What does this mean to me as a Companion? Scargill is my sanctuary, it is the place when I can just BE with God, it is my spiritual home. I find my spiritual family here. I find my spiritual food here.
This weekend our retreat was led by Lucy Cleland, one of the Scargill chaplains. I’ve known Lucy for a number of years in her previous role as chaplain to the Bishop of Southwell & Nottingham. This was the first time that I have chance to enjoy Lucy’s teaching.
Lucy based the sessions around the ‘Week of Prayer for Christian Unity’. You know the TV adverts “A dog is not just for Christmas” - well, Christian Unity is not just for a week when we pray about it! Who knew? I shall say no more ...
The first session was called ‘Different Families’ and the session began with reading Psalm 127 together. I’ll be honest, I find psalms quite challenging so I found it really useful to read this psalm and discuss it with others. It’s just 5 verses long. The first two verses resonate the most with me:
“Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise up early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
I spent many years of my life completely labouring in vain, and to some extent I still do. Why? Because I am human and I make mistakes, I get it wrong, all the time. What is important is that I ‘try my very best’ - alone I don’t even do that, at least not all of the time. How do I do that better? By being in fellowship with other Christians, by spending time with my family and friends. Simply focussing more on others and less on myself. Because when I give I get much more in return.
BUT I often give too much, some in the right areas, some not in the right areas - and guess what? My spiritual well runs empty, that’s when I need Scargill. However, I can’t live my life ‘white-knuckling’ it until my next visit to Scargill. I need to find effective ways of keep my spiritual well topped up. Don’t ask me how, I have not worked that out yet.
Different families though strikes a chord. I have different families, I have my blood family. I have my church family. I have a family here at Scargill.
Lucy talked to us about how we can think of families as communities. That’s pretty obvious here in this peaceful place. It can be harder at home in the ‘real world’. Lucy said, “As Christians, we are called to be communities where all families are supported and strengthened so that all are safe and may flourish”
As parents, this is what Marie and I have always tried to do for our children, and nowadays for our grandchildren. It is a primary focus of my ministry at St. Martha’s as part of a wonderful family there serving the community of Broxtowe.
Nelson Mandela said, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest”
Statements like this are the fuel that fires my passion for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, and treating all people in the same way - as equals.
Clearly, this makes me think about the food bank at St. Martha’s and I started thinking and doodling. I drew a cross and I surrounded it with the words Love, Community, Safe, and Strenghten. Without Love God is not present. Without Community we are not doing God’s work. If we don’t offer Safety then we are not doing God’s work. If we don’t Strenghten then we are not going God’s work.
God is love, it really is that simple. Jesus told us that we must love our neighbour, it really is that simple. As Christians, we are called to do God’s work, to fulfill God’s mission on earth. Missio Dei - a Latin Christian theological term that can be translated as the “mission of the God,” or the “sending of God.”
We’re building his Kingdom, not ours. That’s what Psalm 127 says to me.
Session two “God Acts for the Powerless” - we started with Psalm 113. A song of praise, verses 1-6 make me think of songs that our young people at church love to sing “Our God is a Great Big God” - “God can do anything, anything at all”. God doesn’t have favourites. Verse 7: “He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; ...”
Things I learnt during this session. The Magnificat mirrors Psalm 113. Graham Kendrick wrote his song “Beauty for Brokenness” based on Psalm 113 - the lyrics “God of the poor, friend of the weak” clearly reflecting the psalm.
During this session we also looked at Luke 12:13-21 which prompted me to write my “Dear Donald ...” letter yesterday. The Bible clearly reflects the world today and its brokenness, and recognises the brokenness of people.
We meeting these people everyday at St. Martha’s, people broken by the ravages of injustice, greed and utter lack of compassion by those in positions of power.
Session three “Welcoming the Stranger” - Psalm 146 verse 9 “The LORD watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” God excludes no-one, all are welcome. I have to admit do I welcome all, do I really welcome all people equally? I try my best, but I could almost certainly try harder. I’ve promised to try my very best to “welcome visitors and strangers as we would welcome Jesus himself, putting their needs before our (my) own and treating each one as a royal guest”
Do I really welcome the obviously drunk or stoned person that wanders into the church as a royal guest? Do I really welcome the unruly, apparently obnoxious teenager causing trouble outside the church as a royal guest? Do I welcome the person at work who persists in interrupting me while I am busy as a royal guest?
No? WHY NOT? “That person could be the returning Christ”
1) This is somewhat random stream of consciousness (but I had to capture it while it was fresh in my mind).
2) More useful perhaps ...
Two of the companion promises are very relevant to the holistic ministry of St.Martha’s
a) Speak up bravely for people who are rarely heard, helping our Heavenly Father to fulfil his dream of seeing the hungry fed, the sick looked after, the naked clothed and victims of injustice released from their chains.
b) welcome visitors and strangers as we would welcome Jesus himself, putting their needs before ours and treating each one as a royal guest.
They all have relevance to any Christian community but the two above we could pray about and see what God tells to do with them, if anything. BUT it seems to me that we need to get EVERYBODY on the same page, or at least to know what the page is!