how, as architects they can make the world a better place. I have seen young people come together to make a difference to global issues such as the refugee crisis, volunteer at foodbanks, crowdfund for local projects, and protest for change. Young people are indeed radical changemakers, persistent peacemakers, militant groundbreakers, generous caregivers, and courageous liberators… if we respect their place as such.
This General Election shows a shift in belief in young people. They will no longer go uncounted, or unmentioned. General Election campaigns of the future will incorporate young people more than ever before; because of the power of their voice, because of the power for change that lies in their hands, because of the power of influence. The tables have turned. We will now have a political system where the young will continue to teach us a valuable lesson – that their vote counts as well as ours.
I am proud of our young people. I am particularly proud of my own daughter who was counted in the 72% of 18 to 24 year olds who voted yesterday. They want change, they want a better future, and they will keep on until they get it.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made! That’s not me being egotistical, that’s me reminding myself. You see, we live in a world that is always telling us we are not good enough, unless you listen to L’Oreal who tell you ‘you’re worth it’. However, even this is usually while trying to sell you something to make you look better than you already do, because you are worth it, but not good enough as you are.
One thing I have struggled with my whole life is being good enough, being worth it. That’s why I need to remind myself constantly: I am fearfully and wonderfully made! Society has been brain washed into thinking we need to be critical of ourselves. The Huffington Post recently posted an article about the activist Feminista Jones, looking at the reaction she received on Twitter when she suggested that women should agree with compliments men gave them in the street – the kind of cat calls many women have to endure. According to the article, if a woman responds ‘yes, I know’ to a compliment such as ‘you look nice’ it doesn’t go down well and it comes down to the expectation that we should show no self-appreciation. But why? I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
On Easter Day Rev Jeremy Putnam pointed out that the chance of each one of us existing is 1 in 102,685,000. The Buddhist version of ‘this precious incarnation’ is this: imagine there was one life preserver thrown somewhere in some ocean and there was exactly one turtle in all of the oceans, swimming underwater somewhere. The probability that you came about and exist today is the same as that turtle sticking its head out of the water right in the middle of that life preserver. On one try.1 No matter how you look at it, the fact that you, yes you, are here on this earth right now is nothing short of a miracle.
The Bible tells us we are not an accident, a random act but something planned out by God the Father, God the Creator. The one who took time to put each star in its place also planned on you being born at the time you were, and for you to be here on this earth. With the current rise in awareness of mental health issues, this is really important to understand. For when we remember that we are not here by random but carefully ‘knit together’ and ‘formed’ by the Creator of the Universe we know we have a purpose. These words come from a Psalm written by King David (Psalm 139). It talks of God knowing us inside and out. Knowing when we sit and when we sleep. Knowing our every thought. This is because he created us. He knows us and wants us to know him.
I don’t think I will ever fully comprehend the magnificence of it, but it is what I turn back to whenever I hit a low. This is why when I state I am fearfully and wonderfully made I’m not throwing my ego around, but reminding myself that I’m not a random act of the world, but planned, loved and wanted by God.
The challenge is to live like it.
As a self-confessed gadget geek who left my software career to spend a couple of years in a monastery, I was once asked to help create a retreat workshop on the benefits of giving up technology. Who are we when we’re disconnected from Google, Twitter and the rest? Leave your smartphones behind and experience life first hand!
Sadly, I knew I was a fraud. During my time as a novice nun, the internet had only reached as far as an antiquated PC in the bursar’s office, and a tentative proposal to permit the sisters to use the internet during a one hour window on a Sunday afternoon was soundly defeated.
But I had come prepared.
Knowing that I was supposed to live in poverty with no access to money, I prepaid for a year’s data on my phone and hid it in my luggage when I came to stay. Since the sisters’ rooms are private and sacrosanct, I could lie in bed checking the news after lights-out with no fear of discovery… that is, until the week the whole community went sick with a vicious stomach bug and the infirmarian came into my room to treat me and discovered the gadget I was too sick to hide.
Once I recovered I was summoned by Mother Abbess who told me with a wry smile that I had “committed a grievous sin, sister”. I dutifully handed over my phone, promising repentance and conversion of heart. Of course, as a true addict I had a backup plan – my old Kindle with the always-free 3G connection and basic internet browser. What aging nun would suspect my innocent book-reader was also a window onto the outside world?
What compelled this need to be connected? I went to the abbey seeking silence in which to pray and learn to be a better person, and I’d really begun to appreciate how mental knots unravel and relax when there’s nothing to be done except the job at hand. When you’re spending the next hour ironing veils in silence, and there’s no benefit at all to getting it done any sooner, your senses open up and simple things like the smooth texture of the fabric and the smell of the steam iron and the light slanting through the laundry window and the clanking of the ancient pipework, all become elements of perfect satisfaction in the moment.
But as soon as you start wanting your task to end so you can do something more entertaining or more important, time gets slower, frustration increases, people seem more irritating, and life is something that gets in the way, rather than a source of joy and wonder.
My own fear was being left behind by the zeitgeist. In the summer of 2012, hidden in the abbey, I completely missed the London Olympics, and I felt like I was losing my identity. Everyone else had this profound shared experience and I stepped out of the room and missed it. I came to understand why the sisters were only allowed to read newspapers a week old: we can really get addicted to being ‘up to date’.
It all comes down to our sense of identity. Where is our treasure? The rich young man couldn’t give up his wealth to follow Jesus, but it’s not just wealth that gets in the way. It’s anything that’s so central to who we are that to let it go would be like tearing off our own limb. Jesus is ruthless. Just cut it off, he says, pluck it out. I’ve seen from the monastery that he’s right. But…
This month's blog was written by Tess Lowe. Tess is training as an Ordinand for ministry in the Church of England.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.