Rector’s Letter March 2023

Dear friends,
Those who know me well will be aware that it is not natural for me to ‘go slow’. I walk quickly, I delight in multi-tasking, I read and write and think fast. It has taken me many years to learn to adjust to Davie’s leisurely pace when we go on walks, to focus on one thing at a time when helping my mother around the house, to discipline myself to think deeply as I read and write, and to still my mind and relax my body so that I don’t pray in a rush.

During the Pandemic many of us discovered the joys of slow living. Some people made meals from scratch for the first time and baked bread, they discovered gardening and took up sewing, knitting or painting, they explored the countryside around them by foot or bicycle and spent quality time with their neighbours. I benefited greatly from my daily hour in the church grounds working with my hands in the soil, from walks with friends and from celebration meals and film nights with my family. It has been so easy to slip back into our old ways and forget all that we learnt during those months of enforced leisure.

I have found that in our spiritual lives, it’s easy to let our minds race ahead instead of keeping pace with God. But when we do so we often fail to pay attention to the still, small voice guiding and encouraging us. The liturgy of the Season of Lent is designed to help us to slow down. It’s simplicity and its choice of readings from Scripture enables us to focus on Jesus and to accompany him on his journey from the wilderness to the cross and beyond.

Because of the way my mind works, I have found reading this year’s Gospel for Lent and Easter particularly difficult. The words of John’s Gospel are so accessible and familiar that it’s tempting for me to swiftly skim the surface of any passage and to think that I know what it says. I have always known that I was missing out on a feast. I was aware that John’s themes, woven through the text like threads in a tapestry, require a lifetime’s exploration. St. Augustine wrote that this Gospel is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim in it. Until recently, however, I just couldn’t get the hang of reading John.

It was as I listened to Professor David Ford at our Clergy Conference last month that I realised that I needed to approach the book in a different way. He had spent two decades writing a commentary on John and many more years immersing himself in the text, prayerfully reading and re-reading its verses, a few at a time. I have started to do the same during my morning quiet time, letting myself be drawn to a particular word or phrase or story and dwelling on it, allowing the rest of my day or my week to be infused by it. The idea of ‘eating’ Scripture is used by the author of the Book of Revelation and by a number of the prophets before him to express the way we can take in God’s Word so that it will nurture us and get metabolized into action and prayer. I am already noticing the effect that my feeding on John’s Gospel is having on my daily life …
Some of you may have already discovered this approach to reading the Bible, but if you haven’t, I would urge you to give it a go this Lent. Copies of John’s Gospel are available for you at the back of church. Members of the Ministry Team will also put together a list of commentaries and some audio books which you might like to choose from to accompany your reading and we would be delighted to give you advice or chat with you about your experience.

Our early morning and night services on a Sunday are intended to be quiet times when we can make space to still our minds and open them to God. If you are not already a regular, you are welcome to come and experience a more reflective way of worshipping and of engaging with Scripture during Lent. We will also hold another Seasonal Quiet Afternoon on March 25th which will gently encourage us to wake up to Spring, exploring signs of new life in nature and within us in the presence of God’s Spirit.

In the meantime, please pray with me for the ministry and mission of our church and especially for those who are preparing for baptism and for the affirmation of their baptism promises.
With love,