Thought for the Month: Practising Hope

May 15 2020
Thought for the Month: Practising Hope

With Stephen Newell, United Reformed Church Minister, Zion United Church, Frampton Cotterell

WHEN I type into my phone it often changes the words that I'm trying to type because it thinks it 'blows' where I am going! They call this predictive text. More often than not, I call it a pain!

The last few months have made it abundantly clear that although we may think that we know the path that our life is taking, in reality we do not know.

None of us could have imagined the changes we have witnessed. Having said that I have heard that some with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) who sometimes wash their hands 100-300 times in a day... Have been heard to say... 'There I told you so, it's a dangerous world out there!'

I hope it is OK to smile at this thought, but it is also a sombre reminder that we all cope with the anxieties that we face in the world in different ways.

During this Covid pandemic our anxieties have been amplified, and many of our coping mechanisms have been removed. Particularly the love and support that we derive from our fellow human beings.

I will share very briefly my story. At the beginning of this pandemic I was faced with three challenges, firstly my children and their partners were working in the front line, albeit in different parts of the country.

My elderly father, who lives nearby, is increasingly dependent on me and my wife. And the church was clearly not going to be able to continue as 'normal.'

When stuff happens in the news, I normally pride myself on getting clued up to what is happening. In this instance, the more I knew, the worse and more anxious I began to feel. I thus had to make a decision, what would I do about my anxiety. I decided upon the one thing that I ought to do all the time: prayer.

My first concrete action was a commitment to myself that I would not begin each day by reading about all the latest deaths, and thus stoking my anxiety. I would begin each day drawing close to God and praying for those I love, near and far, and for all those who are serving us during this crisis.

It turns out, for me at least, this was a very good decision! My levels of anxiety dropped, and I was much better able to support my loved ones, and indeed cope with the myriad of changes that seemed to come each day.

It also turned out that I had chosen a pathway which suited 'lockdown' rather well. I was struck listening to those who had lived in isolation – astronauts, arctic explorers, soldiers and even monks – that a crucial aspect of surviving isolation is to create a rhythm in each day and week. Morning, Midday and Night Prayer did this for me, alongside the very different rhythms that soon developed on a Sunday and weekend.

Of course I am not suggesting that I lost all anxiety. Not at all. However within a rhythm and practice of prayer and reflection, I had stumbled upon a reality that I am quite sure has helped me. To this end, I would like to invite others to join me in this ancient practice. I have decided to make myself as available as I can to anyone in the Frampton, Coalpit or Winterbourne area who wants to explore a practice of prayer.

I call it: Practising Hope in a Time of Uncertainty.

At present I am arranging these meetings 'virtually' and will offer this help to anyone who is willing to honestly admit that 'there may be a God!' (don’t worry if you’ve missed my initial meeting just contact me if you are interested.)

You are invited to an introductory Zoom meeting on Thursday May 21 at either 2pm or 8.15pm

(please indicate which time is convenient for you).

If you would like to find out more please contact me via Zion United Church's website www.zuchurch.co.uk or our phone line, 01454 776618.

I pray God's blessing and healing upon you and all you love, and I ask that you too may find a pathway to peace in a time of great uncertainty.