From blessings and responses to Eco Church
Blessings and responses
I read with interest the article (25 January) and letter (8 February) regarding blessings in church, and the strength Antonia Swinson and Barbara Pensom found through remaining seated. This has given me much to ponder on. Raised a Baptist, I opted out before adult baptism and so never received communion. It was a relief to find Quakers where I didn’t have to worry about it. ‘All of life is sacramental’ sits well with me.
However, I’m a reluctant label-holder and do find much spiritual nurture and learning in other traditions – for example, visits to the Taizé community, Greenbelt festival and occasional church services. What I do when it comes to time for communion/a blessing tends to be to respond to how I feel led – sometimes it’s to stay seated, sometimes go up for a blessing, or sometimes share the bread and wine.
I know deeply that all of life is sacramental, can this not also include communion? Sometimes sharing this with other people helps me re-attune to that so I can be more present to my cup of fennel tea when I get home. Sometimes it’s about being part of a wider community where what we have in common is more important than what is different and sometimes it’s about wanting to share more blessings.
At the end of our ‘Equipping for Ministry’ course recently we shared blessings with each other. It was a rich and powerful experience – something we all need more of rather than less?
An inspiring rebuke
Judy Clinton’s ‘Thought for the Week’ (1 February) resonated powerfully with me. I too am struggling to come to terms with a new, unwelcome identity after a lifetime of being an industrious and energetic achiever and a contributor to various organisations, causes and to my lecturing/researching profession.
In the last few years, an accumulation of chronic medical problems, and consequent needs to minister to these to avoid worse scenarios, has sapped inner and outer strength(s), consumed excessive daily time and energy and rendered me unable to do many things I care about for myself and for others. I feel frustrated, guilty, much diminished, and even worthless and despairing at times.
Advices & queries 28 – ‘relinquish duties without undue pride or guilt’ – speaks to me about more than just Quaker contributions. (I’ve only been Quaker for about twelve years.) Recently, ministry in Meeting from a new attender who has suffered much (and is still suffering), insisting – with ‘true grit’ – that he greets each day feeling ‘life is a joy’, was an inspiring rebuke to me.
Acceptance of the limited, changed self is one of the hardest of all psychological challenges; it’s ongoing and not easily achieved. Quaker Meetings and fellowship as well as love from family, are major factors keeping me to this late-stage task – as I hope they are and will be for other Friends in similar positions. Judy is right. Being open and honest with ourselves and others about our struggle, when appropriate, is vital to making progress.
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