Reflecting on where we are, I was reminded of this picture, which I took on the Pilgrimage to Paris back in 2015. The Pilgrimage was, as some of you will remember, to raise awareness and to pray for the success of the Paris climate change talks. We started at St Martin in the Fields and most of the pilgrims walked to Paris, though I stopped at Newhaven as I had a parish to take care of.
This photo was taken close to the end of a long, rainy day, when we were doggedly walking towards Crawley.
There are too many unanswered questions, at the moment, aren't there. There are too many unknowns - both known and unknown. We are each, in our different ways, trying to work out what this new normal looks like, as we pray for an effective vaccine and try to avoid a second spike. The road is long and the journey is not easy.
At the same time, we are trying to continue with the things that matter: trying to make sure that we offer and receive the care we need, that those of us who are working can be as productive as possible, and that our lives are as full as possible. It all feels quite dogged and quite insecure to me, at the moment.
Shanon and I were very fortunate to have a week's rest in Wales last week. The after effects are still here, just, but I am also finding quickly that the sense I had previously, of feeling quite disorientated and unsure, is returning. But I am also feeling, very constantly, that we are all undergirded by the love of God and by the love of the community around us. Prayer is powerfully needed at the moment, but it also, in my experience, carries us to new places, even on journeys which feel long and hard.
So if you are feeling disorientated or afraid, I want to say - take courage! As John's Gospel says, in chapter 16.33:
'I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!'
And I am pleased that on the journey we have such tremendous companions. The Annual Parish Meeting on Sunday went well, under the circumstances. Lots of people were there or on Zoom and I am delighted that we elected the following people to roles with particular responsibility:
Elaine Thomas to join Lindy Taylor as Churchwarden.
Faye Clinch and Terry McLeman as Deputy Churchwardens.
Pat Thomas as PCC Secretary.
Philippa Owen, Ken Hamilton, Declan Dunford-Crozier as new PCC members.
Deborah Watkins and Liz Clarson as Deanery Synod reps.
I think this is a wonderful outcome - they join the rest of the PCC and so many of you who contribute in so many ways. Thank you to everyone who was willing to step forward! And thank you to those who have stepped down or come to the end of their time - especially to Mark Ormerod, our retiring PCC Secretary - who also retires from his role at the Supreme Court today. We wish you all the best, Mark.
The hybrid worship continues on Sunday as usual. I hope to see you there.
And, to finish with, a poem which reminds me of Lockdown and might take you briefly to another place:
BY EDWARD THOMAS
Yes. I remember Adlestrop-
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop-only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
With my love, and prayers, as ever,