Desert Wisdom for the Lock-down

 

This PS is an adaptation of an article published by Belfast Bible College and is used with permission (https://www.facebook.com/BelfastBibleCollege/photos/a.250728314988600/2933919253336146/).

In the late third century men and women chose the self-isolation of the Syrian and Egyptian deserts to devote themselves to exploring the spiritual life. Their spirituality was marked by a radical commitment to Christ’s call to poverty, humility and other virtues. It was also marked by separation from mainstream society in order to seek solitude.

As we are beginning to emerge from a period of enforced isolation (a desert as it were), either totally alone or in households, the desert tradition has wisdom to guide us. Continue reading

THE CALL, THE HERO AND THE CHALLENGE

When Beethoven realised that he was going deaf and that there was little hope of a cure, despair called. He avoided this by casting himself as the hero who would not be deflected from fulfilling his true vocation. For Beethoven this was his art: his music. Although he could not know what posterity would make of his work, he knew that he must continue.

Beethoven’s vision of himself reflects what Joseph Campbell distilled as key elements in the journey of any hero. He believed that when we read the stories of heroes from different times and cultures, we find that they contain the same essential elements. Continue reading

PS…The Holy Discomfort of Being Church

May 2020 saw the release of Dr Gladys Ganiel’s report on a Survey of Church Leaders in Ireland During the Pandemic. It states that many churches have found their viewing figures for online services exceed the numbers of their ‘real-life’ congregations.

Faith leaders have reported an increase of people returning to childhood faith and people new to organised religion joining them. Other Internet statistics show an increase in searches for terms around prayer and Jesus. The Church, as it shows the faithfulness of God and love for our neighbours, is perceived to be a place of safety in a tumultuous sea of uncertainty. Continue reading

Glenn Jordan (1964-2020): A short tribute

 

It is impossible to put into words the feelings of loss, shock, grief and sadness felt with news of Glenn’s sudden death last Thursday. Our hearts and prayers are with Adrienne his soul-mate and confidant; Philippa and Christopher whose maturity inspired him; and Glenn’s parents and the wider family circle in their grief, pain and loss, all made so much more difficult by current restrictions. Continue reading

And Now For Something Completely Different

The first four weeks of lockdown were revealing. Introverts were as happy as Larry having been given permission to withdraw, with no pressure to mix socially, and commended for their diligence in self-isolating.

Extroverts suffered withdrawal symptoms like drug addicts going cold turkey, counting down the hours before they could get out to exercise and wave across the road to socially distanced friends.  The number of WhatsApp groups grew exponentially and to zoom took on an entirely new meaning, nothing to do with speeding. Continue reading

PS…And your lanyard says in God we trust

Larry Norman’s ‘Great American Novel’ is a classic Christian song, prophetically ahead of its time in its articulation of the United States’ claim that Christian values are at the centre of its national life, whilst a litany of truths about power structures and daily life in the country so plainly contradicted that. The chorus of the song railed that: Continue reading

Another National Crisis

The UK’s criminal justice system has been in crisis for some years – a crisis which has become particularly acute in our over-crowded, over-stretched and under-staffed prisons and probation services. Against this background it was good to hear that the NI Justice Minister has temporarily released a number of prisoners in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus in prisons. Inmates with two months or less still to serve will be released on temporary licence in stages. Releasing the prisoners early is a humane response to overcrowding in prisons. It is hoped that it will prevent both staff and prisoners becoming infected with the Covid 19 virus. “Doubling up” has been increasingly used in NI because of an increase in the prison population. That so many have to share cells is a failure of the practice of single-celling that was established in principle two centuries ago following the work of the heroic 18th century Christian prison reformer John Howard. Continue reading

Valuing our Workers

Over the past few weeks, in amongst all the pain and suffering there have been many very uplifting stories of what people have been doing.    Perhaps the most striking one has been that of Capt Tom Moore, the 100 yr old former army officer who raised £32 million for NHS charities in the days before his 100th birthday.  Yet the words of a 42-year-old supermarket checkout manager have lodged in my mind just as clearly.   She said she felt so proud that she wanted to go back in time to tell her school headmaster about the important job she was now doing during the corona virus pandemic.   "I've never been more humbled to be a front-line worker, it’s a beautiful title’’. Continue reading