I remember growing a fascination for the First World War when I was training for ordination. A number of books were published on the subject at the same time – among them – Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Mine wasn’t a morbid interest in weaponry, battle or death, but a pastoral curiosity about how people came to survive in the midst of the most terrible suffering and chaos. I discovered that many of the First World War chaplains displayed common virtues and characteristics – they were contemplative, compassionate and courageous. These 3 ‘C’s’ (as it happens) are pivotal in the Diocese of Oxford’s common vision for the Church today.
Birdsong is heard in the midst of the carnage and murder of the trenches. It is the sound of resilience and of recovery – the resilience of the environment and the recovery of the human condition. The imagery of birds and the call of their song acts as a counter to the brutal cacophony of war. The birdsong transcends the misery.
Some of the poets and artists, the theologians and philosophers, who lived through these days of barbarism were able to display this same resilience and recovery. It is not surprising that the 1920’s and 1930’s led to an explosion of enlightened works of literature and musical composition. The new pioneering spirit led to adventures of travel and scientific discovery. Birdsong – its beauty and clarity – would overcome the call of military gain and hopeless sacrifice.
Today, we hear the sound of birdsong once more. Can you hear it? https://soundcloud.com/user-913560870/bird-song-march-2020 Many people have commented that the birds’ call seems louder in this period of lockdown than ever before. Is this, then, nature saying something to us about our current battle against Covid-19? Nature’s beauty focuses our attention; the birdsong distils our thoughts. Might we use contemplation, compassion and courage as a way of seeing, believing and acting as we fight the Coronavirus? As we look upwards, as we seek to detect the daily songbirds in our hedges and streets, might we remember that nature continues to transcend hopelessness; the environment continues to recover throughout this lockdown.
Indeed, could birdsong be the voice of this global crisis? That we might learn more about ourselves, about our world, and, yes, about God?
THE HOLY EUCHARIST – SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER
FOR OUR YOUNGER FRIENDS
The Roots material continues to be available online during the lockdown: https://www.rootsontheweb.com/lectionary/2020/107-may-june-2020-a/easter-6/f
We also have a craft available which is based on the Roots material. Do have a go. The instructions are attached. You can see “one that we made earlier” on Facebook. Please do have a go and take a photo of your results and post them on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/stmichaelssummertown/
The Cluster Care Network continues. If you are not connected yet and would like some pastoral support (although this is just a light touch) or prayer support, please contact me.
Thank you to Susie Snyder for giving us her reflection this week. Susie, like many in our parish, is juggling a young family as well as working – so a massive thank you to her and prayers for all others who are caring for family members and holding down jobs! Susie asks that you contact her if you would like to engage with her thoughts. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
As lockdown regulations lessen, do take time to go for a walk in the church gardens. They are beautiful and I am very grateful for the care that our team of gardeners are investing – it is certainly worth it!
Thy Kingdom Come is an initiative launched a few years ago by our two Archbishops, Justin and John https://www.thykingdomcome.global/ It focuses prayer into the octave between Ascension and Pentecost. Now we have an opportunity of concentrating this prayer into our local context, asking for God’s grace to encourage and empower our city of Oxford. Dan Heyward from St Andrew’s Church is asking us to occupy some space in a virtual prayer room called “The Upper Room Oxford.” All you need do is sign up for an hour of prayer between 21st May – 31st May. This is a 24/7 resource. Details and resources and the sign up link will be available shortly at this address: https://www.upperroomoxford.org.
God bless you this week,