God still needs prophets – now perhaps more than at other times – thanks to Simon Sutcliffe and Andrew Emison for reminding me of this hymn.. Kiki

1 God still needs prophets who will rage,
against discrimination,
who speak God’s words amid despair,
to this and every nation;
who reach again with nail?scarred hands
into the pain we’re feeling,
to hold us when we weep at loss,
who bring a hope of healing.

2 God still needs prophets who will hold
a mirror to our blindness,
to show us, each and everyone,
how hollow is our kindness;
how empty are our words of love
when shrouded in derision;
how clever words can’t justify
unloving indecision.

3 God still needs prophets who ignore
religions that confine us,
who magnify our words of love
through actions to refine us.
May we be prophets through our words
and in our hands of healing,
that others might see Christ in us
while Christ to us revealing.

Andrew E Pratt (born 1948)

Words © 2015 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

Metre: 8 7 8 7 D

COMMUNION IN A TIME OF COVID – (Part 2)

COMMUNION IN A TIME OF COVID (Part 2)

Response to Part 1 has demonstrated, in part how we are constrained by legalism and tradition, what we can and cannot do without recognizing how our discipline, our regulation, is a human construct and doesn’t always relate to scripture. Another hymn:

The Church of Christ in every age
Beset by change but Spirit led,
Must claim and test its heritage
And keep on rising from the dead.
Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000) © 1971 Stainer & Bell Ltd

We are living in and through a crisis. Judaeo Christian religion has existed through as sequence of crises each giving rise to changes in theology, sometimes permanently, sometimes transient. The changes have been initiated by natural events or human action. Faith has survived but its expression has often altered almost beyond recognition. The hymn makes the point that every age has its own crises, challenges, opportunities which bring about change. In these the church should look at its heritage and test what is relevant in its particular age and circumstance. Sometimes the change will be so immense, so radical, that it is like death. Sometimes it is death. But at this season (Easter) and in this crisis (Covid 19) we need to hold onto the trust that there is something beyond the crisis but that the crisis may well be literally or metaphorically one of death. Our faith, however, speaks of resurrection. But this is not a one-off at one time but beyond each crisis the church has kept ‘on rising form the dead’.

And so to Communion again. So much is focused here, and the more important an event and its commemoration in society, the more it tends to be hedged round in constraint, formality and law. The name Pharisee might come to mind. An animal had fallen into a ditch. But it was a Sabbath. ‘Get it out’, says Jesus. Rules are not meant to have a negative but a life-enhancing effect – I paraphrase.

We have been trying to work out how, and if, we can have communion in which one person presides and another in another place receives, the link being virtual, a streamed service. Methodism at one point in time decided that this would not be legitimate. You need a Presbyter on site to Preside. We are saying that such presidency is not legitimate in a virtual environment. So that’s decided.

In 1987 a man was taken hostage, held for a number of years and for much of the time in solitary confinement. He was a Christian. Communion meant something to him. He had no bread no wine, no companion. I recollect he spoke of lighting a candle and for him this was a eucharistic moment. His name was Terry Waite and he was, then the Special Envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.

Our context is not as extreme. We have bread, we have wine (or as Methodists, grape juice). Some Christians, in isolation, have all of these. Some have company. Some might be able to ‘join’ a virtual service. What they don’t have is an ordained or authorized person to read the liturgy, to break the bread and share the wine. They just have themselves. Much like the first Christians in Acts 2:46 ‘Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home’.

We have our restrictions in place for the sake of church order and that is important, but as the story of the animal in the ditch testifies rules sometimes need to be broken, particularly if they are humanly made.

What we are currently saying seems to be that if I as a Presbyter living with three family members at a time of Covid want to share communion with my family that is totally acceptable. However, my neighbour who is not a Presbyter, Priest, who is without church authorization in any shape or form cannot. That cannot be right. Each household is the Body of Christ. Are we saying we cannot discern this Body?

These are not ordinary times. Like Terry Waite, many are in isolation. While holding to the rules of the church, where we must I see no conflict in a family who cannot access a church holding their own communion in the only way which is feasible – on their own, if virtual communion is not allowed or in circumstances when for one reason or another even that option is not open to them.

I sense a can of worms being opened … but ‘The church of Christ in every age, beset by change but Spirit led …Must keep on rising from the dead.

 

The care of all we seek or see – another response to the Coronavirus crisis: Psalm 121 – new link to a setting by John Kleinheksel added

The care of all we seek or see
was put into our hands,
but through our human arrogance
we thought we ruled all lands.
There was no thing beyond our grasp,
nor task beyond our means,
but limits hold us, keep us back,
deep-rooted in our genes.

Within a world of tooth and claw,
competing for a place,
we thought that we could dominate:
a mighty, human race.
But shocked, we should have recognized
our place within a plan,
we should have used our intellect
to prove our finite span.

We thought we were invincible
but now we understand,
a virus that we cannot see
could mark our final stand.
‘Pride comes before a fall’, they say,
and we were very proud,
but now we rue the day we spoke,
to state our case out loud.

At last it seems we need to pause,
to understand our plight,
to own our vulnerability,
to walk into the light:
Great God, however we believe,
we plead, we cry, we call,
come hold us, keep us, lift us up,
God catch us as we fall.
Andrew Pratt 20/3/2020
Metre: CMD
Tune: BETHLEHEM; CLAUDIUS (Fink)
Tune setting: The.Care.of.All.We.Seek.Virus
Words © 2020 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.

When evil gathers in the wings – Bad things happen when good people do nothing…hymn

Bad things happen when good people do nothing…

When evil gathers in the wings
the time of crisis offers choice:
to rise with courage and resist
or keep our silence, still each voice.
What shall we do when chaos reigns,
act out God’s love? Submit to chains?

As history echoes from the past,
while memories can tend to fade,
‘lest we forget’ let us recast
the hard decisions others made:
to live the love that Christ had shown,
self sacrificial, Spirit blown.

Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: ABINGDON

 

Our borders, our walls mock the faith that we own -Hymn/Poem

Our borders, our walls mock the faith that we own,
denying the Christ that we claim to enthrone,
for Christ is our neigbour to love or reject,
for us to disdain, or to treat with respect.

The justice of God is as real as our flesh,
as real as each life that we drown or refresh;
as active as righteousness seen in the cross,
where love met with hatred while bearing the loss.

And now, in this moment, we need to decide,
our crisis of conscience to love or deride:
to claim that some small print lets us off the hook,
or answer, with courage, Christ’s challenging look?

Andrew Pratt 14/7/2019
Words © 2019 Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England, http://www.stainer.co.uk.
Please include any reproduction for local church use on your CCL Licence returns. All wider and any commercial use requires prior application to Stainer & Bell Ltd.
Tune: ST DEINIO