Dear Friends

We have just finished our season of Lent reflection during the month of March, which began with Ash Wednesday on 17th February. This was a time for deep contemplation, fasting from food and festivities and praying in recognition of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It was also a time for growth in our faith and well-being.

Passiontide and Holy Week, a time of celebration for the Christian church, began on 28th March. Maundy Thursday is commemorated on 1st April followed by Good Friday culminating with Easter Sunday celebration. We share in Christ’s journey beyond the wilderness from His triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, His Crucifixion to the Empty Tomb on Easter morning signifying His Resurrection.

If some people were anxious at the beginning of Lent as a result of life choices or unanswered questions, then at the end of Lent, we experienced a sense of conversion, peace, understanding and acceptance of our circumstances. They are all facets for preparing us for Easter.

Why is this important? It is because the resurrection of Christ celebrated this month gives us hope for His return at the end of time. We are also passionate about the words of Jesus Christ to guide us through the challenges of life and yet be happy.

Our recent ‘Come and See’ Lent Bible Studies have shown that life has been very difficult for us in this time of pandemic. Many people have been asking, and are still asking, deep questions of faith. They’re wondering about their purpose, the meaning of life as well as asking questions of eternity, suffering and hope.

How can we get through the months ahead? What will the world be like after COVID? Where can we find the inspiration and strength to rebuild? What will help our children and families to stay together? Where can we find truth and a foundation for living and a future? How can we break down the isolation in our communities, so they are places of friendship not fear?

Through the lockdown, many people have begun to look at Christian faith and to look to the church. That’s why we have been providing via Facebook regular pre-recorded Sunday Service for local village residents as well as informal online Zoom Sunday Service. That’s why we have also been getting our churches ready for when we are permitted to be open, to be the space for prayers for our families, personal bereavement, daily sustenance and support in our personal struggles. As a church community, we want to be there with you on your journey as well as providing prayers and intercessions of support as we regularly do on behalf of the whole Parish.

The season of Lent and Easter provides the reflective window to calm our restlessness, to have completeness in ourselves, to be accepting of our circumstances, and believing that the lessons of Christ do make a difference in our lives. The eleventh chapter of Matthew’s Gospel cites:“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” There’s nothing coercive with the words of Jesus Christ. It’s a simple invitation to find rest in Christ out of the mental health and social challenges of surviving the pandemic as well as learning new things which build resilience and trust in Him. We want our churches to provide this private space for experiencing this invitation and our hospitality.

Many years ago, I frequently visited the Parish Church of St Giles-in-the-Fields in the West End of London. I thoroughly enjoyed the space and occasional services with other Christian workers for quiet reflection and prayers. One of their suggested prayers for these difficult times is entitled “In time of Trouble“: “God, I come before you afraid and uncertain, not knowing what to do for the best. I need your help. Give me light to understand my life more and more clearly. Help me to put my trust in you through Jesus Christ, Amen.” I invite you to consider this daily prayer throughout the month for your well-being and care.

I believe that through life’s testing, prayers and reflection, we will emerge stronger with a transformed sense of perspective, greater faith and peace, as beautifully captured by Luci Swindoll in her quote: “We are the most appealing to others, and happiest within, when we are completely ourselves”.

I look forward to you joining our pre-recorded and Zoom Easter Services. Do get in touch for links via our Parish website.

Stay blessed with love

Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray

Parish of the Claydons