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Shirley’s Reflection on PP2

Pilgrims’ Progress October 2017

Is the Gospel heard in your Church?

On arrival I was shown into a room with a heavenly view. There was a handmade treat knitted in purple wool and inside a chocolate, but it was not until I arrived home that I noticed, on the other side of the label, Proverbs 31.25 – ‘She is strong and respected and not afraid of the future.’ Who knows me well enough to be aware that I was widowed 3 months ago?

Rev Beth McCleave celebrated Holy Communion in a most memorable way. Too beautiful to describe. Before the Gospel was read she signed the words to us as she does to the hard of hearing or profoundly deaf congregations. Suddenly we became aware of what it must be like to be unable to hear. I understood ‘A long time ago there were two men and one didn’t dig a hole as requested, but the other did. Beth’s lip patterns were very clear and ‘readable’.

Are you aware that there are possibly one in five people in your congregation who have problems in following a Service because they find it difficult to hear? Did you know that there is a significant number of people who have given up coming to Church because they can’t cope any longer? (Hence the title!) Later Beth gave us a session on how to greet newcomers with hearing problems – so now we know how to sign ‘Good morning’ and ‘Good evening’ ‘It’s good to see you’ how to sign ‘loo’ and to ask whether you’d like tea or coffee and ‘can I help you’ and ‘can you help me?’ Thank you Beth.

What can you do with pebbles? What sermons can be preached without words? The Celtic Service was led with love, as ever, by Rev Keith backed by his carefully timed music which greeted us! On the floor was a carefully arranged pathway of small stones leading to a candle – The Light – here and there at varied intervals was a much larger rock – aha! A stumbling block along life’s way. There was just one tiny pebble slightly out of line not touching any others – oh dear! People who find it difficult to relate to others and need our loving care more than all the others. The prayers which ‘spoke’ to me:-

‘We believe in God who has created and is creating, who has come in Jesus to reconcile and to make all things new. We trust in God, who calls us to be the Church; to love and serve others, to seek justice and to resist evil, to proclaim Jesus, crucified, dead and risen; our judge and our hope. In life, in death, in life beyond death. God is with us. We are not alone. Thanks be to God.’

‘Come like fire and kindle our hearts, Come like wind and breathe fresh life into our frames. Come like tides and immerse us in Your presence. Come from the earth, sustain and nourish our path.’

‘Holy Spirit most kindly, warming light, enter the inmost depths of our hearts. Thaw that which is frozen, kindle our apathy, illumine our hearts.’

A favourite prayer of mine:-

A Mexican Prayer:

I am only a spark – make me a fire!

I am only a string – make me a lyre!

I am only a drop – make me a fountain!

I am only an anthill – make me a mountain!

I am only a feather – make me a wing!

I am only a rag – make me a king!

“There are these rare moments when musicians touch something sweeter than they’ve ever found before in rehearsals or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing yourself.’  Ian McEwen

Now to thank Stephen and Derek – music to match all the varied moods and to help bring the Spirit closer to us. There is a device that Stephen used – which accompanied his guitar playing in whichever key a song required, and which gently and continuously played throughout the piece. It is most atmospheric and you hear the tunes as though for the first time.

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to understanding the passing whisper of their wisdom. Some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon they stay in our lives for a while, leave footprints on our hearts and we are never, ever the same.

Taize – yet another visual aid – broken branches of a tree formed into a rough Cross but with green branches placed at the centre of the Cross – all surrounded by lighted candles glowing in the semi-darkness. Scattered here and there were samples of the handiwork produced in the free-time sessions and offered as gifts to thank the Lord for our hands and brains combining. All this plus Rev Keith’s pleasing singing voice to lead us in the Taize chants. Thank you!

The ever joyous Rev Pauline celebrated the final Holy Communion with a most meaningful sermon from Nehemiah – a Book which I will now read! Thank you Pauline! How refreshing to go through these amazing Services without the encumbrance of books to hold and fix our eyes upon!

Another achievement thanks to Dear Eunice – who led a roomful of people in Julian Prayer – producing unobtrusive beautiful music and thoughts to keep us all in total, beautiful, meaningful silence for half an hour. No-one moved nor spoke, nor coughed.

Questions/mysteries – why did I talk to a lady about a new friend I’ve made, a midwife, to someone who was a midwife herself? – why did I talk to another lady about my inability to play the piano after a stroke and my hopes that the brain will find different pathways – lo and behold I was talking to a neurologist who confirmed my hopes and promised to pray for me as I struggled to relearn simple pieces?

I attended this Pilgrims’ Progress for the Bible study but found much, much more.

‘Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not Thy merciful ears unto our prayer; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty. O holy and most merciful Saviour, Thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from Thee. Amen’ (BCP)