A reflection written for Marlborough’s Tower and Town
Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
as more of heaven in each we see;
some softening gleam of love and prayer
shall dawn on every cross and care.
After six years in Marlborough, I am writing this last clergy letter for Tower and Town amidst packed moving boxes, in front of the computer screen used for leading Sunday worship in the past three months, when our Churches were closed.
As for many others, these weeks of lock-down have given me a lot of time to reflect – or to overthink, depending on the day. There are two thoughts that keep coming back to me. Firstly, how lucky I have been to have something to be looking forward to: a new job, and a new place, new challenges and opportunities. Secondly, how my time in Marlborough, spent with you, has made me so much better prepared for whatever lies ahead of me.
Having something to look forward to as well as feeling prepared are different from the certainty and safety that we, including myself, so often try to find. Indeed, sometimes certainty and safety can be stumbling blocks in truly being prepared and finding our purpose and fulfilment. The difference lies in our readiness and ability to trust.
Being able to trust is hard. It requires a spiritual discipline, but also practical help. It requires us to let go of expectations without letting go of hope. However, we also need a community to help us see that when we trust, there is hope. The ‘softening gleam of love and prayer’ about which John Keble writes in his famous hymn is firmly rooted in real, supportive relationships.
Therefore, the challenge to us, as we adjust to a new way of living, is twofold. We need to prepare ourselves and others well for an uncertain, but hopeful future. Spiritually, we can do this by remembering the stories of our ancestors, how God worked in the lives of those who have gone before us. Practically, we do this by looking after each other: making sure that the prospect of losing a job does not mean having no livelihood, and that losing our health does not mean losing our human value and dignity.
These last months have made us acutely aware that none of us know what the future will bring. However, if we are honest, we never knew that. So instead of retracing our steps to the false security of this world, in hope and trust let us try to prepare ourselves and others for a future in which true riches abound.