WHENCE THE HEALING STREAM SHALL FLOW?
Shortly after the country went into lockdown to combat the threat of the coronavirus COVID-19 the internet was awash with worship material for use by Christians denied their regular attendance at church worship or fellowship groups. Much of it is of high quality and valuable as a substitute for or enhancement of material already in regular use by Christians in their daily devotions. After a few weeks however the flood of material has become overwhelming and is being exchanged regularly by email among churchgoers nationally and locally. To have missed a particular prayer, new hymn or streamed service often seems to be regarded as a sin! “Did you not see that?! It was excellent. You can still get it on the website or through catch-up.”
So what are you missing? What am I missing? I guess I’ll never know entirely. That which I have caught however has been a mixed blessing. Early on we were directed to the streaming of services by local churches. I’m sorry to say that many of these were unsatisfactory. The blurry picture of two clerics celebrating Holy Communion alone at a safe social distance in an empty church did not work for me. The “Zoomed” church choir of about a dozen earnest folk each in their little on-screen box was undoubtedly a novelty at first but eventually has worn thin I feel.
On the other hand there is much good material in written form available on national and local church websites. The art however is to pick and choose carefully. Many well-known church leaders respected for their communication skills have blossomed and it is a joy to sample what is available: prayers, short reflections, new hymns to express the sadness of the times or offer hope for the future. These are days of high emotions. If you haven’t shed a tear or two or laughed out loud it will have been unusual.
Our own church fellowship at The Avenue is blessed with a variety of locally produced material including Richard’s much anticipated weekly letter and prayers composed by members of our fellowship. The church website is a valuable resource and those without internet access are receiving hand delivered material each week.
Despite the frequent quietness or loneliness of life in lockdown there are other things to be done besides wading through the tsunami of worship material. Many are taking the time to exercise pastoral care through a telephone or video chat with each other. Others are taking the time simply to exercise. Others assist the more vulnerable with shopping and other essential requirements. Meals are delivered to some. Keeping abreast of the daily news and opinions expressed on radio, television and in newspapers, both depressing and uplifting, is an important activity necessary to inform prayer concerns. The art, as with the worship material, is to ration engagement for fear of addiction or confusion. And (dare I mention it?) neglected housework is receiving the attention it has long been crying out for!
So whence is the healing stream, to which William Williams refers in his famous hymn “Guide me, oh thou great Jehovah”, flowing? Well in my experience from all those sources mentioned above. When it comes to worship material, however, there is little to match the professional skills of the BBC in its radio and television broadcasts from around the country which includes Sunday morning worship on Radio 4 and BBC1 and the ever popular “Songs of Praise”. I cannot pretend that the latter has generally been a favourite of mine over the years, but there is pleasure now in sharing in the singing in the knowledge that my tuneless bellowing is unlikely to trouble any but close neighbours with the sharpest hearing. There is also a wealth of archive material which the BBC is drawing upon to render a semblance of normality to broadcast acts of worship.
So let’s keep the healing stream flowing!