A Letter from Reverend Ronnie Nesbitt, 24 March 2020.
We are living through extraordinary times when almost all the things that felt certain about have been shaken and a feeling of anxiety, bordering on fear, permeates the air. As people of faith we continue to put our trust in the eternal, loving God revealed in the face of Jesus Christ. But let us not pretend that makes us immune from apprehension and unease.
I was quoting some words of Julian of Norwich who lived during the fourteenth century. Quoting her because of the times in which she lived which included the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt. Quoting her also because she knew a lot about self-isolation, living for much of her life in seclusion in a cell attached to St Julian’s Church in Norwich!
The best known saying attributed to her is,
‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well’.
It is an expression of hope and of life beyond the current crisis. But it’s not meant to be glib. I love the poet Ann Lewin’s reflection on the words,
“All shall be well.”
She must have said that
sometimes through gritted teeth.
Surely, she knew the moments
when fear gnaws at trust,
the future loses shape,
The courage that says
all shall be well
doesn’t mean feeling no fear,
but facing it, trusting
God will not let go.
All shall be well
doesn’t deny present experience
but roots it deep
in the faithfulness of God,
whose will and gift is life”.
For another reflection have a listen online to Sydney Carter’s hymn ‘Julian of Norwich’.
But let us seek to live in faith, with courage and love and especially to reach out to each other so that no one feels entirely on their own.
Especially let us head the advice of the government about social isolating, it is not good advice, it is a matter of life and death not just ourselves but also for others.
The situation is changing by the hour but at the moment let me say something about arrangements within the parish.
All services have been cancelled for the foreseeable future at the instruction of the Bishop and central church authority.
Mark has been leading us in daily prayer each day on our Facebook page the times are nine o’clock, morning and evening. I want to say a huge thank you to him for that. You can find him by going to Mark Gallagher on Facebook or follow the link BangorAbbeyFacebook .
We will seek to broadcast Sunday worship through the same medium at 10.30 am and soon will be offering an online celebration of Holy Communion on Wednesdays at our usual slot, 10.30 am. It will seem strange and remote but it might be that, if you are comfortable, taking bread and wine in your own home at the appropriate moment will enable you to experience the physical reality! The spiritual reality will already be there.
If we change any of this we will try and let you know. Please phone the office for technical advice … and hope Mark is about!
We will try to keep in touch as much as possible but obviously there are limitations.
The office is open, at the moment, phone Eileen on 91451087, between 10.am and 1.00 pm.
Mark can be contacted on 91472173.
I am available at home 91460173.
We will do what we can especially at critical moments of illness or bereavement.
We don’t have contact details for everyone, the uptake on our request for information for data protection purposes had a very limited take up! Perhaps you would like to email your details and grant us permission to store them?
If we can, we will do a phone around to have a quick chat and catch up!
We will remember you in our prayers and again if you have any specific requests please let us know.
If you would like to volunteer to offer help practically for a parishioner who is near you can you let us know through one of the mediums above. Some of our parishioners have minimal family support.
Can you think of those who worshipped near you in church or who live near you and even drop them a note to let them know you are there for them, if needed?
We hope that this support can become a little more coordinated as we go along.
There are lots of things going online that you can access for uplift, spiritual and other, the humour, even if black, is rather uplifting too! There is even a virtual Bible Study lead by Sam McWilliams.
Bishop David has asked us to include his prayer letter which shall be posted tomorrow. But please note some of his information on church opening is already out of date. No church premises are open and all organisations have stopped their activities.
I hope you might forgive some matters that must seem trivial at a time like this, but many of you have been asking about finance, especially your ‘envelopes’! We are very dependent upon face to face giving and if you are able to leave envelopes into the office that would be really helpful. If you can’t you might want to but some money aside each week – but only if you are able – many of you will find yourselves in difficult waters and with essential bills to cover. Setting up a direct debit is even better ………….
Please Click HERE for a Standing Order PDF Document
But I say all that very gently in the circumstances.
Never do we miss having our ancient, solid, enduring, familiar Abbey more than at this time. It would be lovely to rest within its quietness and draw strength from its physical witness to the faith. St Columba’s and the Chapel are also sadly out of bounds. We are committed to the work taking place and contractors are already on site. Funding has inevitably become more of an issue with our inability to fund raise hitting us particularly hard. Please continue to give, where you are able. Some may be able to give more significantly as an expression of hope for the future, that too would boost our morale. But simply keep all these things and the rest in your prayers.
Do pray. Perhaps for the first time meaningfully. So often we manage to get along in our own strength. And remember it is not about eloquence but about earnestness.