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.

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


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.