This time has reminded me of how wonderful it is to have the assurance that, even though I am unable to enjoy human companionship, I am never alone. I feel sad for those who are facing this time without that assurance.
Here is a space to record your reflections, as you prayerfully and courageously let go of your preconceived expectations and allow God to speak to us afresh in this time.
Some questions that may help you reflect;
This time has reminded me of how wonderful it is to have the assurance that, even though I am unable to enjoy human companionship, I am never alone. I feel sad for those who are facing this time without that assurance.
My faith is in believing in our Lord Jesus Christ and He is always with me wherever I am
The busyness of life impacts on everything including the spiritual. Staying home has enabled time and space. Even my sleep has improved.
What I have discovered.
The emphasis in our Christian life and discipleship, and most assuredly in our Churches can no longer be(if it ever should have been allowed to be at all) on renewing a sense of personal salvation and securitys week by week. Rather we MUST ask how, why and in what ways can we all grow and change TOGETHER. This does not just mean doing different things, though it does, it demands that we do things differently. Our services and meetings have no substantive meaning unless they result in prayerful but practical outcomes that visibly establish social change and justice especially for the last the least and the lost. We MUST shed ourselves of cosy and self-affirming piety and make a clear OPTION FOR THE POOR>
I now have people to pray with, in a less formal way than Sunday Service. The zoom is good when it works
That God really is there with me in the hard times and the joys. I knew it in my head, but being removed from services, buildings and meetings has reestablished this in my heart.
Discovered that God’s presence is everywhere. Been reminded of Job, that he suffered (like those losing loved ones at this time), others thought he had brought sin upon himself, however this was not so. Good beautiful people have lost their lives at this time. Yet Job continued to recognise the majesty of God.
Also thought about the climate and animals. How Covid-19 probably transmitted from animals to humans, may be as a result of poor hygiene and illegal treatment/marketing. There is some element of justice in that humans all over the world are now social distancing, yet when I walk I see rabbits enjoying the spring together, the birds nesting and flying where they please. So the animals are now free in movement, however humans are not.
That God is so much bigger than the “church” stuff of Sunday’s and meetings. He is with us in all things at all times
I have been reminded of the importance of rhythm to a prayer life. The tradition of prayer and liturgy stretching back centuries and that will sustain us through these different times. I have been rediscovering, each day, the presence of God, source of all being, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. That my faith is rooted in the awareness of the presence of God in each moment.
During this time I have realised how important it is to have a community within a church in which to communicate and support one another. I found this with the church of the Holy Spirit. Our active prayer circle is a valuable part of this, helping us to feel connected.
I’ve been thinking about the relationship between the church and the kingdom. The former word is used once (?) in the gospels to translate the word for a gathering of people….kingdom is everywhere. The analogy that came to me was of a sports club house. It exists for the game. The members/players support each other but that’s not the purpose of the clubhouse. One which exists for itself is an anomaly. And when people watching have finished cheering and return to refresh themselves, all the talk is a discussion of the game. What could have been better. And didn’t the ref see……!. (Experience of my brothers rugby club!) Perhaps we could have a series of In depth studies (not discussions yet) of the kingdom. I know the analogy is limited but it sparked my imagination.
His unfailing steadfast love. We have had some scary and confusing experiences, and we continue as vulnerable people to face our mortality, and he has helped us through this. His presence is always stronger felt in solitude and isolation.
How genuine and faithful God is. How He is a constant in storm and accepts all miscellananity. He gives us so much space to breath but allows us to compress by His grace helps us breath again.
How much going to church brings structure and reflection to start my week! Every day is much the same otherwise. I’ve been going to the churchyard at St Paul’s three or more days a week to survey butterflies. I believe now that the churchyard is St Paul’s second great asset after the church building. Nearly all my visits have coincided with mourners visiting their loved one’s grave on a regular basis to place flowers or plants on them. Unfortunately, I don’t think many visit the church. Water is provided free from two outside taps. (I wonder if we could place a weather-proof box to ask for contributions?)
This is a placeholding reflection so that you can see what your reflection will look like when you have shared it.
Personal reflections in lockdown
I have really appreciated the quietness during the lockdown. The lack of background human noise has bought a unique calmness and opportunity to slow down, to focus and reflect on the many aspects of my life both in the past and present time. There have been many environmental benefits to come out of the crisis which I have been excited by. With the lovely sunny warm days & spring bursting into summer the whole of nature has seemed more vibrant and alive than ever, perhaps more like the Springs I remember as a young child. The birds and animals have also appeared to enjoy the stillness. The whole of the natural world in all its glory, unaffected by the lockdown has given me great joy & hope. It has also helped me spiritually to reflect & be closer to God. I count my blessings as I reflect on the kindness & support given to my wife & self by our family & so many friends, neighbours and strangers. Listening to the grim news of hospital deaths has made me reflect on how awful it was for those receiving bad news during the war & how God’s support can help us through bad times. The lived streamed Stroud Sunday services have given me great support and bought us all closer together.
However low we might be feeling, remember there are always those who are much worse off than ourselves & we should all count our many blessings. Try to focus on the many good news stories about acts of kindness both large & small. The lockdown has bought out the common good in so many people & acts of support for one another.
The prayer of St Francis encompasses everything including asking God to leading us from despair to hope. It is a lovely prayer which I often turn to. In times of despair, denial & dismay I try to hold onto Hope & pray that God will lead us all out of this crisis to a better & brighter future.
Recognition that what I do and think is not who I am in God. It only silence and solitude, available to us in a whole new way in lockdown, that, I now believe, allows transformative remembrance that my source is deep in God – from whence I came and will return… and it is there that I find the true self, not in the unending chatter of my mind, or the unending demands of work. From that point I have found a deeper connection with my family who mysteriously came and were woven together surely by the miracle of God’s creative force, and chosen to walk together through this world
God is faithful and his Spirit is everywhere – including in all the thoughtfulness and acts of service and the sacrifices many people have made.
How immensely grateful I am for God’s unconditional love, and that life would be meaningless without my faith. He is my all. I have been reminded that it is in the dark times that I am closest to God as I turn towards my loving Father with all my needs and sorrows of the world.
We are thankful for the leadership and the hard work that they have put in to support our congregations
During lockdown I have realised how important it is to have an active church community, as I have, in The Church of the Holy Spirit, in which we have communicated and supported one another, and looked forward to when we can safely meet up again. Our own prayer circle is a valuable part of this, helping us feel connected.
This is a lifetime journey of grace more than a lifetime of faith. I do feel like I have received rather more by grace – than I have ever given by faith.
We all have a calling – not just the marvellous clergy… I am clearer on my calling as well now. But I want to be doing that calling by God’s power – I am a bit fed up trying to do it by myself – as a ‘favour’ to God in all my busyness.
This is a very difficult demanding traumatic time – but I can somehow ‘run with the horses‘.
Realising more clearly how amidst the rancour and rubbish – I and we – are all delighted in, loved and liked by the God of the universe – that is seriously wonderful and Very weird.
168 hours of the week are all special to the Lord – how I live any of those hours is my real worship.
Unrushed thoughtful services are delightful.
Seeing people’s faces and expressions is really helpful
My faith has grown in the context of prayer – in the absence of the church an its people
To be physically present in one space together as worshipping communities or small groups and to really see each other not just our images, even though we have been grateful for that.
To eat together (including sacramentally). It brings us together, its fun and its inclusive and profound.
Seeing and being with christian people again and worshiping together. Familiar faces, smiles. Other people’s stories, experiences and sharing.
I am looking forward to seeing people and being able to talk to them face to face. And especially to coffee and conversation after Praying Together on Thursday mornings!
People and relationships at church – just getting back together again
Hugs. Not being alone. Despite being very social and active, i feel a loss, a fear deep within that clutches me with ‘I can’t’- people hurt me. It would be good to massage these fears away.
Meeting, seeing and hearing people without worrying about the mute button!
Hearing other peoples discoveries, revelations and answers to prayer.
Finding ourselves in a new place – the Early church didn’t vote to get thrown out of it’s regular ‘services’ in Jerusalem, it was traumatic, unpleasant, dangerous but full of dangerous unstoppable life for us gentiles. What does this now mean for us and the disenfranchised around Stroud? An old – but somehow new church?
It will be so good to be back together worshipping as a Church family and enjoying fellowship with each other
Encountering and being encountered by the presence of God in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Seeing people who go to church and catching up with their news! Celebrating events in the church year in person.
Although some of us have been communicating by phone or text I look forward to belonging to the church community again.
Seeing the friends whose contact details I failed to write down
I hope wonderful possibilities for when we are back together come bubbling up for you. This is what your reflection will look like once it is shared.
HUGS and more home groups where people can build relationships built on Christ
I am looking forward to getting to know members of the church of the Holy Spirit, better through meeting before services or on our monthly Sunday lunches out. I am also looking forward to getting to know the ‘younger’ members of the congregation as we face the challenges of the future as a church.
This is perhaps the hardest question because it is an anxious and nagging issue coming back together. I miss people but I have liked being able to totally focus on the service while in isolation.
Exploring all the church communities within the Stroud Team, and meeting lots of new and interesting people
I am looking forward to coming back together at The Church of the Holy Spirit and getting to know members of the congregation better through coffee before church services, or through our monthly Sunday lunches, after the service. I am also looking forward to getting to know ‘younger’ members of our congregation and hope to discuss the challenges we face as a church, in our future.
To worship in the physical presence of others and enjoy fellowship with friends.
Meetings for worship & prayer, but, ideally, less of them. Less is more in terms of quality resources deployed for the creation of events of deep encounter with God
Singing and praying in the same room! And without fear, too. And of course being able to meet friends old and new.
I hope the Church will take the environmental/climate change crisis very seriously as a spiritual concern and work to change the way we all live and interact with the rest of creation.
Physical touch! I realise as we are not allowed to touch one another, how much that is part of my communication.
I am looking forward to sharing prayer, silence, ritual, sacrament and worship with others. To being physically present with each other and in front of God. To being open to surprise encounters, to the unknown, to being vulnerable outside of the controlled nature of the home environment.
Not sure about this – it will be good celebrate together – but at the moment feel quite distant from the church – although not God and Jesus
I want to hold on to the rhythm of daily prayer, of the time spent with the liturgy and scripture of our tradition, of getting to speak to people through the week and not just on Sundays. I want to hold on to the ‘slowing down’. I want to hold on to attending fewer meetings and even fewer meetings in person.
The caring and compassion that has been so real and evident and a continuation of our Zoom prayer group, that has been such a blessing.
Our greater availability to the wider community, particularly our worship being more easily accessible. Carrying on recording and publishing creative worship – keeping worship simple and beautiful so it touches us all.
Let’s consider having more virtual meetings than we used to; balancing physical togetherness with the cost to the earth of burning fossil fuel and all the other associated costs of travel.
The experiences of the on line services and Zoom meetings and prayer group have been essential. I have been praying for better communication for some time before this crisis and I hope the church can sustain this through the next stages. There’s something about being able to worship at the same time (roughly) as others and led by someone you know which is very rich and special.
Family – blessed that we have been kept safe – have a problem that we as Christians think that we should have our prayers answered – pray for our family but why should God answer our prayers and not others
Inner peace. LIstening. Less distracted and more focused and able to hear God’s message. More expanse of time. Greater contentment and feelings of enough, without rushing into the next event or place. Appreciating and making use of what is already available. Appreciating basic necessities and food more.
That Fellowship and worshipping together is so special. We are stronger together
ALL THE WORLD IN ITS PRESENT FORM. we have experienced the World being so present and I am missing this already. I feel such loss that the planet is grieving its life. Lockdown allowed it to breathe.
I would like to hold onto this sense of community and reaching out to others in need. Although I love the St Paul’s church building and its place within the community I did feel an almost lifting of the burden of looking after it. Most of our time at PCC meetings is devoted to maintaining the church building and how the church can afford to pay its bills at the expense of matters concerning the church of the Holy Spirit, a far more thriving church. If this was removed we could devote the time to discussing ways of supporting members of our church community most in need and pastoral work and maybe even offer financial support. I also appreciate how hard the ministry team have worked in providing services, prayers and support during this time of national crises. Perhaps bishop Rachel could allow the clergy two days off a week in the future? I also think that our churches need to be more transparent regarding our finances as I am sure few people know how hard it is financially maintain a church and it’s churchyard.
That the church is alive and well, and seemingly has an even greater impact beyond buildings, services and events.
Including those who want to join with us by zoom.
Finding other ‘stepping stones‘ for all those who struggle with church buildings but who are searching for real life.
Little groups of people praying
Taking part in our active prayer circle at the Church of the Holy Spirit and also the virtual one on the Church website. Not to take things for granted, especially my health. Treasuring every moment. Having confidence in my faith to keep me and my family one safe and well. The generosity and kindness of strangers.
Let’s be courageous – don’t be limited by preconceived expectations. This is what your reflection will look like once it is shared.
Neighbourly love – the unity created by that love: seen in clapping the NHS on Thursday nights, and shopping done for other people. Is this the new normal?
A pattern of individual and (virtual) corporate devotion that allows deeper recognition of our need of the God we see in Jesus Christ, and our vulnerabilities before Him met with the light of His grace. And… more usage of the medium of film to achieve this, and to communicate the art of discipleship
The variety of service delivery has been imaginative enlivening, we need more of this in church.
The intimacy with God and each other that comes from stripping back the layers of formality
It would be good to build on the more innovative ways of worship that have been developing: perhaps services that people who don’t come regularly to church, but have been following them on-line, might be attracted to?
I am hoping to hold on to this sense of community and reaching out to others in need.
I want to hold onto the space, stillness and peace to pray and think. When it is important to my well- being and growth in faith to allow myself to ‘be’ and not ‘do’ without the accompanying guilt.
A slower and much more meditative way of living and praying which results in active steps towards positive, practical and obvious social change towards justice.
God loves us by becoming us, taking our side in the inner dialogue of self-accusation and defence. God loves us by turning our personal and structural sins into grace and by giving our broken selves back in larger shape. God stands with us, not ever against us when we are tempted towards shame, self-hatred and despair. We might have learnt something of the sort from authority figures both in the Church and out of it while we were growing up but where we did not it can be hard to feel and trust that.Nevertheless, I think that we MUST experience this love on a cellular level at least once The only thing that divides us from God is the thought that we are divided from God.
Although in the past five years I’ve belonged to St Paul’s I’ve grown to love the building and its churchyard, when the services were removed I did feel a burden had been lifted. During our PCC meetings, most of our time is spent on discussing ways of maintaining the church building and how the church can pay its bills. It would be great if instead of this, we could discuss ways of supporting members of the church community who are in need, like the recently bereaved.
I have also recognised how hard the Stroud Ministry Team have been working to provide services and prayers. They certainly have been worth seeing. Perhaps Bishop Rachel could consider the ministry having two days off a week permanently to reduce the possibility to burn-out?
It feels like Corona has been a large unexpected shock ….which is the a bit like shaking a sieve full of soil. And discovering then what is real and what has fallen away. And now seeing some gold clearly
Learning to be out of control, accepting and maybe welcoming uncertainty. Being more ‘childlike’?
I so want & expect everything to be predictable and understandable – that I normally organise against it if possible. I now want to be more ‘out of control’, open handed, vulnerable to where the Spirit takes us. Not safely docked In a harbour for the rest of my life!
Unlike 007 – stirred but not shaken.
As Christians we are called to ‘travel light’ through this world. This is what your reflection will look like once it is shared.
Lots of time to think and appreciate that – decide on what is important – days when i can be selfish and that’s ok Its ok to have a bad day.
Appreciating that church services can carry on without the building. Gives optimism about the future, when services at St Paul’s may cease. Such a shame that many members of our congregation were unable to access the services because they haven’t got a computer.
– Thinking more about relationships with our fellow human beings
– Seeing more people coming to faith when they ask the question ‘what have I got left?’
– Seeing more people responding to faith through the wider reach of the services on the internet
I have not missed buildings and have been involved with daily services and prayer which I wasn’t before lockdown and which I have needed to keep me going. Having the flexibility and choice of when I worship and in what way has been good. I think it has made space for creativity in worship. I have found space for more contemplation, prayer and to become closer to others through phone calls and messaging.
These things can go on and I am thankful for the online services, resources and support from the Stroud team, their families.
Little simple slowing down. Erasing the godliness, replaced with being human, and revealing my truth.
And the loss reveals how much God still loves us
With fewer outside commitments, it’s been easier to be more disciplined about prayer and meditation.
We realise the church is the people and the common life of the church is our relationship with God through Jesus and the Spirit and that’s what holds us and brings us together.
Enjoying His creation, reveling in the mysteries of His existence, marveling at His ability to bring hope and good into the bleakest situations
Our faith is built on our Lord Jesus Christ. He is central to our belief and we are the Living Stones. I can worship, give thanks and Glorify Him in my garden.
Allows a greater connection from Church to home as I listen to the services at home. It creates an atmosphere in the home and brings Jesus into the neighbourhood/community of where I live. The immediate locality feels blessed and calmer as a result and I can see Jesus in my neighbours, in their daily actions of a greeting across the road, clapping for Keyworkers, caring for their gardens, walking their dogs, supporting their families.
I miss the beauty of the church buildings though which honour God and are sacred spaces of prayer.
For me it was my family that I missed not the building
From the reading in ‘UCB Word for Today’, 10th May, I have learnt that faith is based on, and believing in, the promises of God. We develop faith by reading God’s Word and the space that has resulted from not being able to be in church and not being able to be rushing around freely, has given me time to read His Word. (Romans 10:17)
Companionship – a real and present sense that I don’t walk through any of this alone.
Deep connection with realm & presence of God through the gateway of interconnection with the elements – wind, water, fire & air – and the turning of the day from dawn to dusk
I already answered this in the previous question
We spend more time spent still listening to (and being moved by) the sounds of nature outdoors in our garden; birds, frogs, wind. More quiet time indoors too for prayer and contemplation. Meeting people through social media and the telephone on a different, often more intimate, plane. Taking nothing for granted that the Church does or provides, but finding forgiveness and joy through prayer and music.
I wonder if we are able to bring more of our true selves to a worship service when nobody is watching?
My daily life happens within the context, the paradigm, of my faith in God. In an essential way my faith is no different in this new situation. It does get expressed though in different ways. Without a building or services to think about it frees up a lot of time for people, for prayer and for reflection and learning. However, it has potentially made more space for a self-involved individualism and one of the beautiful challenges of services and buildings is the need to hold something ‘together’ as a shared endeavour of commitment and surrender. Best expressed in the sacrament of communion. Coming together in time and place is a sign of our interconnectedness and I look forward to that again.
He is certainly the ‘God of Surprises’! His blessings have rained down in so many different ways, through kindness, small miracles, farm shops, and reconciliation with a neighbour. The silver linings of becoming more sensitive to nature, to insects, birds but sadly not rodents! He has re-awakened my love of the arts which had been sidelined. Also found joy in baking and cooking for family take aways! I have been able to walk further following surgery and to garden and paint. God has opened up my unresolved grief of a broken relationship and is helping me to learn that I can live alone…..if I have to, as He is always present.
The lovely genuine welcome to Helen and myself – a very big thanks
I don’t know how ‘unexpected’ the silver linings for me have been. Church and community are a challenge to me in both a positive and negative way. I have found a great deal of peace in the space this time has allowed for. I am aware that to grow I also need the challenge and the surprises that only other people, places and times can offer. Discovering Christ in each person I encounter is not so easy to do within isolation.
Finding a healthier pattern of living, and through that re learning complete reliance on God.
I didn’t realised how much I liked solitude (and how easily it can be destroyed by my anxious mind)… and the fathomless potential of what spiritual depths can be discovered in solitude.
I’m financially much better off because I’m spending so much less
I was surprised to find time speeding away even though our routine hasn’t altered much as we are retired. Prayer has been a great way to slow it down, fill it with rich tidings. God is showing me a new set of priorities for how I use my time. God has consoled me, too, as I confront the reality of suffering and loss- he’s consoled me in a way he does when I am in mourning even though I didn’t realize how I needed it.
It feels really freeing not to have all the little commitments that took up time every week, without feeling guilty about it – fewer ‘oughts’. I appreciate having time to do things like practising music regularly. And I’ve also been keeping in touch better with friends old and new, by post, email and telephone.
How members of non-religious members of the community have offered support and help to others during lockdown. To see the churchyard frequented by those who have loved ones buried there. I am sure it provided solace in such insecure times.
The beauty and appreciation of nature in the churchyard and all around us.
Creation which comes from God has been truly wonderful, we have been blessed and sent a very strong message about how we can transform our natural world which in turn rewards us with health and life benefits.
Individual and community giving is the love of God in action.
Read Psalm 90/91 on this!
Not surprised by God at all – the truth is in the bible so no problem
Finding God in unlikely places. This is what your reflection will look like once it is shared.
He is God and Lord of all and no matter what happens, he is the Father of all compassion and comfort and is always there
I’ve loved seeing what other Christians in the area are up to – getting a taste of Taize, Still Moving & The Cow-shed from the safety of my living room
He has kept me and my family safe and well.
I realised that God has given me so much that gives simple deep pleasure, like the birds coming to the garden, seeds still growing, sunshine and dappled light and good relationships that have been sustained over the phone or internet.
The UCB calendar had an April message on it “I am with you always, even unto the end of the World” Matthew 28-20 KJV. At first this disturbed me as the covid virus raged, then I realised that it meant that no matter how far the virus travelled to whatever part of earth, God would be everywhere too.
It made me think of the seen and the unseen as well.
The Dallas Eyes of the flowers plants and air.. Such beauty turned up by 100%.
The beauty of nature in the churchyard. How, during lockdown, those who had loved ones buried in our churchyard seemed to seek solace in visiting the graves of their departed. I also recognised how members of the non-religious community offered support and help to those housebound or struggling.
God has surprised me by looking after me in many unexpected ways, not least of which is helping me to get regular slots for my grocery deliveries!
The first time that I needed groceries during the lockdown, I tried to order online but there were no slots anywhere. I decided that, as my family were having to self isolate due to my daughter’s illness, I must just bite the bullet and go to the store, but I was scared! Anyway, I woke up really early on the morning of the first day of special hours for old people like me, so I thought, “Well that’s a sign that I should get dressed and go.” I got ready, but I had such a sense of unease. I sat on my bed and said, “Lord, am I supposed to go out to the shop?” and I was immediately prompted to check the website. There, before my very grateful eyes, was a whole day of slots and I was able to place my order and stay safely at home. Ever since, I have been able to find a slot when I’ve needed one and I have been able to order for friends, as well. My Heavenly Father is a loving God who cares about and provides for all our needs and He is my silver lining!
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In these unprecedented times, we are working hard to find imaginative solutions in a landscape that has been rapidly changing. Sometimes we get things right, and sometimes we miss the mark. I apologise that this has been the case regarding communion.
For those of you who have received wafers in a parcel, we would ask that you either consume them, or put them somewhere safe to bring back once we are able to be together again.
We are going to be sending out a new order of service for use during this time as either a simple service of the word or, on occasion, to help us to share an Agape meal together.