Thoughts from the Manse 31st July 2020

One of my favourite spiritual symbols is the butterfly, and its life cycle.  Years ago, I read the book ‘When the heart waits’ by Sue Monk Kidd, the story of her own spiritual transformation in which butterflies featured quite heavily. 

Through that I was introduced to the book ‘Hope for the Flowers’ by Trina Paulus, which looks at spiritual transformation through the eyes of a caterpillar, and my favourite story for baptisms has been The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. 

Butterflies are often linked to hope and often depicted as being the spirit of a loved one during grief.  There is something mesmerising about watching a butterfly gently flit from flower to flower.  They almost seem to hover on the flower rather than landing on the flower, their wings rarely still, and ready for flight.  It is an incredibly special thing to have a butterfly land on you. 

There are many books around at the moment about attracting butterflies into your garden.  It is an art, not just about having the correct flowers for the butterfly but also recognising that where there are butterflies there will be caterpillars so having the right combination of plants to protect the ones you hope to eat yourself from the ravages of hungry caterpillars.

I remember when we were living in Gloucestershire, we had a fair collection of self-sown Aquilegia plants in a variety of colours, and though it would be good to collect them together in one spot to create a display.  We moved them all, and they thrived, until one morning we found them all eaten by caterpillars.  We have also lost vegetables to an attack of caterpillars, and I can understand where Eric Carle got the idea for his lovely book.

I have just started reading Margaret Silf’s ‘Hidden Wings’, a book looking at how the transformative journey from caterpillar to butterfly could help us understand the world we find ourselves in today with all its tumultuous changes which seem to shake the very core of what we believe about God and ourselves. 

Indeed, she likens entering the chrysalis to where we find ourselves but offers the hope that this could be an opportunity for profound spiritual transformation.  Written a couple of years ago, before Covid, it is a book for our time, it is hard not to see Lockdown as a chrysalis and the wisdom contained in the book as something of a guidebook for the future shape of the church, is it time for that transformative shift into a new form? 

Teilhard de Chardin believed that humanity’s evolution was not just physical but also spiritual, and that we are moving towards the best we can be albeit slowly, through every decision we make.  He talks about consciousness as a key step and way before the full advent of quantum theology he was suggesting that humanity was on the cusp of an evolutionary leap into a new consciousness, a collective conscience that would demonstrate our connectiveness in an entirely new way.  Science is showing the wisdom of his words as we begin to understand ourselves in a new way.  This too, is a part of the spiritual awakening that may be the outcome of our entry int the chrysalis of lockdown.

There is a freedom about the butterfly which for me symbolises what it means to be truly aware of our connections with creation.  It is about allowing imagination to be our guide and freeing ourselves form the straitjacket of possessions.  We can explore anything in our modern world if we want to. 

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Thoughts from the Manse 24th July 2020

As I was preparing the prayers for worship on Sunday, I reflected upon how on the one hand Covid 19 has pulled the world together whilst at the same time it has torn the world apart. 

We are all in this together, around the world families are suffering as loved ones struggle with the disease and far too many sadly die.  As I thought about how to image this, I thought of a loaf of bread made up of many different rolls drawn together in the baking, the sort of loaf often described as a tear and share. A loaf of bread is often used as a symbol of oneness at communion, we are all part of the body of Christ symbolised by the loaf of bread.

However, the experience of Covid 19 has been vastly different depending on your personal circumstances but more importantly where you live.  In the UK we are blessed with a health service that, whilst under enormous pressure, has been able to offer the best care possible and many have lived to tell their tale of appreciation.  The same cannot be said in many countries now ravaged by the pandemic.  There is an inequality of health care around the world and we are used to seeing heart-breaking photos of people walking tens of miles to see a doctor in a clinic which bears little resemblance to what we would expect of a clinic.  The care offered there is the best care possible, and the medics are as heartbroken as we the onlookers are as they try to offer hope.  The pandemic is only highlighting what was already the case, but it is tearing the world apart.

The effects of injustice are often war and terror as people recognise the unfairness of their circumstances and fight for change.  We have seen photos of India, and South American countries where injustice forces people into poverty and despair and this too is tearing the world apart.  However, in many of these countries dictatorship and power scoring are playing an even bigger part in the fuelling the pandemic and we have all seen news reports of statements we find unbelievable, and not always from developing countries! 

We might suspect that things could have been handled better by our own government but to see leaders deny any problem and make ridiculous statements about how to deal with the virus is astonishing in the face of the world experience of the virus.  These things too are tearing the world apart.

As Christians, we care for our fellow humans, wherever they live and want every human to have equal opportunity to experience life in all its fullness.  We know that as long as injustice is a reality this can not be the case and so we pray for an end to injustice, and end to inequality and an end to power scoring at the cost of human lives.  Alongside our concern we pledge our commitment to play a part in changing the world and bringing closer the Kingdom of love.

Watching the news during the pandemic I have been struck by an example of inequality present on our screens night after night within the UK.  Government announcements from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all be accompanied by a person signing for those who cannot hear.  The British government has not seen the need to do this and to me this says a lot about their approach to government.  The other three nations have shown inclusivity of care, and a valuing of all people. 

One of the factors reported during these latter stages of the pandemic has been bad communication of information, partly mixed messages but also a lack of awareness of the level of English within some communities which has meant not everyone has understood even the mixed messages.  If we cannot make sure that the message is accessible to all then the communication will never be effective. 

There are many things we will learn from our experience of the pandemic, if we truly pray ‘thy Kingdom come’ then we must endeavour to prevent inequality, injustice, dictators and power scoring from tearing our oneness apart.

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Zoom Worship

Since March we have posted worship on the website which you can use at home and we will continue to do this at least until we are once again all able meet together. 

However, for those who have access to the internet, we will also worship together every week using Zoom.  If you are not part of the pastorate but have been following worship with us you are welcome to join us on Zoom.  You will need to request the link for the worship and to do this simply email our minister, Revd Heather Whyte, by using the contact form and you will be added to the invitation emails, please head your message 'Zoom Worship'.  You will also be sent a guide to using Zoom, so please do not worry if you are unfamiliar with Zoom.