Parish Magazine

Pastoral Letter for May 2020

Dear Friends.

I write to you filled with hope in the Risen Christ. The one who defeated the power of sin and death and has enabled us to live lives of contentment and fullness, whatever the situation or circumstance.

This month we not only look back to the joy of Easter, but forward to the Ascension of our Saviour and the subsequent outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. When the Christian Church was birthed into a new reality, things were not the way they were before.

We too are faced with a new reality. We too are faced with a moment of change. No doubt, we will each be feeling differently towards this.

Our lives, this world and our church is different now, and will probably not return to the way it was before humanity shared the Covid-19 global pandemic experience.

None of us quite know the timescale and exit strategy for our post-pandemic lives. We can only speculate for how long social distancing measures will be in place. Our country and indeed this world, will continue to experience a form of disruption for some time to come.

We must work out, therefore, how best to navigate our way through this emerging reality.

Is it possible for us to thrive at this time?

Could we develop such a depth of security in Christ that we could sing that old hymn with all integrity: ‘It is well with my soul’?

There’s a lot of good advice being offered regarding how we structure our days. It’s been advised that we should continue to wake up and go to bed at a sensible time; that we should maintain good levels of hygiene and present ourselves well; that should we have three things to focus on and try to complete each day; that we should exercise for 20 minutes a day; that we should get outside once a day; that we should eat well; that we should do something that stimulates our mind; that we should stay in contact with our friends and family. That we should ask for help, especially if we find our mental fitness to be weakening.

I believe we can also thrive at this time, from a spiritual point of view. We can establish good rhythms and patterns that will enable our growth in Christ: through making a spiritual communion; through prayer and the reading of scripture; through listening to, watching or reading Christian content; by being in company with those who can inspire and comfort us in our Christian pilgrimage.

I appreciate what Father Ray says in his reflection on Spiritual Communion (see article in this edition): ‘the primary purpose… [is] to unite our hearts and souls with the sacrifice of Christ…an active entering into the mystery of Christ’s death, resurrection and glorification’.

I think the intentional discipline of doing these things will help us to abide and be joined with Christ, as Jesus said a branch belongs and abides to a vine.

Psalm 1 reminds us that the one who meditates on the law (that is the word of God) is like a tree which has been planted by a river. Its roots are let down deep, receiving such nourishment that it consistently thrives and produces fruit.

May we be like that tree, receiving life-giving nourishment from God. And may we be like the branches who abide and belong to the Vine, which is Christ. So that whatever situation we are facing, however our lives may change, we may know contentment and life in all its fullness.

In Christ, with love,

Joel and Lella Mennie

‘It is well with my Soul’, the story behind the hymn

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,

It is well,

It is well with my soul.

~ Written by Haratio G. Spafford in 1873 ~

This hymn was written by Horatio G. Spafford, following exceptional heart-breaking circumstances.

Spafford was a devout Presbyterian layman from Chicago. When not serving the church, he had established a very successful legal practice as a young businessman.

Unfortunately, during the great Chicago Fire of 1871, Spafford‘s fortunes all but disappeared.

He had invested heavily in real estate along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. But as the fire struck and spread, everything that he had worked towards was lost. Not only was he financial devastated but he had also just lost his son to illness a short time before.

However, the worst was still to come.

Wanting a rest for his wife and four daughters and desiring to join the evangelist, D.L Moody on a tour of the UK, in 1873 Spafford planned a family trip to Europe. However, because of a business opportunity, Spafford ended up staying in Chicago but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as schedule. They travelled on the SS. Ville du Havre, and the expected to follow them in a few days.

On the 22nd November, the ship was struck by an English vessel called the Lochearn and within twelve minutes had sunk. Whilst some of the crew and passengers had been saved, many had lost their lives. Upon landing in Cardiff, Mrs Spafford sent a note to her husband. In it she said “Saved alone”.

Spafford left Chicago immediately to join his wife. It is said that he penned the words to this hymn as he approached the site that the ship had sunk.