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Reform Magazine | November 25, 2020

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On the pilgrim way: ‘Aching in body, I was renewed in spirit’

Sheila Maxey watches clouds gather

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In last month’s column, I said that ‘provisional’ seems to be the word these days. Now, it looks like we have to expect six months more of this provisionality and uncertainty.

When friends ask me how I am, I say I am plodding on. I have rebooked our Eurostar tickets – the first leg of the train journey to visit my cousin in Darmstadt, southwest Germany – for the last week in March. My cousin said that was foolishly risky. This week, a family wedding in June 2021 was postponed to June 2022.

A village church magazine I received last week listed 20 good things which had come out of this coronavirus time, including neighbourliness, appreciation of nature, and clear skies. They were all true, and it was a good idea to list them. But I am tired of ‘silver linings’. The clouds are so big and dark – of poverty, of anger and frustration, of loneliness and fear. I protect myself by not reading the paper and by not watching the news. Cowardly and irresponsible, I know.

We held our harvest festival. The Sunday before, there had only been four of us, so we made an effort to urge those who felt safe to return to give thanks on this special Sunday. I was belatedly inducted as an elder, and we had our first Communion service, face-to-face (masked, of course). We borrowed little plates to sit on top of the glasses, so that we could lift the bread and wine at the same time from the tray. We had fresh flowers for the first time since March, and a fine little arrangement of produce from our flower arranger’s allotment. There were two, big cardboard boxes to receive gifts for the foodbank.

There were 19 of us! As people arrived, we all kept standing up, waving and smiling through our masks. As I looked round my dear church family, and gazed at the gorgeous arrangement of dahlias, tears welled up. It is very difficult to cry while wearing a mask! ‘As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God.’ (Psalm 40:17)

Some days later, I spent a damp autumn day doing major clearing work in the garden: cutting back, weeding, discovering forgotten plants. There were two trips to the tip. Though aching in body, I was renewed in spirit. Thank you, O my God, for delivering me once more.

Sheila Maxey is a member of Brentwood United Reformed Church, Essex

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This article was published in the November 2020 edition of Reform

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