This weekend has been All Saint’s weekend and each service has been full of reference to those who have gone before us in the Christian faith. For some of my congregation they pray happily to saints – one lady was telling me as she gave me a lift home about how she had been giving thanks to a particular saint for saving her from her money troubles earlier in the year, while another person in my congregation from a very evangelical background just squirmed all the way through the service at every mention of the word ‘Saint’ as being not their thing at all! I love that variety in my congregation!
I love that we come to God in the presence of countless angels making festival, before the assembly of the firstborn citizens of heaven, before the spirits of the just made perfect (Hebrews 12.22ff), I love that in most communion services I am reminded of the elders, the many angels, joining with us in a loud voice as we finish the Eucharistic Prayer and lead into the Lord’s Prayer saying, blessing and honour and glory and power be yours for ever and ever – the ‘yours’ being the one who sits upon the throne and to the lamb (Revelation 5.11ff). We have learned in Jesus Christ that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8.38) and I rejoice to know that the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, my grandparents and others I have known, is God of the living (Mark 12.27).
Tonight, as the candles representing those we remembered burned on the Communion table, we heard a 900 year old song I like – Dies Irae – Day of wrath and doom impending – Not a cheerful beginning really. The ancient tune repeats and winds it’s way through memories of great trumpets sounding, earth quaking – Death is struck, all creation wakes – the great book of life is opened, and it remembers that if the just need mercy on that great day, how do I stand a chance?! But the cross of Christ is called to mind and the basis for prayer is remembered – ‘Through the sinful woman shriven, through the dying thief forgiven, thou to me a hope hast given’ and so the song comes round to confidence in God and after 18 verses the ancient melody morphing slightly as it goes, has slowly stilled our hearts to rest in him.
If you missed it, spend some time with God instead, learning how to pray in different ways with Maggie Le-Roy, our Diocesan Retreats Facilitator, who is here teaching different methods of prayer each day until Wednesday evening – mornings at Christ Church 10am till 11am, and at Holy Trinity 7.3opm. Be a saint!
We had a very nice retreat day today with people from our Academic City congregation and Jebel Ali congregation joining together. If you weren’t able to make it but are able to come next Saturday, Maggie Le-Roy, our diocesan retreats facilitator is doing the same again then for Holy Trinity Church Dubai.
As I sat there vaguely looking out of the window as she talked about how we fail to see so much that is right in front of us I was looking at the line of trees and bushes on the boundary wall outside and that’s all I saw. She began saying that one useful tool is to take a picture frame (at which point she handed out a bunch of small frames for us each to take) and place it over something to see it properly, isolated from the things around it. As she said it I began to look specifically through one pane of the window and captured by that one pane was a beautiful flower which I had not really seen because all I’d seen was the hedge as a whole. The 8 panes around it framed it nicely and the beauty of the view suddenly came into focus. Then I looked only through the pane next to it, leaving out the flower, and saw in that the heavily laden seedpods of a tree which again I had not really seen until then. She used this as a tool to help us see deeper into how God might speak to us more clearly if we only learned to look more closely. The same principle works for listening I think.
Five lucky people are this week having an individually guided week of prayer with Maggie. They began with a meditation on the Bartimaeus story (Mark 10.46-52) when Jesus asks him ‘what do you want me to do for you?’. Pray that their eyes may be opened to see wonderful things (Ps. 119.18).
In the week afterwards (Sunday 2nd-Wednesday 5th November) Maggie will be giving ‘taster sessions’ in different types of prayer – 10am each day in our church library in Jebel Ali, 7.30pm each day at Holy Trinity Church Dubai. All are welcome, those of big faith or small. Come and see, better.
Pictured here is our last Retreat Day in January with Revd. Murray Brown, which ended up with a barbeque in a garden in Jumeriah. This Saturday, 25th October, we have another retreat day in a house and garden in Um Sequim led this time by our Diocesan Retreats Facilitator Maggie Le-Roy. She is going to lead a day retreat on the Theme of ‘Open our Eyes to See’ from 10am till 3pm.
We will be looking at pictures in songs, visions and parables, and seeing
what God might be saying to us at this time. There will be time for quiet reflection as well as optional times for sharing with others.
Please bring your own packed lunch, two old magazines/newspapers and a pair of scissors 😎 Coffee and tea will be provided. Please email our office for a map to the venue, or come to church on Friday morning where maps will be available.
(Children also welcome but if possible, tell us so we have an idea of numbers)
[If you cannot come this Saturday, Maggie is doing the same again the following Saturday for Holy Trinity Church Dubai]
In the week afterwards (3rd-6th November) Maggie will be giving ‘taster sessions’ in different types of prayer – 10am each day in our church in Jebel Ali, 7.30pm each day at Holy Trinity Church Dubai. All are welcome.
Now once again I’m in one of my favourite places – on a train with a cup of tea, Kitkat and a crisps (smokey bacon crisps with real East Anglian flavouring 😉 ), feeling first class, with time to indulge a meditative mood. The train I am now on as I write this was a few minutes late and seems to be going at a very leisurely pace but though I hope it will catch up with its time eventually, I’m on holiday and feeling relaxed and don’t really mind if it’s late as I’ve no connections to make. While I was waiting on the platform for it in London I was just going to get out the phone and check the time and I checked myself thinking, why? I won’t make the train come any faster by knowing what time it is. I began thinking about why it is that we need so badly to ‘pace’ ourselves and know about how long we have to wait for things, and that we never just sit and wait, until it happens, whatever it is that we’re waiting for. I don’t think it’s anxiety over whether it is coming at all, or whether we’re waiting in the right place, it’s simply anxiety to have an idea of how long we’ve got to wait, even though knowing will serve no other useful purpose. When I wait for a bride it can serve a good purpose to know how long she will be – I know whether I’ve got time for a cup of tea, or to check another email, but on the station with no café on the particular platform where I am, what purpose is served? Why, when I know I’m in the right place and before the awaited event, can’t I just give up my need to know the time and just wait? Well I can, and I did, and the moment I withdrew my hand from my pocket and set myself to just wait, a different mindset came over me, not dissimilar to the experience I have when I redirect my mobile phone at the beginning of my day off each week and leave the phone out of reach. With the phone there is an element of release that I am no longer ‘on call’, but with the phone and the waiting for the train there is the shared element of giving up control. I prefer to manage my life mostly, but it’s quite relaxing to let go of that and let the world go on as it pleases. Being alert for the train I’m waiting for, but not seeking to manage the waiting time, I watch the passing passengers and trains with simple detached enjoyment. Brain in neutral for a little, with the remembrance of the presence of God a constant practice, I look and drink it in. It’s lovely to have the leisure to do this. Make some time in your life for space – timetable in some untimetabled time, plan in some time for not having a plan. You may come face to face with yourself, which can be scary for some, but with God present, you will be safe. You may come face to face with a world you haven’t seen before, the world you live in, and with God present, well, you will find something good.
This last month we have been enjoying showing off our parish to a visiting ordinand from Cramner Hall in Durham, UK. We have enjoyed her interaction with us too – you can see some of what she got up to here. Her description of church in England makes me realise in part how extraordinary life is here compared to there (or is that there compared to here? Is anywhere ‘normal’?). I am struck also by how the same human frailties show themselves in church life in different places.
In our parish we are particularly conscious of our frailties at the moment as we face an Extraordinary General Meeting of church members in September to discuss a number of proposals – I will give details in church by the end of August. We have an unexpected extra council meeting scheduled in two weeks and I do wonder what else will be coming up then. I ask your prayers for our chaplaincy, for Archdeacon Bill Shwartz, and for our Bishop, Michael Lewis and all who advise him. With regard to Bishop Michael I would ask your prayers particularly at this time for his family.
God reaches out to touch our lives and we reach out to God, but too often it looks like we don’t quite make contact. And yet, we actually can, and we do.