|Ministry Musings are also included on the latest pewsheet|
Ministry Musings – February 2020
Two poems have been particularly on my mind recently. One is ‘Desiderata’ by Max Ehrmann, which starts ‘Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.’
The other is M. L. Haskins’ ‘God Knows’, more popularly known as the ‘Gate of the Year’ as it is sometimes quoted as a New Year approaches. It begins:
I said to the man who stood at the gate to the year:
‘Give me light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied: Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God.
That shall be to you better than a light and safer than a known way.’
Maybe those words and those of ‘Desiderata’ seem especially relevant because of all the uncertainties we face at present. Perhaps we all yearn for peace in our noisy world, and also long for the certainty of being able to ‘tread safely into the unknown.’
These thoughts were brought into focus by a dear friend who a short time ago described the church she attends regularly as her ‘haven of peace,’ the place where she can bring her joys, her sorrows and her problems. This seemed a really important statement and one we should not lose sight of.
We know that our God is everywhere, and, in theory, we should be able to meet with Him anywhere. But in practice this doesn’t always seem possible! Although we are encouraged to make somewhere a special place where we can sit and pray or simply listen to God, in busy households this often simply isn’t an option, and the church building is a vital refuge.
We are constantly encouraged to ‘modernise’ our church buildings, to bring them up-to-date with comfort and facilities appropriate to today’s lifestyle, and of course to make the worship we present suitably adapted to today’s congregation. Whilst these matters must be considered, I wonder if sometimes these efforts can distort the underlying beauty of the church space, simulating the comfort of our own front rooms, and muffling the opportunity to sense the prayers of those who, over the centuries, have poured out their hearts to their God. Maybe it’s all too easy to regard the four walls of the church like an office, the place in which we carry out our ‘duties,’ conforming to our instincts to make the place and our services acceptable to modern living. But as my friend suggested, each church can be so much more for its members, a place where we can lay ourselves, our problems and our joys before God, before facing the world again. So we should take care not to spoil what has been shaped and formed over the years of use to the glory of God, and strive to keep that ‘haven of peace’ available and accessible to all who need it.
Which brings me back to the two poems, as I believe that between them they can offer a wish and a prayer for us all. Perhaps your prayer would be similar to mine:
Lord God, who knows our every thought, our joys, our sorrows and our every need, please still the noise of the world as we seek your presence. May we find space and peace to pray and listen for your voice, and place our hands in your hand secure in the knowledge that we may tread safely into the unknown. In the name of Christ our Lord we pray. Amen