Thoughts from the Manse Lockdown 9

Mummy, I’m bored!

How many times do we hear that as our children grow up, and how many times do we reply, ‘How do you do, I’m mummy’?  In the current situation it is not just children who are bored, many adults, particularly those who are shielding, are thoroughly fed up with the same view.  If you live on your own it is worse as there is no-one to compare boredom with but equally no one to inspire you or suggest something to fill the time. 

In the autumn last year, I bought Michael Rosen’s ‘Book of Play’, published in association with the Wellcome Collection it explores the concept of play and why it is important for humans of all ages to continue playing. 

Play is important for creativity, resilience and wellbeing.  I remember my grandmother saying that boredom was the mother of invention and how true that is; perhaps Newton sat under that tree bored until an apple fell on his head and the wondering began.  Wondering is play, I wonder if, I wonder what, I wonder how are all precursors to discovery and invention, science is based on play for without wonder we would be without many inventions and discoveries that make our lives so much richer.

As we spend time in lockdown, many move almost seamlessly between scanning the internet, catching up on box sets, or using numerous apps on their phone to keep in touch in a virtual world, but sometimes there comes a moment when there is nothing. This is called ‘liminal space’ and it is here that we register boredom, but it is also here that we have the opportunity to play. Maybe we need more liminal space in our lives to begin to experience again the wonder of creation in all its technicolour glory.  Maybe lockdown is the opportunity to rediscover play. 

Play is not just discovering our external world afresh but also our inner world, as Michael Rosen says, ‘we can think of ourselves as explorers of the mind, or archaeologists of our memories, picking up stuff, turning it over and working out why it is there.’ Play can help us cope with change and make us more flexible, and we are faced with lots of change at the moment and we do need to be flexible for the future. 

Play can teach us that we can change the rules, just because something has always been done one way does not mean we cannot discover a new way to do.  Take worship at the moment, around the country churches are discovering new ways of worshipping together and those ways are appealing to new people, people who would never dream of entering a church building.  When we stand outside and clap or bang ‘instruments’ in support of key workers we are playing.  Exploring different ways of doing things.  There is a structure and order to play and play creates structure and order, often a new structure or order, and that is one of the ways we can participate in creation.  Playing around with garden design or changing the order of furniture in the room is play.  Play is about objects and also about imagining, play can be imagining a new scenario, playing out a new role. Robert Louis Stevenson explored play in poems and essays, porridge with sugar was a land covered in snow, porridge with milk was a land being flooded, as you eat you create islands or pockets of land not covered in snow and you can imagine how this affects the people who live in the land.  One of the songs I remember from childhood is ‘Wynken, Blynken and Nod’ who set sail one night to a land of porpoises and whales.

So, if you are bored, rejoice and begin playing.  Challenge yourself – how many ice cubes can you stack without them tumbling, from what distance can you throw a teabag into a cup, can you throw the bread into the toaster slot, from how far away can you do it?  Get the ingredients for a recipe out and develop a new recipe from the same ingredients; perhaps you have some Lego around for grandchildren, how many different things can you make with the same set of bricks? 

If there are two or more of you start a challenge cup to see who can be the most creative, celebrating the new ideas you come across.  Play with your imagination and write a story about a character trapped in a situation and how they escape, or anything else you can think of, just PLAY.  It will do us a all the world of good and who knows where it might lead?

Thoughts from the Manse Lockdown 8

Ask a question at a URC gathering, such as Synod or General Assembly and there will be a ripple of laughter when the answer is prefixed with ‘normally’.  It is often noted that there is no normal in the URC, every church is different, every Synod is different and even General Assembly whilst having a routine is always influenced by the Moderators and what they bring to the proceedings.  So, when I received a copy of the booklet ‘A new normal’ I was interested in what it might say.

a new normal image

This is a booklet produced by the thirteen Synod Moderators to try and plan a route map out of Lockdown.  Thankfully it is not as long as the government’s route map and I suspect will not be the subject of so much scrutiny, indeed it was only by chance that I received a copy so quickly as minister’s have not been circulated with the news of its publication!  Our route map is of course at the mercy of the government’s time frame, which is in turn dependant on the effect of any changes to Lockdown and we have no idea yet when church buildings may re-open but I suspect normal will not be a word in popular use for some time to come, and I do have to ask how we can have a new normal when we have never actually manged a normal?

image of coronavirus

Covid 19 has changed the world, it has changed our perception of risk, and it has changed everyday life.  Viruses are tricky things, we talk about having a cold but actually there are hundreds of different viruses that cause respiratory symptoms which as shorthand we call having a cold, and there are others which cause symptoms we refer to as flu. 

These microbes are constantly evolving, responding to nature’s way of defeating them and whilst some are confined to certain species we are seeing more occasions when they evolve to cross lines infecting other species, in the way that a particular strain of coronavirus has recently done with quite spectacular consequences.  Is this an example of the new normal?  There are many theories about Covid 19’s origins and I suspect the general public will never know how this pandemic was caused, what is important is that we realise we do have a part to play in such events happening and any new normal needs to include more awareness of the consequences of our actions.

There is a re-balancing of nature as a result of Lockdown, the air is clearer, wildlife is flourishing, there is a calm as we walk, instead of running everywhere with our eyes firmly fixed on the end point rather than the journey.  People are worried, about relatives, jobs, their own health, but there is also a change as a new work life balance is experienced and the realisation that they have been missing out on certain aspects of life. 

 So, maybe the new normal will be about a better balance to life, both our own and that of the planet.  For years we have recognised that things needed to change but we could not see the change that was needed happening, it was too big a change, Covid 19 forced that big change and it has given us the opportunity to re-evaluate what is important and perhaps to re-evaluate our relationship with the planet.  The way forward will not be easy, and it will definitely not be normal but it can be exciting as we begin to build a sustainable future together.

elephant balancing on a ball

Lockdown has forced churches to explore new ways of being, and for many it has re-focussed our life together even though we are apart.  It has encouraged the use of technology and evidence shows that there are many people accessing online worship who would not normally attend a church service.  Until there is a vaccine our life together will be fractured, even if some can meet there will be those for whom the risk is too great.  However, we are part of creation, we are creative and we will find a path that enables and encourages exploration of God and our journey to know God.  It will not be normal, but then as I shared at the beginning there has never been a normal in the URC, so this is simply a new phase where each church finds the path that is best for them in the challenge to be disciples of the way of Jesus, the way of love, compassion and creativity.  After all the Jesus way was a new normal once.

Helping ourselves during the pandemic

The current pandemic is a trauma to communities, the nation, the world. It’s not a shock-event like a fire or a terrorist attack, but slowly there has built, and is still worsening, a crisis that shatters people’s assumptions that the world is generally safe and reliable, and that all that we have worked for in businesses, churches and communities will be fruitful.

The loss of those assumptions, the breaking of connections between people, and the overwhelming of people’s ordinary resources – all of these are characteristic of trauma.

During trauma we feel all sorts of emotions and strange symptoms as our bodies react to the fact that they are not safe.  Our emotions will be all over the place in surprising ways. Concentration may be difficult, it is normal to be up, down, energetic, exhausted, afraid. Don’t worry about it try and maintain a positive approach that will help reassure yourself and those around you.

Practise a mindset shift, looking at things differently will make you feel better.

Mindset table


Prayers of Hope – every Sunday at 7.00 pm

Churches Together in England have released the following statement:
As our nation faces the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, Churches
Together in England (CTE) is encouraging Christians across our nations to continue uniting
in prayer, praying #PrayersOfHope in their homes at 7.00 pm each Sunday evening.
Following the overwhelming response which the National Call to Prayer and Action received on Mothering Sunday, CTE has prepared a candle poster for those who would like to place a permanent symbol in their front windows of Christ’s light shining in the darkness. Visit

This poster has been made available due to our awareness of the potential fire risk posed by lighting live candles, particularly on windowsills. We are keen to avoid adding any pressure to our emergency service personnel, particularly at this difficult time.

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.' John 1:5

Please join us prayer at this challenging time.

Need help in Luton – useful numbers

helpful numbers in Luton

Pandemic a different view

for a different take on self isolation read Lynn Ungar's poem Pandemic

read here

meeting of bugs

Dealing with the anxiety of Covid-19 and isolation

Five ways to beat anxiety and take back control of your life during the COVID-19 pandemic – based on science

Dr Olivia Remes, of Cambridge University, shares her top tips on looking after your mental health during this difficult period  see the article here

Golden rules for caring and sharing

In this time of crisis and uncertainty Bishop Alan of St Albans offers some timely reflection in the form of four golden rules.

Golden Rule One. Each one of us can think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the  official precautions,  offer help and reassurance to others – and don’t demonise anyone or any group.

Golden Rule Two: Think about who may be suffering more than me. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. How about each church undertaking an audit of all the vulnerable people they know and sharing out the responsibility to phone them each day. There’s nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried. A smile can bring cheer, even on the phone. If you visit, follow all the official precautions or don’t go.

Golder Rule Three. Don’t give into panic and start hoarding food. There is plenty to go around, so practise the Christian discipline of sharing. Ask your neighbours what they need and do you best to help them get it. If you are self-isolating you will of course need some supplies.

Golden Rule Four. Live today to the full. None of us ever know what the future holds. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6. 25 – 34), Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.

And, along with just over half the adults in the UK, don’t forget to pray. Here’s a suggestion from the Revd Louise Collins, a Team Vicar in Borehamwood, Herts:

Dear God our Shield and our Defender, guide and protect my neighbour in this time of health emergency; deliver them from all harm and may your love and care ever grow in this place. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord, Amen.

Covid 19

Due to the current situation the churches within the Luton and Dunstable Cluster of the United Reformed Church have suspended Sunday worshipping together and all activities. Edward Street URC and St Katherine of Genoa URC/Anglican in Dunstable will be open for private prayer on Sunday morning for one hour at the moment. Edward Street 10.30 -11.30am and St Katherine 10.45 - 11.45am.

Although we are not meeting to worship together we are still praying together and continue to support one another through other forms of communication. We are very conscious of the many within our communities who are very worried about illness, security of employment and the isolation from other people, our prayers are with you all. We will be posting a worship service, prayers and other resources to help those with concerns to share with God, the source of all being.