Monday, April 20, 2020

And in other news...

...and in other news...

A weekly newsletter from St Peter and St Paul, Seal, to help us keep in touch with one another at this time. 
Dear Friends
I hope you are enjoying the spring weather (though it would be good if the chilly east wind would stop!). As I have been talking to people online and on the phone recently there seems to have been a great amount of gardening going on, for those with gardens, and those without have been sowing things on windowsills. It's the time of year when the world around us seems determined to grow, whatever else is happening. I've just put my tomato plants out in the greenhouse, where they will grow on and fruit, and the veg plot is starting to fill up too. It's a reminder that we really have arrived at Easter, even if we didn't have all the usual services to mark the moment. People have told me that they enjoyed the podcasts for Easter Sunday, and yesterday too, though, so I hope we are feeling at least a bit "Easterish". It has been especially good to be able to splice in readings and music from familiar voices at Seal. The grown-ups have been great, but I think Esme and Ana's spirited rendition of Psalm 148 on Easter Sunday won the prize for most "up-cheering" thing I heard! Links to the current week's worship podcasts are on the church website and blog, but you can listen to past ones at if you have missed any.

This Sunday just gone we focussed on the story of Thomas in the morning service. He missed seeing Jesus on the day of his resurrection, and said he wouldn't believe in him unless he could see and touch his wounds for himself. For that, he has been saddled with the title "Doubting Thomas" for centuries, but in fact, he was only asking for the same thing as the rest of the disciples had had, a real experience of Jesus. I explored what that might mean for us in my sermon yesterday if you want to know more.
As I thought about the story in preparation, I looked at some of the depictions of it in art. The most famous is probably by Caravaggio - see first picture below -, and I've included a video which talks about it below.

What's really noticeable in this picture is the way that Thomas and the other disciples (probably Peter and John) are focussed entirely on the wounds, almost like a forensic scientist might be. It's not a painting for the squeamish!
There are many other versions of this scene though, and I was particularly struck by the fact that in some of them, like the picture by Daniel Seiter - below left - and the manuscript illustration by Martin Schongauer - below right,  Thomas is looking at Jesus, not the wounds. It's as if he has realised that it's not the "scientific" proof that is most important to him, but the relationship he has with Jesus, the whole person, his friend. He stops looking for explanations, because the need for them melts away as he meets the person who has loved and changed him.

What do you think of these pictures? Which speaks to you most? 

Anne Le Bas
This video explores the famous picture by Caravagio of this week's Gospel story, the Incredulity of Thomas.
A favourite Easter Hymn to listen to. "Love is come again" sung by Ely Cathedral Choir.
Sevenoaks Foodbank
Reports from those who help at the Loaves and Fishes foodbank say that it is fairly well stocked at the moment, and though some helpers have had to self-isolate because of their age or health conditions, they have as many helpers as they can safely use, since they obviously have to maintain safe distances between them. If you do want to donate food, it is best if they take it to St John's Church hall on a Thursday between 1 and 2pm only. If you come across people in need, please let me know, however, even if they aren't on the foodbank's registers, and we will do what we can to help. 
Vanessa Griffiths sent along this lovely poem by E.E Cummings, and a photo she took of our little church. Thank you, Vanessa.

i am a little church(no great cathedral)
far from the splendor and squalor of hurrying cities
i do not worry if briefer days grow briefest,
i am not sorry when sun and rain make april

my life is the life of the reaper and the sower;
my prayers are prayers of earth’s own clumsily striving
(finding and losing and laughing and crying) children
whose any sadness or joy is my grief or my gladness

around me surges a miracle of unceasing
birth and glory and death and resurrection:
over my sleeping self float flaming symbols
of hope, and i wake to a perfect patience of mountains

i am a little church(far from the frantic
world with its rapture and anguish)at peace with nature
i do not worry if longer nights grow longest;
i am not sorry when silence becomes singing

winter by spring, i lift my diminutive spire to
merciful Him Whose only now is forever:
standing erect in the deathless truth of His presence
(welcoming humbly His light and proudly His darkness) 

Prayer of the week

Blessed are you, Sovereign God, our light and our salvation; to you be glory and praise forever! You led your people out of slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land, lighting their path before them. May we who walk in the light of your presence acclaim your Christ rising victorious, as he banishes all darkness from our hearts and minds, and praise you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessed be God forever.

This is the prayer we use as we light the Paschal Candle at the beginning of the Easter Sunday service. This year, that wasn't possible, but I lit it in the vicarage anyway! The candle is traditionally decorated with the year, and with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of the Greek alphabet, reminding us that Jesus is with us always - in the past and the future, but also in this present moment too. 
A few people have kindly asked how they can continue to give to the church while we aren't able to hold public worship. If you normally give through the envelope scheme or by cash in the collection plate, you might like to think of taking out a standing order (form here)  or bank transfer (Account number 01377463. Sort Code 30 97 49). Gift aid forms are here

We know that many people are seeing a hit to their own income because of the lockdown, and wouldn't want anyone to feel they had to give if this was the case, but really appreciate those who can donate, as most church expenses, like insurance and stipends, continue during this time. You can also give by texting SEALCHURCH  to 70085 to donate through Donr. (Donr takes a commission of 5%, so if you can give by bank transfer that is better for us!)
If you have any questions, please contact our Treasurer, Vanessa Griffiths, who will be glad to help. 

And finally...

In case you are struggling to find ways to exercise without getting too close to others, here's what Dave Walker at suggests as a way round the problem...

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