Congregational thoughts on the Reflection Questions given on Sunday 24th May…

A summary by Kristee Boyd, Community Development Officer

After the sermon on Sunday 24th May, the congregation were given five questions to consider. They were asked to send their thought to Kristee, who then summarised them.

The sermon can be watched here: The Sermon starts at 11.10.

The Questions were:

1. Where do you look for Jesus?

2. What has been on the horizon for you when this storm has passed?

3. Are you ready?

4. What is Jesus preparing for our church?

5. Are we ready?

Below is Kristee’s summary of the responses:

Many thanks to everyone who emailed me to engage with this week’s sermon. Some people sent me a quick summary of their thoughts, others sent me detailed answers to each question. All were appreciated! Please find below my summary of the feedback I received…

Question One: Where do you look for Jesus?

There were a range of interesting answers to this question. Some people, naturally, look for Jesus in the Bible. One of our lovely children said that, “Jesus comes to us in our dreams and looks down from the clouds when we are awake and gives us hugs through Mum And Dad” (by the way, I love the idea of Jesus visiting us in our dreams!).

Most people pointed out that they don’t look for Jesus at all but that Jesus comes to them wherever they are, through their relationships with their friends, neighbours and loved ones, or in times of stillness. I want to quote the following answer verbatim as it really made me think:

I tend not to “look“ for Jesus but become aware of God’s/Jesus’ presence.  I thought about God with me in lock down and realised that as I sit with my coffee first thing in the morning there is a silence which is not an absence of noise but a presence which is God there with me…As all this formulated in my mind I realised that in thinking of “not an absence but a presence” I was quoting the experience of the old lady in the story that Metropolitan Anthony Bloom tells.  The old lady said to him that in all her years in church going she had never experienced God’s presence.  He advised her to sit and knit (something she enjoyed doing) in God’s presence for 15 minutes. She describes her experience and says “The silence around began to come and meet the silence in me.   All of a sudden I perceived that the silence was a presence.  At the heart of the silence there was Him who is all stillness, all peace, all poise.”

Question Two: What has been on the horizon for you when this storm has passed?

Most answers to this question revolved around reconnecting with family and friends, returning to church, work and hobbies but also continuing with new relationships that have developed during lockdown, such as with neighbours and new acquaintances. Some people have realised the beauty of a slower-paced life and hope to keep up this pace after lockdown is over.

Question Three: Are you ready?

It was commonly felt that it is not so easy to be entirely ready for an unknown future, particularly when various restrictions might remain in place for a long time to come. Some people indicated that this uncertainty is creating anxiety, others expressed faith in God that things will be ok. The following answer seemed to sum up the feelings of many:

“I hope so. But I have adjusted to a slower pace. Will I still fit in what I used to do without compromising that? I need to think about time management. Should I look at different ways to serve? One thing I have not missed is shopping. Getting essentials is one thing; spending hours browsing around = how to waste a terrific amount of time.”

Question Four: What is Jesus preparing for our church?

The interesting answers to this question highlight the creativity of St Peter’s folk and just how critical it is that we ask questions and collaborate with each other, working together in the ‘new beginning’ that lies before us. I’ve listed some ideas that were emailed to me for the future of St Peter’s:

– We should think about continuing to use video technology to meet with each other during the week, which saves fuel and is better for the environment. It also includes those who cannot travel to St Peter’s during the week. It would be great if we could set up a way to educate those who are less familiar with the use of technology such as Zoom and YouTube.

– The SEC and other churches should consider continuing to broadcast different services each week, in a collaborative effort. “Online worship may be less intimidating for those dipping a toe into exploring spirituality without entering a strange building and being given a mountain of books…  They then might enjoy their first time in a church with more confidence having discovered some of the ‘basics’.”

– Planning during the Second World War brought about the Education Act 1944 /Housing /National Health Service. I have a friend who is a priest in a poor parish in England…their church (not just clergy) and faith leaders are beginning to collaborate in their thinking and are discussing what their focus might be for supporting the people in their area …They are thinking in terms of a universal wage/living wage.” I have been thinking of poverty/refugee and asylum seekers/the Immigration proposals going through Parliament at the moment. At St Peter’s, we already have connections with Edinburgh City Mission and Bethany Shelters. Under their umbrellas, we have dipped our toe into helping with the food bank, refugees and asylum-seekers. Is this our opportunity to collaborate further with other organisations and to make a real difference?

Question Five: Are we ready?

“God does his work whether we are ready or not.” I loved this answer, as it aligns with the ongoing theme of God being a presence and not an absence. Patience and our newfound respect for a slower paced lifestyle will hopefully deter us from running around trying to manufacture a ‘new beginning.’ The common thread through many answers was that, when we slow down, pray, contemplate, reflect and wait for that divine leading, great things lie before us.

That being said, it was also observed that sometimes the church doesn’t have a choice about whether or not it is ready – particularly regarding urgent matters such as climate change. Since lockdown, our air is cleaner and there is evidence that elements of our natural environment are returning to how they should be. It will take courage on the part of St Peter’s and the wider church to pay attention and to take a stand on what matters. And it will take hope, based on a belief that each of us have unique value and our actions have meaning.

In conclusion, on the subjects of courage and hope, please take the time to study Dominic’s photograph and the message he wrote to accompany it. I’m certain that both will inspire you as you look towards the future in this time of uncertainty. 😊

Message from Dominic:

I’ve recently found myself in the world of photography and it is incredibly fascinating. Every photograph tells a story and freezes a moment. A moment you will always relive anytime you look back at that picture. I find it interesting how light, shadows and shades of colours come together to convey some sort of unexplainable feeling. Today I share with you one of my favourite photographs I’ve shot. In it, the person is sitting on the edge of a cliff looking at a source of light from miles away. Below is the story I want this photograph to convey or tell.

Think of it like this, imagine you are the person in the picture and the source of light is something you’ve always dreamed of. This could be anything, a new job, a degree, a new car etc. In the photograph, the only thing that’s separating the person from the light is a massive river. Nevertheless, he can get to the light, either by swimming, using a boat or by flight, the same way you can make sure that dream comes true. The different ways the people could get to the light has their own risks and hurdles. For instance if he decides to swim, he might have to learn how to swim. Even if he can swim, he can’t be certain what to expect in the river, there could be sharks or something that pose a threat or that will make the journey difficult. The same applies to you. Often, knowing the way to your destination is not enough. However, with ‘knowing’ comes hope and courage. And with hope and courage, one can make the impossible possible.

I hope you find some inspiration from this short message. Of course, people see things from different perspectives so your story from this photograph might be different from mine and I would like to read yours.  Thanks for reading this far. 🙂