Thoughts from the Manse 22nd January

 We are in the middle of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which runs every year from the 18th – 25th January for most Christians, although some celebrate later in the year at Pentecost. 

I have always thought this traditional timing impractical, as ministers usually take a break after Christmas and there is no time before that for planning things, strangely, and so the week is upon before we know it and planning is always rushed.  This year I have been unaware of any planning as mostly we are all struggling to keep our own little pool alive and active in some way.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2021 has been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland.  The theme that was chosen, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.

The Grandchamp Community has its origins in Europe in the 1930s, when a group of women of the Reformed tradition sought to rediscover the importance of silence and listening to the Word of God. Today the community has fifty sisters, all women from different generations, church traditions, countries and continents. In their diversity the sisters are a living parable of communion. They remain faithful to a life of prayer, life in community and the welcoming of guests. The sisters share the grace of their monastic life with visitors and volunteers who go to Grandchamp for a time of retreat, silence, healing or in search of meaning.

Prayer is a uniting action.  There is a power in praying together for the same thing at the same time, the power comes from connecting together, becoming one mind, if only for a brief period and it is a power that can change reality. 

We gather together on a Sunday morning, connected over the internet, but we are united in our prayer, and united also with those who share our worship at the same time using postal copies or copies downloaded from the website.  At a time when physical signs of Christian unity are few, and the pressures of reducing numbers and fewer resources are putting even more strain on working together, it is good to remember that we are united in prayer and we do all abide in the Christ which is God.

This week also sees us remember the atrocities of the Holocaust as we join together for Holocaust Memorial Day on the 27th of January.  This is an expression of Faith unity as well as civic unity. 

I remember visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum at Newark, it is a powerful experience and anyone who visits is moved by the stories and the evidence gathered to remind us of why we must never let this happen again.  The museum is closed to visitors at the moment but many of the exhibits can be viewed on the website.

This year he UK Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 ceremony will be streamed online at 7pm. This will be our first fully digital ceremony and you can register to receive the link and join in the ceremony.  You can Register here    The ceremony will run from 7–8pm.

At the end of the ceremony, at 8pm, we are all invited to Light the Darkness. Households across the UK will be lighting candles and putting them in their windows to remember those who were murdered for who they were and to stand against prejudice and hatred today.  Light a candle and put it in your window at 8pm on 27 January 2021.

In these difficult times we need to remember our oneness and join together in as many varied ways as possible, to learn together what it means to be human, what it means to be love in the world.

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Thoughts from the Manse 15th Janaury

I have been reflecting recently on sounds which provoke emotions.  We each have different emotion triggers, but sounds are a common trigger.  A sound can instantly take us back to another time, and they can be quite innocent sounds. 

I have heard that for many who lived through the war the wail of a siren, whether an air raid or emergency vehicle, became a trigger for alarm or fear.  As a child in the sixties, I lived through the Cuban missile crisis and remember the practice sirens for the four-minute warning and I know the apprehension we all felt, even as children, at that time.

Music and songs can be triggers for many people, inviting a foray through dusty memories, making connections, and remembering friends and family.  It is not about favourite music but something deeper, something subconscious, a particular song makes a connection.  Many years ago, I was giving a talk at the church fellowship group and decided to do my own ‘Tracks of my Years’, picking two memorable songs for each decade, songs which told something of my story.  One or two of them were, I realise now, connectors but the majority were simply songs which illustrated part of my story.  So, what are some of my triggers, music which is embedded within my emotional story?

Dad bought our first record player in 1962, around Christmas time I think, and one of the first LP’s was a Jim Reeves Christmas album, I think almost everybody had a copy, but one track ‘Silver Bells’ is embedded, when I hear it or even think about it, I am transported back to that time and happy memories of childhood. 

Another trigger is George Harrison’s ‘My Sweet Lord’, which I bought as I revised for O-levels and played almost non-stop, then there is Rod Stewart’s Maggie May, I am not a fan of Rod Stewart but this song was in the charts when we went on a school ski trip to Austria with another school, one of the other school was called Maggie, she was not terribly popular and the song became a theme tune of the trip.  It was a great trip with lots of happy memories of new experiences and of shifting from childhood to adulthood.

Nature can also provide sound triggers and for me the strongest trigger is the sound of rain rattling against the window, it is a sound I love and which strangely, brings comfort.  This is wrapped up in the many hours we spent in the family caravan, rain has a special sound when you are inside a metal box.  As the rain rattled on the caravan, we would be cosy inside, reading books and playing games, we felt safe which is why I think that sound brings me comfort.

This got me thinking about how I would describe other weather sounds – the rattle of rain, the silence of snow, the wailing of wind, the hammer of hail, the song of sun.  The last was the most difficult as there is not really a sound of sun but when the sun is out somehow nature seems to sing, birdsong, the hum of insects, maybe even the background noise of music played outside.

Not all triggers are ‘happy’ triggers, and we can be taken back to a time of fear, as with the air raid siren but recognizing that is important for only when we recognize the trigger can we begin to understand the emotion and whilst it is an important part of our emotional story, recognising the trigger for what it is, a trigger and not the actual event, is an important step in putting things into perspective. 

Triggers that connect to happier events can bring comfort and joy and help us to build our emotional story, which is an important aspect of our life story, it explains why we are who we are.

Why not spend some moments thinking about your triggers, what they are and why?  You may discover something long forgotten or something of which you were never consciously aware. 

Read more Thoughts from the Manse on the archive page

Covid Memorial at Wigmore Church

As we approach Christmas this year, we are more aware of how fragile our hold on life can be, and that this year thousands more people will find Christmas a bittersweet celebration as they miss loved ones who have died during the year.  Around the country many churches have tried to reflect the depth of the effect of the pandemic on their own community with symbols of lost lives attached to fences. 

A conversation with a friend who had seen this prompted the creation of a flower memorial at Wigmore Church.  When we entered lockdown in March, one member at the church began a project to crochet a flower for every day of Lockdown, partly to give her something to do and to help maintain a healthy mental balance. Following the conversation with a friend this evolved into the Covid Flower Memorial and together the two ladies have crochet or knitted flowers for every person who has died from Covid 19 in Luton.  At the end of November, the memorial was mounted on the side of the church and can be viewed by anyone passing.

This memorial of flowers is a reminder that the numbers of deaths we hear every day aren’t just statistics but people, people with families, people who are loved. 

We hope and pray that the number of flowers will not need to be added to, but we are aware that the pandemic is still very prevalent around Luton and the two friends are still crafting so anyone who has lost someone will know that a flower has been created with love for their loved one and they are in our thoughts and prayers.

You can see the memorial by walking or driving past the front of the church.

Wigmore United Reformed and Methodist Church, Crawley Green Road LU2 9TE

May the New Year bring better news, and a safer, healthier and prosperous world, for everyone!

Wigmore Church’s gift collection for Luton Women’s Refuge

This year even more families will be struggling, and many women and children will need help as they face Christmas in a Women's Refuge.  Every year Wigmore Church collects gifts for women and children who will spend Christmas in Luton Women's Refuge, and this year is no different. 

Even though we cannot meet together we are still supporting the refuge and gifts can be delivered to the car park on Saturdays 28th November and 6th December, between 10am and 12 noon.  There will be a collection point in a car.

If you would like to take part please buy a gift for a woman or a child (all gifts should be new) and wrap your gift adding a detachable label showing whether it is for a woman or a child, and if a child the age range and gender.  These gifts will be delivered to the refuge for relabelling to be distributed for Christmas Day.

On Sunday the 6th December our Zoom Service will be a GIft Service to reflect the gifts given and celebrate the gift of Christmas sharing.

If you can give something, we would love to pass on your kindness to the Luton Women's Refuge.  Spread a little love at Christmas.

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.