Older thoughts

Rev Annabel Barber, 6th April 2020:

There seem to be a lot of places we can no longer go in these difficult days, I usually swim regularly and my body is missing the visits to the swimming pool. I love the long empty Lincolnshire beaches and walking these with Tolly the dog, another thing we're both missing at the moment. I imagine they’re even emptier than usual at the moment! In Holy Week one of the events I look forward to is meeting up with all the other priests from the Diocese in our beautiful Cathedral. Online just isn’t quite the same.
As we move through this Holy Week we remember Jesus being moved from place to place, and in our minds we go with him. From the upper room of the last supper to the Garden of Gethsemane, then on with the guards to the high priest Caiaphas’ house. Maybe we stand with Peter by the fire in the Courtyard and hear the cock crow. On Good Friday we will remember Jesus’ terrible journey from place to place carrying his cross. A journey that ends at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.
It is good to be able to make this journey in our imaginations with Jesus. To have the time to quietly spend recalling these important places. And in this strange time of being set in one place, it has been good to feel very settled and safe at home.
Perhaps this Holy Week you could find a favourite place in your home to sit and think and pray each day. Bring together a few things that help you to recognise that this is a special place for meeting with God, possibly a few flowers in a glass, a candle, a cross, or a favourite picture. Preparing this place may help you focus on God as, with Christians from every place and time, we begin our journey through the places of Holy Week.

16th March 2019

It wasn't until nearly evening yesterday that I heard the terrible news from New Zealand. It felt all the worse that the terrorist attack had happened in a country where people felt so safe, and where many refugees had finally felt that they had found sanctuary.

Two weeks ago our mosque in Lincoln had an open day. Like many people I'd watched it being built as I drove down Dixon Street. So I thought I'd go along, from sheer curiosity! We were welcomed very graciously, and it was really encouraging to see that many Lincoln residents had taken up the invitation to visit. It is a beautiful building,fully funded by the Muslim community, and we were encouraged to explore it, to see where the Iman stands to lead worshippers, to look at the amazingly beautiful roof and chandeliers, to hold copies of the Koran, and to understand a bit more about Islamic beliefs.

In many ways it reminded me of any 'church' open day! There were refreshments, face painting and activities for the children, you could have your name written in Arabic (so beautiful!), or try on a headscarf.

But there was one difference that was quite shocking. There was an exhibition of how Islamophobia is being expressed in ordinary newspaper headlines in the UK. Twisted words that demonise Islam have become acceptable in this country, and it shocked me. The events of yesterday have reminded me that fear of people who are different from me can all too easily spill over into violence. We may not be able to tackle a gunman in the streets, but we can all do what we can to tell those who print our newspapers that hateful headlines and lies about our brothers and sisters of other faiths will not be tolerated. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that it's not enough to just not harm someone, that to live the gospel we should love one another as he has loved us. And in love, there is no place for hatred and bigotry, whether this is expressed with a gun, or with a newspaper headline.

10th October

Jesus talked to the people about growing crops, shepherding sheep, and fishing. Not many of us now live close to the land, or catch our own fish! We have to digest whar Jesus said, find the kernel of life in his words.

Sunday will be our harvest festival. Perhaps you’ll come to sing your favourite harvest hymns (yes, we’ll be ploughing the fields and scattering!😀). Perhaps you’ll come because it is good for you to spend a little time being grateful for all you have that is good in your life (scientists tell us that gratitude is good for our health!). Perhaps you want to offer something back for our foodbanks which are increasingly relied on by people who are struggling, or to pray for the farmers around the world whose harvest will not be enough.

But have you ever thought about the harvest of your own life? What are you growing? Where do Jesus’ words find good soil in your heart? What is the harvest for which you, snd all those sround you ‘thank the Lord’?

11th October 2018:

I suppose it’s not surprising that I always seem drawn to the ‘Traditional’ when it comes to Harvest Festival. Being grateful for our food is important, even if we never see the cows that produce our milk, or the corn that grows in the fields..

The one thing I remember so clearly about harvest on the farm was how dirty everything was. The combine harvester seemed like an enormous monster, and the dirt and chaff that came out of it got everywhere, into eyes and ears, everything you wore was coated in it, even your sandwishes tasted gritty!

Days in the harvest field were long, and hot, and the straw was scratchy. And there was always the heightened anxiety for my Dad who wasa perfectionist. Had he decided to harvest at that golden moment when the corn would be dry, but he would still have enough time to get the field harvested before dusk fell or the rain came? We tiptoed through life hoping and praying that he would not get overwhelmed by the anxiety and descend into the depths of the depression that took him into the psychiatric hosptial for months at a time. No one talked about rural stress, and we followed the instruction “tell no one”.

Harvest is always costly. Bringing forth something that sustains the lives of others. And each of us brings our own harvest. Whether it is food to keep us alive, or those more intangible things that we all need - friendship, love, even sometimes just a kind comment or a smile. These are the harvests that we can all produce, and for which we are all grateful.

2oth July, 2018:

Do you remember the children’s story about the King who had no clothes? There was once a King eho loved his people and ruled wisely and well. But he also loved his clothes. He liked to be the best-dressed man in every room he went into. And his tailor was always having to think of new ways to make his clothes special. The King spent more and more on his clothes, and his country began to suffer. He spent less and less time ruling wisely and well, and the crops began to fail. Fashions began to change faster and faster at court. And everyone became obsessed by how they looked. But one day the King walked into a room and realised that everyone else had much nicer clothes than he did. He was furious, and stamped out of the room and went back to bed. He wouldn’t eat, and he wouldn’t drink. The Queen was worried that he might die.

The courtiers looked for things to cheer him up. They brought him the newest fashions in buttons, but he wouldn’t look at them. They brought silken cloth of gold, but he only sighed (“So last year!”) they brought him glistening rainbow thread, but he complained it felt coarse. His talor brought him drawings of wilder and wilder fashions, Big sleeved coats, tight trousers, frilled shirts. But the King just flicked through the pages and sighed again. His country fell to the wolves, and his people began to die of starvation.

Then a stranger arrived at Court. He had a big pair of shears in his hand, and said he had come to cheer the King up by making him a new set of clothes. The Courtiers were overjoyed, and rushed him into the King’s chambers. “I will make you the most wonderful suit of clothes“ he told the King. “They will be far in advance of any clothes that have ever been seen.” ”They will be made of cloth woven by hummingbirds from moonbeam thread spun by the lunar spiders, a thread so fine that only the most exclusive, sophisticated eyes can see it. No one will have clothes finer than the Kings, and everyone will envy him.”The King was overjoyed and bounced out of bed. He could hardly wait for his new, exclusive, unbelievably expensive clothes, even though they were going to cost more than his kingdom.

The stranger locked himself in one of the towers, and was only seen when he came to check the King’s measurements. He wouldn’t allow the King to try his new clothes on until they were entirely finished. Then triumphantly he brought the suit to the King’s bedchamber and helped him into them.”See how good the fit is!” he cried. “You hardly even notice the weight of such fine, beautifully crafted cloth”. The King had to agree. All the courtiers sighed in admiration as the King paraded around in his new suit. The King went outside into the garden, and all the people who saw him told him how wonderful he looked. All, that is, except the gardener’s boy. He looked at the King and laughed! He didn’t admire the fit of the clothes, or marvel at the fine cloth made of moonbeams. He just pointed and shouted “You haven’t got any clothes on!!’

Burberry have burned £28 million of clothes and other goods to prevent them from bringing down the price of their products. How many people will be clothed in their exclusive garments spun from the finest ash....?

12th July, 2018:

It’s been a while since I last wrote on here. I can blame lack of time, doing Other Things, but in truth, it’s not where my attention has been. But today I am struck by the phrase ‘work in progress’. I am itching to get on with something I’m sewing, my own current’work in progress’. It is partly composed of shells, and is very fragile, so I am having to work slowly and carefully (not my usual way), and have forced myself to slow down. And I started thinking about how we too are all ‘work in progress’.

It’s easy to get sucked into thinking that how things are is how things will always be. To forget that we are changing all the time, and that life is always bringing us fresh delights and challenges. Physically, the whole body is renewed completely every seven years. And we have the wonderful capacity to be learning from our experiences all the time and choosing to change. When we look back at our lives there are bound to be things that we would have done differently, but that doesn’t mean we made the wrong decision at the time.

i hope you weren’t too disappointed by the football result last night. Building a team takes time, and this too is a work in progress!

27th April, 2018:

I’ve been watching the Alfie Evans case in the press. Part of me wants this baby boy to be given every possible chance for life. Part of me understands the logic of the doctor’s position, and that ’life support’ is an invasive, unpleasant process. All of me grieves for the breakdown in trust between the doctors and medical staff, and Alfie’s parents. But the real questions here are “how do we judge someone else’s quality of life?“ and “who has power to decide?” in these cases where the ethical issues are so complex.

Each of us has different things that we enjoy, and that we would say make life worth living. But I think ‘being loved’ would be high on most people’s list. There is joy in love and relationships that soothes the soul. And Alfie is clearly much loved. ‘Being perfect‘ would not make it onto most people’s lists. But somehow we seem to be moving towards a society where it is expected that all babies should be born perfect. Pre-natal screening is increasing in its ability to warn of ’imperfections’ yet there is no public debate of whether this is what we want for our society. Do the doctors really know best? Haven’t we reached the point where our society can cope with diversity and imperfections, and where everyone can be valued, the powerless as well as the powerful?

20th April, 2018:

Just back from a short retreat. I haven't been looking at the news or facebook, so had missed out on what was happening in the world. Such as the Windrush problems. People who have lived in this country all their lives and contributed so much to us through their lives, their work, their taxes, and their creativity suddenly made to feel that they no longer belong to UK society.

Wherever we live, we all need that sense of belonging. Of having people who care about you and will help you. Of being a valued part of the community. But we are not always good about allowing others who are different from us to 'join' and belong with us. This can even be a challenge to the church sometimes. New people may bring change! 🙂

Last night I was given a beautiful 'thank-you' note because we had welcomed someone into our church community during the last few months of his life. He wasn't an easy person, and sometimes it was a challenge. But I am just so glad that we did. We all learned from him, and were enriched by him being part of our community, and I am pleased that he was able to continue his lifelong faith journey with us at such an important time in his life.

We need to reject these barriers that are being put up in our nation, and argue with those who try to tell us that we have to protect our resources because they are scarce. We have been immeasurably enriched by the people who have emigrated to the UK, they belong with us. In the Bible Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, reminds us that we are all one in God's eyes ("There is neither Jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, neither is their male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus") and perhaps we should remember the Good Samaritan...

14th April, 2018:

I feel that I have woken in a less safe world today. I don't believe that violence ever solves the 'problem' of violence. I do believe that politicians at times use the military might of the countries they govern to deflect attention away from their own mismanagement. And to bolster failing domestic economic policies as well as to boost their own popularity (remember,"We're all in this together"?). And I believe there should be a public debate in parliament and in the nation as a whole before military action is ever taken against another country, even if that slows the response. The use of force should always be an absolutely last resort after all peaceful resolution has been tried.

This week in Linooln we saw the unveiling of the monument to the brave people who served and died as part of Bomber Command during the second world war. The death toll was particularly high in Lincolnshire. At one point the life expectancy among some crews was just 2 weeks. I remember my mother telling me of how she would count the bombers as they flew out over the house, and then count the ones returning...

There is a feeling that we have had to wait so long for the bravery and sacrifice of bomber crews to be honoured because international public opinion is uncomfortable with the huge civilian deaths that resulted from bombing raids. But the pilots didn't determine the policies and strategies that were used. That was the resposibility of the politicians.

If we want to defend democracy, surely we need to make democratic decisions ourselves? Surely the voices of our people should be given a chance to be heard or our 'democratically elected representatives' won't be representing us. And I find myself (strangely) agreeing with Donald Trump's words to Russia and Iran, "The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep". I am not sure that our politicians have chosen our friends wisely, or for the best of reasons.

13th April 2018:

It feels to have been a long winter of storms, and snow, cold and fog. I quite like having 'proper' seasons, but by April that should mean warmer days, and the encouragement of spring! At least we have the daffodils and other spring flowers, even if they are a little later than last yesr.

I'm not a fanatical gardener, but I do have occasional bursts of enthusiasm and love the colour that flowers bring into our lives. To be a good gardener takes real commitment to the life of the garden, as well as understanding of what the different plants need, where they will flourish best, and when is the right time to prune or fertilise. It also takes an understanding of the soil, and the conditions that are going to affect the garden. There is always something to do, some pests to fight (organically, of course!) and some new thing to learn about a garden.

In some ways we are like the plants in the garden of the soul. Our Gardener knows what we need for us to flourish and he is committed to loving us and caring for us. But unlike the plants in the garden, we can choose whether we want to be cared for and cherished, even if sometimes that may mean a time of painful pruning! And, if we want to, we can drag up our roots and go it alone without the Gardener's help.