Dear Friends and Parishioners
Greetings from Marown Vicarage. I pray that you are all safe, well and coping with the changes the coronavirus has forced upon our daily lives. We are thankful that the number of ‘active cases’ of the infection continues to fall and that lockdown restrictions are being eased (though at the point of writing this letter churches remain closed).
One of the aspects of life in lockdown has been an appreciation, for some, of the silence. Less traffic noise and background sounds associated with modern living have given us a chance to hear much more clearly the natural sounds of wildlife and nature. Personally, I find silence refreshing and restorative, but I am aware that is not the case for other people who find silence threatening and disconcerting. Perhaps, you have experienced being ‘frozen out’ of conversations, felt excluded from a social gathering or left uncomfortable by a situation: no one has told you to go away or said anything unpleasant but there is an underlying silence that feels hostile and unwelcoming. I came across this quote recently, ‘silence is often the most perfect expression of scorn’. What a terrible but true statement. Wittingly or unwittingly we can use silence as a weapon to wound and devalue other people or to bolster our own sense of power and control. The second of the Pastoral Principles issued last year by the Church of England Pastoral Advisory Group encourages us to speak into such situations of silence.
As Christians we are members of the Body of Christ who form a community that should model openness and acceptance to all people, a place offering hospitality and challenging any conspiracy of silence that would otherwise allow prejudice to go unchecked. Besides protecting the vulnerable, we gain the benefits of learning from those people different from ourselves, experiencing diversity of culture, opinion, language, race, and sexuality. These experiences help us to gain mutual respect and understanding of other people, which in turn encourages us to be more considerate of their needs and gifts. It also spurs us to act more responsibly towards those who we might see as strangers.
In the Gospels, Jesus spent frequent and sustained periods of time alone in silence and prayer when he received continuing affirmation about his mission on earth. Time after time, as we read about the events of Jesus ’ life, we see how Jesus challenges the injustices of his day and deliberately seeks out the ‘voiceless’ (e.g. Mat 11:4-50): those people on the edge of society that are silenced and scorned by others. After Jesus ’ ascension the apostles similarly carried on this work as they spread the Good News. Indeed, we read in The Acts of the Apostles how the sick were healed, the demon-possessed were freed, the poor were provided for and people from all nations were inspired to know God for themselves through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is clear that no one should be left out of the kingdom of God unless they choose to be so.
One of the blessings of the past few months has been the way that the barriers that normally separate people have faded. Neighbours have got to know neighbours more fully; people have bonded over their shared experiences of enforced isolation; people have been quick to help those in need and to adapt to new ways of doing things. There has been a willingness to make sure no one is left out or forgotten and people have been looking beyond their own situations and responding to others. The ‘silence’ has been pierced and we pray that those newly forged relationships will remain long after Covid 19 has been alleviated.
I wonder what experiences and memories you will take away from these extraordinary months? Has someone blessed your life with unexpected acts of kindness? Have you been a ‘local hero’; helping strangers who in the past you might have shied away from? Have you spoken up for someone or had someone speak up for you? Silence is not always golden. May our collective and individual times of need inspire us to a deeper awareness of those different from ourselves and provoke us to greater consideration of the silenced members of society.