From the Associate Priest - 27th May 2020 - Building Bridges

bridgeVE day may seem a long way back now, two weeks or so ago on the 8th May, but I'm quite sure some of you will remember it 75 years ago. I wonder what memories it brings up for you or your family members?

For my father it was a red-letter day, when as a young craftsman in REME he found himself with his team in Hamburg Docks, having 'liberated' some large containers of French wine. Enough said about that, but recently the French Government decided to give any surviving British Veterans of the Normandy Landings the Legion d'Honneur, and my father was one of the lucky ones. To his surprise, two french schoolgirls and their teachers also came to the ceremony at Blandford camp, in January last year. Letters were exchanged, cards sent, and a visit was made to their school in Caen. When Lockdown began in March, the students, aged 14-15, began sending the veterans they knew, their 'Lockdown Chronicles' from their experiences studying at home, wearing pyjamas all day, learning dance moves, and so on.

One of the girls sent a video of her activities via her teacher to my mobile phone; so Bill decided to send videos back, in English, of him potting up tomatoes, cooking, doing his art work and so on. Imagine my surprise when a team from Associated Press contacted me, to ask if they could make a feature item for the VE Day news, about a British Veteran and French teenagers swopping Lockdown stories. A film crew came, it was duly filmed in Bill's back garden with social distancing, and the young French girl, Marion, and her teacher, were interviewed in France. The teacher took the last frame, standing by Pegasus Bridge, with his Union Jack shoes, talking about making history now, and the importance of building living bridges of friendship. This particular bridge spans extreme age and youth, and different nationalities.

Jesus' final prayer was that his followers should all be one, united in heart and mind. So often we allow contact to break down, so that friendship and support cannot flow easily. During this Lockdown period I have learned again the importance of reaching out, forgiving others and myself for percieved failures, and seeing friendship flourish in different ways, because the old patterns of life have suddenly disappeared. And this is happening all over the world, everywhere that the disruption of Coronavirus is being felt. So perhaps today it would be good to take a moment and give thanks for the kindnesses received, the contacts around us, the unexpected helps in the way, and to be bridge builders ourselves.

Mary Ridgewell

From the Associate Priest - 20th May 2020

As I write this I am conscious that tomorrow is the day we celebrate The Ascension of Christ. The day that the disciples saw Jesus for the very last time on this earth, the day they truly and finally had to accept that they faced the world without his physical presence, his care, his leadership. They felt as if God Himself had left the world.

Today, in real time, many people are asking the question “Where is God in all this?” Our world as we know it has been turned, if not actually upside down, at least somewhat off its axis. Lockdown has meant such a change in our daily pattern, such a curtailment of our liberties, such a disruption of normal life that we truly wonder just what it means and when, or indeed if, life will return to ‘normal’. Some are certainly asking if this pandemic is a punishment or warning sent by God to test or to teach us a lesson, whilst many more are questioning how a Loving God could let this happen if he truly exists.

All of these are valid questions, very much like the disciples on that day roughly 2,000 years ago, we are crying out for some proof that God has not deserted us, that He is a loving God who really cares what happens to us.

Apart from the very real fear of contracting the virus itself the main concern and frustration we all feel is that curtailment of our liberties. ‘Stay at Home’ meant we could not leave our own front doors, or gateway. “Stay Alert” means that more can go beyond that barrier but only under certain circumstances and with many precautions in place. Our lives truly are very different from what they were less than three short months ago, and more and more we realise they may never be quite the same again. We value that independence, that freedom to go our own way, to govern our own lives and bitterly resent that loss. God is like any loving parent, right from the beginning He gave humankind the freedom to choose their path. He did not impose His will and make it impossible to deny or disobey Him. The result is that we have often made a complete mess of things but, the mess is of our own making, the result of our own mismanagement. But, like any loving parent, He is always there to give comfort, to help pick up the pieces and to encourage us to continue. He does not cause disasters, He is there to help us overcome them. If we will just let Him we shall find Him right there in the midst of the difficulties and the frustrations, the sorrow and the loss. Just give Him a chance and let Him in. What have you got to lose?

June Lane