A note from the Vicarage...

There’s a pretty little market town in the north of England called Yarm, near where I used to live.  Once a year, in the Autumn, it has a fair.  The wide high street with its little town hall in the middle gets filled with stalls and booths and lots of fairground rides and masses of people.  And, of course, I used to go with my friends and have fun, and ride on the rides.

Some of the rides, back then, were rather dodgy.  I rode once (once!) on a machine called ‘The Eggs’.  It consisted of a big vertical wheel on which was mounted about six oval shaped metal pods in which two people could sit.  They were mounted with just one pivot on one side, in such a way that they swung and tumbled unpredictably as the big wheel went round.   

Well, the ride was unbelievably violent.  And the all-important pivot attaching my pod to the wheel was, it turned out, well past its sell-by date.  The only thing that was stopping the pod, with me in it, hurtling off into oblivion was in fact completely worn out.  I could see – I could feel – the pod slopping and clonking around it as we swung and whirled this way and that.  Would it hold? I focussed all my attention on that pivot, which – thank God – seemed to stay more or less where it should be, and held on for grim death until the brutal experience was over.  That pivot was my one still point in a madly turning and very frightening world for those few minutes.

A still point in a turning world.

That’s actually one of my favourite descriptions of God (who isn’t, by the way, worn out or past his sell-by date).  And the world seems to be turning madly and frighteningly as I write this, as we face the pandemic and the resultant sweeping changes being forced upon society and the ways in which we all live.   There’s a real sense of fear, and of hanging on grimly until this particular experience is over.  And of hoping that we and all our friends and loved ones come through in one piece.

For me (and I’m human like everyone else), the only way through is to focus on God, who doesn’t change and who has promised to be with us in all of life’s challenges.  Yes, faith is very important to me at all times, but particularly so in this current crisis.  At the heart of that faith is the promise that nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate us from God’s love even though we may feel tossed about and battered by circumstances.

So I pray.  And I encourage you to do so, too, with whatever words seem good to you to use.  But here’s an old prayer I find particularly useful.  It’s from the Hebrides, from folk who were used to life being tough and unpredictable.  I hope it’s useful to you.

As the rain hides the stars, as the autumn mist hides the hills, as the clouds veil the blue of the sky, so the dark happenings of my lot hide the shining of Thy face from me. Yet, if I may hold Thy hand in the darkness, it is enough. Since I know that, though I may stumble in my going, Thou dost not fall.

Alistair Maclean, Hebridean Altars, 1937

With every blessing, and my continued prayers,

Nick