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Last Sunday evening at 7pm, along with thousands of others across the country, I lit a candle and placed it in my window as a sign of hope, faith, love and unity as we experience the uncertainly and the concerns brought about by the coronavirus.
Later that evening, before the current government guidelines were announced, I was able to walk through our village, the dark sky undisturbed by streetlight. And there, flickering on windowsills, were other candles offering similar signs of hope, thin wisps of smoke spiralling heavenwards as if gathering our prayers.
Candle lighting has long been a significant and hope-filled act and, as Margaret Whipp says in her book The Grace of Waiting, it ‘gathers together in one simple and humble gesture our prayer that light will ultimately triumph over darkness.’
Following my walk through the village last Sunday, I resolved to continue to light a candle each evening at dusk and to place it on an upstairs windowsill, reminding us of the words in the Bible ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it’ (John 1:5). And today Churches Together in England are encouraging us to continue to light a candle each Sunday evening at 7pm and to join together in our homes, in prayer, as we do so. Please click on the link below for more details.
Margaret offers a beautiful invitation to anyone who is drawn to pray to God before a lit candle, whether those prayers be for ourselves, our families and communities, our nation, our world: ‘Let your prayer be gentle, hopeful, unhurried. Stay with the warmth of the candle flame. Wait quietly, until you feel something of its quiet radiance rekindling the faith, hope and love of your innermost being.’
Let us continue to support one another in faith, hope, love and prayer.
Last night across the United Kingdom a poignant tribute to our NHS and care workers took place when we all had an opportunity to join in the ‘Clap for Carers’. It was an unique coming together of all levels of our society from the Royal Family and the prime minister to people like you and me who flocked to our front doors, balconies and windows to applaud all those who are willing to step up to the mark and care for those who are suffering from the severe symptoms of coronavirus. A message from the NHS on social media described the tribute as “emotional” and I was humbled by our nation’s response to this call to show our appreciation for these lifesaving people.
During these times our hands have taken on a special significance not just for clapping; we are constantly being reminded to wash them whilst humming happy birthday to ourselves twice through, we can use them if we are self-isolating as a family to offer emotional support with a loving touch and for those who are self isolating alone and are unable to leave their home we can use them to volunteer to do their shopping or by simply picking up the phone and giving them a cheery phone call.
But, here’s a thing we can also use our hands to help us pray; now I am not meaning the way that we clasp them together or not as we have that conversation with God, but we can use a hand to help remind us about what we should be including in that conversation:
Thumb This is the strongest digit on our hand. Give thanks for all the strong things in our lives, like home, family and friends, relationships that support and sustain us during these challenging times.
Index finger This is the pointing finger. Pray for all those people and things in our lives who support and help us. Especially at this time our doctors, nurses, emergency services, social care services, medical researchers, charity workers and those that volunteer and so on.
Middle finger This is the tallest finger. Pray for all the important people who have power in the world, like world leaders and their governments, all those who are having to make the difficult decisions during these troubled times.
Ring finger This is the weakest finger on our hand. It can’t do much by itself. Remember those most affected by this coronavirus pandemic, the poor, the weak, the helpless, the hungry, the sick, the ill and the bereaved.
Little finger This is the smallest and the last finger on your hand. We should always remember to pray for ourselves.
I would like to finish with this quote of St Teresa Of Avila:
“Christ has no body now, but yours. No hands, no feet on earth, but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.”
During this time of self isolation one thing that I do have here at the vicarage in Stokenchurch is plenty of space in the garden to get some fresh air and to enjoy the glorious sunshine we are currently being blessed with.
Whilst doing that this afternoon I took this photograph of a forget me not just breaking into bloom, now not being a keen gardener this clump is lucky to survive as before it broke into flower I could have quite easily mistaken it for a weed and consigned it to the compost heap. It’s easy to overlook a clump of forget me not. However, this humble plant has a rich history of meaning behind it.
What Does the Forget Me Not Flower Mean?
True and undying love
Remembrance during partings or after death
A connection that lasts through time
Fidelity and loyalty in a relationship, despite separation or other challenges
Reminders of your favorite memories or time together with another person
Growing affection between two people
Caring for the poor, disabled, and needy
Well, I didn’t know so much symbolism could be summed up by such a small flower, and how relevant that symbolism is to the situation that we currently find ourselves in. I don’t know about you but I have been greatly encouraged by the 500.000 plus people who have signed up to help our overburdened NHS and the many initiatives that are happening around our various village communities to support those in self isolation.
We are also here to help and if you would like to be contacted by a member of the ministry team for support or to make a prayer request then please complete the contact form and someone will get in touch.
One question asked at times like this especially if we are in self isolation is what can I do to help? The answer I would give is that if you have a faith then pray, become a part of what I would describe as the dynamo of prayer that is happening throughout our world. Somewhere in our world right now people are praying to God; for those who have the coronavirus, for the healthcare professionals and their support staff, for the volunteers, for those in the positions of authority who make the difficult decisions, for all those employed in essential jobs and sadly for those who have died and the families and friends that mourn them.
To get you started let me finish with the following prayer taken from the Church of England coronavirus prayer resources.
God of love and hope, you made the world and care for all creation, but the world feels strange right now. The news is full of stories about Coronavirus. Some people are worried that they might get ill. Others are anxious for their family and friends. Be with them and help them to find peace. We pray for the doctors and nurses and scientists, and all who are working to discover the right medicines to help those who are ill. Thank you that even in these anxious times, you are with us. Help us to put our trust in you and keep us safe. Amen.