There are so many businesses based in Marsden, Slaithwaite and the surrounding countryside, all trying to work out how to operate while this pandemic sweeps through our lives. I spoke to a business owner who is torn apart by the conflicting desire to help their employees financially by working and staying open, while equally wanting to stay at home / protect the NHS / save lives. All these businesses have been successful because they have customers – the rest of us who want what they provide – whether it is collecting a pension from the Post Office, or getting fresh vegetables from the grocer, or a pint of locally brewed beer…
The Church prays for our community all the time, sometimes formally at set points of prayer, and sometimes informally when we respond lovingly to something we’ve witnessed. The Church is, of course, made up of people who live and work in the world just like everyone else. We share the hopes and fears, the joys and frustrations of everyone else in the world, but with one slight difference… the belief that God cares about us all. Not just those who go to church on a Sunday, but that God cares for everyone. Everyone. No exceptions.
I wasn’t always a Priest. My sense of God’s call to minister in the villages and surrounding communities of Marsden and Slaithwaite is actually my first post as a Vicar within the Church of England. Prior to this I spent nearly 25 years working in Analytical Chemistry and software systems, with the last 5 of those involved with Genetic Screening. I only came to faith in my 30s, so spent very little of my early life thinking about God at all.
When I did come to believe in Jesus, I wanted to understand what the practical implications of Christian faith were. It was for this reason that I started to feel the need to quietly pray about things at work. It was often work-related conflict that I would pray about; the situations where I was worried about a co-worker’s reaction, or a problem with a product that I couldn’t fix. I found that when I prayed, the conflict or problem would be a lot less stressful than I had expected. I still had hard work to do, but in the middle of it I felt a peaceful confidence that I wasn’t alone – that God was at work.
I just wanted to take this little opportunity to share with all of those who live here, that I pray for you always. I don’t believe that means God will wrap us up in cotton wool and make everything easy, instead I believe that God is there with us in the middle of the pain and suffering, the anxiety and doubt, and that God holds us close. I believe that God’s Kingdom is tantalisingly close to us all, here and now. Jesus once said that the Kingdom of God is at hand.
So I’ve never really given up praying for real world situations. During this pandemic I have used my daily exercise to keep cycling around the parishes; from the remote places like Marsden Moor, to the corners of the parish like Berry Mill below Scammonden Water. I’ve prayed from the hill tops above Marsden and Slaithwaite, and from the street corners. I have found the Lord’s Prayer the most helpful, and sometimes repeat it like a mantra – give us this day our daily bread… I pray every day for homes and families, for those suffering with mental or physical health challenges and I pray for those who grieve. I also pray for the schools: staff and students. I pray for the farms that surround us and the healthcare services that care for us. I pray for those who put their lives at risk to help us: for the mountain rescue and the fire brigade. I pray for our council and everyone who carries the responsibility of leadership. I pray for those whose work is unseen, or passes through our villages. I pray for those who feel insignificant: because we are all significant to God. I pray for those who are abused, that they may be set free. In all this I remember to be thankful, apart from the Lord’s Prayer I think my most frequent other prayer is “Thank you”.
I know the church is praying too, but if you haven’t tried praying before may I invite you to give it a go. To try the simple prayer… “Hello, God, it’s me. Help! Thanks.”… or if you’re feeling brave, try the Lord’s Prayer.
God bless you at home, at work and at leisure. Amen.
A Prayer for Peace
you hold both heaven and earth in a single peace.
Let the design of your great love
shine on the waste of our anger and sorrow,
and give peace to your Church,
peace among nations,
peace in our homes,
peace in our work,
and peace in our hearts,
in Jesus Christ our Lord