‘Wellbeing’ (physical, mental and spiritual) has become a real buzzword lately, only in part due to the coronavirus currently threatening to defeat our attempts to ‘live well’ in every way. You meet the word everywhere – in social media above all, where we’re encouraged to slow down, be mindful of people, animals and birds around us, take an interest in or get involved in long-forgotten hobbies and so on… Even before the impact of Covid-19 started to be felt, we were slowly waking up to the fact that caring for the planet in all its wonder, ensuring that each being living on it is valued and nurtured is not a choice, but a necessity.
Most recently, I’ve noticed that some of our best ecologists and presenters (and we have many!) have increased their use of the word ‘spiritual’ in their observations and commentaries. And of course, they’re right: God’s creative image is reflected in all that God has made. A walk in a forest is truly a spiritual experience if we are open to God’s Spirit.
However, for some of us walking in the forest is not something we’re able to do right now or indeed any time soon – perhaps because of age, physical incapacity or due to lockdown restrictions. But God isn’t just to be found in nature though many find the natural world an aid to their worship, nor just in Church with like-minded people singing God’s praises, celebrating and praying together: God is everywhere. Though Christians may be missing those things, taking time out regularly to read the scriptures, listen and pray, is and always has been an valuable way to know God the Creator better. Finding a space and developing this habit can contribute to our wellbeing, without our ever going near a forest. Some of us already use bible notes (e.g. BRF) and if so, that’s great, but I thought it might help others to know what’s available, particularly online at this difficult time. What follows is a brief summary of some of the ways in which we might connect with God and with each other:
First, Common Worship provides orders of service for both Morning/Evening Prayer and Compline. You may already have a copy at home. An online version called Daily Prayer(includes above) is available for a £2.99 subscription and is compatible with smartphones and tablets. It has the advantage of providing the lectionary readings (NRSV) in full every day and you can switch between contemporary and traditional formats.
At www.churchofengland.org.uk you have the option of joining in a pre-recorded Daily Prayerservice (Morning/Evening Prayer and Compline). The text is available online at the click of a button. A Time to Pray App presents everything you need for Praying During the Day, with variations according to the day of the week and the season’s of the Church year. It is currently free to us.
The Church of England, aware that not everyone has access to online facilities, is attempting to plug the gap. Only in the last few days the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has launched a free dial-in worship service (on 0800 804 8044), set up to support all people but particularly the elderly who may be unable to access church services online. The idea is that during the lockdown, those unable to go to church, should have prayer brought to them. 24 hours a day, music, prayers and reflections are available through this new facility called Daily Hope.
Night Prayer is said and recorded at www.ststephenwalbrook.net (formally London Internet Church). It’s a service of quietness and reflection before rest and the end of the day, 5-9 minutes long and led by a number of church leaders, actors and dignitaries. There are short passages of scripture, a brief explanation and appropriate prayers. You may light a virtual candle and record your intercessory prayer on the site.
SanctuaryFirst (www.sanctuaryfirst.org.uk) is a pioneer ministry about developing new ways for people to connect with God, spiritually, and one another. SanctuaryFirst is based in Scotland and was conceived by a former Moderator of the Church of Scotland who recognised that nowadays a weekly trip to church isn’t possible, realistic, or even desirable for many people. Among the varied experiences on offer, SanctuaryFirst will drop a daily devotional including a text, reflection, prayer and photograph on a weekly theme into your inbox for free.
The ecumenical Taizé Community has a range of elements to help us pray, worship, maintain a holy silence and understand the Gospel in greater depth. Although there doesn’t seem to be a daily service as such, weekly bible reflections on Sunday’s Gospel with Taizé chants (simple harmonised tunes often in various languages,) and prayer can be accessed on their internet site www.taize.fr and on their YouTube Channel.
Lastly, if you are interested in Ignatian Spirituality then have a look at www.sacredspace.ie, a site offering a number of materials for prayer and dealing directly with the fears aroused in many concerning coronavirus. As the name would suggest, it advocates making a ‘Sacred Space’ in your day, praying as you visit the website with the help of scripture chosen every day and on-screen guidance in the tradition of Ignatius of Loyola.
I hope that many of you will find help and support from the above info. It’s at a critical time like this, that we need to take care to ensure we are ‘well’ in every aspect of our lives. But what may work for one may not suit another. The apostle Paul urges, ‘those who have received Christ Jesus as Lord, [to] continue to live [our] lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as [we] were taught, abounding in thanksgiving (Col 2.6-7). Maybe spending some time with God using one of these methods to pray will help us to do just that.
Rev’d Dr Val Hindmarsh
April 27th, 2020