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Churches Together in Medway: Rediscovering the old to learn about the new

Lockdown has given us all a chance to explore ways we can understand the world we're in.

In a weekly column usually published in the Medway Messenger, Rev Edward Wright, of St Helen’s Church, Cliffe, writes: "Like many others I have been using some of the time of lockdown to search for resources to help process our very unusual current circumstances.

We can learn so much to help us process what is going on
We can learn so much to help us process what is going on

"One of the things I’ve rediscovered is the work of T.S. Eliot. I was required to study some of this at

O-level, and remember finding the poems dense and hard to understand.

"I still don’t find them easy, and no doubt miss a lot, but even so they leave a powerful impression.

"I have been reading again the Four Quartets, and in particular recently the last of the four, Little Gidding.

"It is an appropriate time of year to reflect on this poem: May blossom is mentioned, and more significantly, because it references Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit with fire.

Prayer can be a comfort
Prayer can be a comfort

"Pentecost, or Whit Sunday, falls on 31st of this month.

"The title Little Gidding refers to a hamlet in Huntingdonshire, which Eliot had visited, where there had been an historic religious community.

"He writes that such a place, which symbolises an ending of worldly aspiration, should be approached in the right way 'You are not here to verify, instruct yourself or inform curiosity : you are here to kneel where prayer has been valid.'

"The background against which Eliot was writing this poem was his experience of the London Blitz.

"He was himself a fire officer and night by night would have seen the bombs falling from the sky and the spreading fires raging.

"He must have wondered at the destruction of so much human endeavour and aspiration.

"Fire is a main theme in Little Gidding. Eliot sets the fire raining down from the skies in the bombing beside the spiritual fire that fell at Pentecost.

"He is outlining the choice he sees facing humanity: keep trying to make it ourselves and in the end see our best efforts destroyed – by fires of war or worse. Or allow the reality and experiences of ‘fire’ to purify and restore us by God’s mercy and the Holy Spirit.

"'The dove descending from the air, With flame of incandescent terror…The only hope, or else despair, Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—To be redeemed from fire by fire……'

"The poem does offer words of reassurance, borrowed from the fourteenth-century mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich: 'All shall be well, and / All manner of thing shall be well.'

"But it warns this will entail ‘A condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything).

"Putting our current crisis beside the London Blitz maybe rather overdoing it. But the point remains. In the bible book of Lamentations we read 'For (God) does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone'.

"Times such as this can refine and strengthen our trust in God, and the values by which we live. We may not be able to instruct ourselves, or inform our curiosity as to what the crisis may mean or imply, but we can still kneel, literally or metaphorically, and seek to allow ourselves to be touched by the fire that is holy and redeeming."

If you would like to find out more about Churches Together In Medway or what it means to become a Christian, please contact the chairman, Pastor Stephen Bello on 01634 920491 or email rccgvictoriousfamily@hotmail.com

Also visit the website here.

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