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Reform Magazine | July 31, 2021

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On the pilgrim way: ‘Is this meeting a new kind of witness?’

Sheila Maxey finds hope before lockdown

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There is nothing like something new to cheer me up as I begin to face the fact that we might be in this Covid-19 world for a long, long time. In early October, we were allowed to meet but not allowed to sing in church. I suddenly remembered our minister had a set of handbells. So, after our weekly Sacred Space – 30 minutes of largely silent prayer and meditation – we stayed on, joined by one or two others, to enjoy the struggle of playing ‘Silent Night’ on handbells. Next booking – the church carol service!

As I write, the UK is not in lockdown but my area is in tier two: so, no more meeting with friends for coffee across the length of our sitting room. Cold and wet weather means that the garden is no use either. But with the car out, we have a big enough carport for up to six people, socially distanced.

I began to get excited about this new possibility. I cleared and tidied the garage, and a younger friend, using an old tin of lime green paint, painted the meeting area’s walls. One of our church teenagers suggested fairy lights. They look rather good! Our minister daughter, who is doing something similar with gazebos, recommended providing blankets, and I found I had lots of old ones tucked away. So, now, I am ready. It feels a bit like the first night of a play, waiting to go on stage.This afternoon, friends are coming for tea and cake. We will discover just how cold it feels in the garage, and how long we can enjoy being together. Later this week, because of maintenance work being done in the church, Sacred Space is going to meet in our garage. It involves about 20 minutes of complete silence. With people walking past, just beyond the car, the meeting will be a strange experience for us. But it will also perhaps be strange for the passersby, if they choose to glance our way. Is this a new kind of witness?

The big UK picture (and world picture) of poverty, fear, anger and bitter division is so daunting. I know, as a Christian, I must resist dwelling on these things. But I don’t really know how. I feel a bit guilty about taking refuge in little, local matters.

As I spend time pondering – time is one of the gifts of this period – two rather different parts of the Bible come to me. In Zechariah, we are challenged not to despise ‘the day of small things’. It somehow validates the little new things I am involved in. But Isaiah’s wonderful words tackle the big picture too: ‘I am about to do something new; this moment it will unfold. Can you not perceive it? Even through the wilderness I shall make a way.’ These words remind me that God has indeed got the whole world in his hands.

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

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This article was published in the December 2020 / January 2021 edition of Reform

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