The gift of contemplation in the midst of COVID 19
18 March 2020 (12.00pm)
Contemplation is essential in times of uncertainty and rapid change. If, at this stage, the Coronavirus has taught us anything it is that we are in a state of being betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. We are in unchartered territory which means life is disorientating, unsettling and confusing. The fear for many people is palpable. The challenge for each of us is how can we linger in this space without panicking, especially as we are likely to be here for some months. The word contemplation is an important one to ponder at this time. How do we as Christians contemplate alongside emergency meetings, new ways of working and radical changes in terms of weekly worship spaces? How do we contemplate as to how best to respond to the most vulnerable, local businesses, the lonely and the bereaved? I want to suggest that Ignatian spirituality may prove to be a gift at this time. James Martin describes it in this way: 'Most of us lead busy lives with little time for prayer and meditation. But by being aware of the world around us – in the midst of our activity – we can allow a contemplative stance to inform our actions. Instead of seeing the spiritual life as one that can exist only if it is enclosed by the walls of a monastery, Ignatian asks you to see the world as your monastery.' (James Martin, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything).
The world is indeed our monastery and over the next few weeks the Faith and Society Team will be posting contemplative practices, prayers and other resources in the hope that these will inform our actions as we all seek to offer more faith, hope and love to our world.
Today’s prayer is from a new book Gathering up the Crumbs, which was due to be launched at the Baptist Assembly. More details about the book will follow. This prayer is called A Covenant for Troubled Times written by Catriona Gorton. She explains 'This was originally written for use by a local church community who faced very uncertain times, and wished to express their commitment via a covenant; it could possibly also be used when the broader context is troubling.'
'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.'
These are troubled times
Times of violence and hatred in a world marred by war
Times of anxiety and uncertainty in a world wounded by greed
Times of sadness and loss in a world of vulnerability and finitude
Times when we must face tough questions with unpalatable answers
'Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no ill, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.'
These are dark times
Times when we need to be reminded that God is with us
To guide our feet, one step at a time
To illumine our minds with new understanding
To protect us from despair, isolation and emptiness
To enable us to ‘prove’ our faith in resilience and fortitude
'Now the dwelling of God is with human beings, and he will be with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'
These are, mysteriously, hopeful times
Times in which the promises of a faithful God offer encouragement
Times in which new possibilities can be glimpsed
Times in which we must live the hope of eternity
Times when past, present and future meet.
So, let us profess our faith:
We believe and trust in God, creator of all, whose promises are faithful
We believe and trust in Jesus Christ, who redeems all, and who calls us to follow
We believe and trust in the Holy Spirit, who inspires and sustains us in hopeful service
Recognising that these are troubled times, let us covenant with one another and with God
My brothers and sisters in Christ, I covenant to walk together with you in faithful discipleship for as long as God shall so direct and lead us
Faithful God, as a community of your people, we covenant to walk with you, individually and corporately, in ways we know and in ways that you will show us
Grant us courage to face the challenges
Strengthen us with faith, hope and love
So that we may walk faithfully in the footsteps of him whose name we bear
Christ, our Lord. Amen.