Welcome to the month of May. ‘May’ has two special birth flowers – the Lily-of-the-Valley and the Hawthorn. The ‘Lily-of-the-Valley’ represents the return of happiness and sweetness whilst the ‘Hawthorn flower’ is a symbol of hope. Both flowers speak in a relevant way to these challenging times as we are surely in need of hope and a return of happiness and sweetness as the government’s pandemic rules ease further this month.
The ‘Lily-of-the-Valley’ connects the recent Easter celebration to this month by virtue of a traditional hymn I sang as a teenager (and which has also been covered by many singers including Willie Nelson). ‘Lily of the Valley’ was another name for Jesus Christ. The hymn’s chorus shares that “In sorrow, He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay; He tells me every care on Him to roll: He’s the Lily of the Valley, the bright and morning star; He’s the fairest of 10,000 to my soul”. Another version of the hymn cited that “because of ‘the Lily in the Valley’, there is peace for us in the ‘valley’ of despondency and despair, hope in the valley and deliverance in the valley because the only way out is ‘through'”.
So, why these reflections? It is because the resurrection of Christ celebrated last Easter Sunday gives us hope now and for His return. Last month I shared the bible quote from Matthew’s Gospel of finding rest for our restless spirits now, which doesn’t need to wait until Christ’s return. Jesus said: “Come unto me, all 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”.
I hear you asking for evidence of the search for rest out of our restlessness. According to a recent Guardian newspaper article, across 95 countries, ‘googling’ the word “prayer” doubled from 432 million to 863 million, surpassing levels associated with Christmas and Ramadan. In April 2020, a service led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Reverend Justin Welby, from his kitchen table drew 5 million viewers and was described by the Church of England as the largest congregation in history. And of late, churches have begun to make visible comebacks as seen on the doorstep vigil, 23 March. This was the UK’s national day of reflection organised by the end-of-life charity Marie Curie, which led more than 300 organisations, community groups and charities in a minute’s silence at noon on Tuesday in remembrance of those who have died during the Covid-19 crisis. Our Parish was involved when with the help of Tower Captain, Kate Edgar, church bells were rung in support.
Three years ago, Anthony Costello, a former director of maternal and child health at the World Health Organization, published a book titled ‘The Social Edge’, which focused on the so-called important “sympathy groups” that sit between the government state of services and the individual. We believe as a Parish and sympathy group, we offer a unique space for solace, peace, relaxation and friendship to help all in their spiritual quest for meaning, wellbeing, harmony and rest to tired minds as well as giving all a greater sense of being alive. We are also a Christian community on a journey of supporting each other as we navigate our respective ‘valleys’ out of despondency, suffering, despair and anxiety to experience joy, peace and hope. We discover a new perspective of viewing things as our lives are transformed one day at a time from the inside to the outside. A new purpose of our lives begins to emerge as we become more self-aware of ourselves and what we share in common with our local and global Christian family. Journeying through life might be ok but knowing that others are on the same path with similar experiences is uplifting and motivating, and this is why we share the good news through words of hope, encouragement and faith. We hope we can have another opportunity to share these essential truths with you
We are looking to return to Sunday Worship from 23 May on Pentecostal Sunday at St Mary’s, East Claydon (9.30am) and St Michael’s, Steeple Claydon (11.00am). The next service at All Saints is planned for 6 June. I do hope you will be able to join us for Sunday Worship to find out more about our faith and curious to enquire about the above reasons for finding hope and a return of happiness and sweetness.
Stay blessed with love.
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of the Claydons