So the very last of the schools has broken up for the summer holidays – farewell and good luck to St Bart’s Year 6s – and a spell of perfect summer weather is enough to make us forget the torrential downpours and chilliness of recent weeks. There are other things too that we might want to put to the back of our minds after the last few months: the death of Jo Cox, a new awareness of the deep divisions in our society, post-referendum political turmoil with a new Prime Minister and an almost entirely new cabinet (although our own MP seems somehow to have escaped the purge), the Labour Party in disarray, the pound in decline. Abroad, the litany of deaths from terrorism continues: as I write France is still reeling from 84 deaths in Nice, Germany from nine in Munich – and in a less noticed attack, Kabul from 61 dead in a bomb attack. Refugees continue to flood out of Middle eastern war zones…..I won’t go on, though you all know that I could….
Here in Haslemere life goes on and we may feel that much of what I’ve mentioned – and the many problems and disasters that I haven’t – are pretty remote, at least for now. Of course it will be good to enjoy the summer while it lasts. But this doesn’t mean we can turn our backs on the wider world – indeed, holidays or a slower pace at work, or just sitting and enjoying the sunshine, may give us the chance to spend some time with God, renewing and recharging the batteries of our faith in meditation, in reflection, in reading – and in intentional, intercessory prayer for the needs of the world. Prayer at its simplest is a conversation with the God who loves us. It’s at the heart of our faith. It’s how we respond to that unimaginable love, and it’s how God helps us to grow into the people we were created to be, whether we are called to be out there working for his kingdom of justice, mercy and joy, or to witness in less obvious ways of prayer and kindness.
Can you take some time this summer to see where you are on your journey with God? How might you go about it? Here are some suggestions.
If you still have a copy of the March edition of Haslemere Link you could have another look at the ways of praying we explored in the Lent Group – all tried, tested and recommended by members of the parish.
If you like the idea of guided prayer and have a smartphone or a computer, go to www.sacredspace.ie and join in with the daily structured prayer and reflection these Irish Jesuits have been offering for 17 years.
www.contemplativeoutreach.org offers guidance and a structure for the practice of Centering Prayer, a form of meditation, with introductory scripture, beginning and ending gentle sounds, and a timed silence.
If that all sounds too technological, we would love to see you at Morning Prayer, Monday to Thursday and Saturdays – see the programme at the back of the magazine and check on the website for time and place over the summer. We use the Church of England’s Daily Prayer – if you can’t make it, you can join in at home by visiting www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps . This will also give you access (by subscription after a few days trial) to a reflection on one of the set readings for the day, written by a rich mix of theologians, parish clergy, poets and commentators. We read one of these at Morning Prayer on most days and they often stimulate interesting conversations and new trains of thought.
I’m honestly not trying to take over your summer (though God might be…) but if you are looking for something to read that might inspire you in practising your faith, you probably can’t do better than these two books by Rowan Williams: Being Christian (SPCK 2014) and Being Disciples (SPCK 2016). These are both adapted from talks given in Canterbury Cathedral and are simple, accessible and persuasive explorations of faith and what to do about it.
So I hope we all have a great summer, worshipping together in St Christopher’s while the electrics and lighting are replaced in St Bartholomew’s, and perhaps taking time to explore our faith. I know that for some people, especially families, this is the busiest time, so perhaps you could look forward to the return of relative calm in the autumn to try one of the suggestions above. And there will be other opportunities in September – a 6-week meditation course beginning on 14 September led by Rev Kathryn Twyning, and a morning of training on 17 September for people who lead intercessions on Sundays, as well as anyone interested in learning more about this ministry. Not to mention Parish Praying, our new monthly prayer meeting: 8-9pm on the second Monday of every month in the Link. If you’re reading this hot off the press, why not come along on 8 August?
And let’s keep praying for the world!
With my love and prayers,