This month.....

"God who is our rock, our fortress and our hope"

Have you ever read the ‘The Hiding Place’ by Corrie ten Boom? She was born into a Christian family who were clock and watch makers in Amsterdam. During World War Two their home sheltered Jews and resistance fighters who sought protection. In their home they built a room to shelter them and they called it the hiding place. Eventually a Dutch informer led the Gestapo to their home and they were arrested and Corrie and her sister were sent to Ravensbrook concentration camp. Despite the hideous conditions in the camp Corrie and Betsie led worship and bible study with the women who they were incarcerated with. Such was their faith that Betsie even thanked God for the flea infestation as it meant the guards kept well away. Betsie sadly never left Ravensbrook, but Corrie was released, though only due to an administrative error.

Corrie’s incredible steadfast faith facing such huge adversity has always had a significant impact upon me. She questioned angrily at times, but her faith in God remained absolute. She wrote ‘When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.’ Such was her trust in God. Corrie spent the rest of her life talking of forgiveness and her trust in the love of God to all she met, even to her prison guard.

Her book is inspirational and deeply challenging. If you’ve not read it, I commend it to you. When life throws us something unexpected and hard where do we find our strength and our hope? Corrie concludes ‘Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God’. Those words could be written today as we face much uncertainty about our futures and how our world will look when we emerge from this pandemic.

In May 2020 ‘The UK Blessing’ song was released on Youtube it has people from 65 churches across the nation singing the blessing found in Numbers 6: 24 -26: The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace. What a beautiful prayer of blessing to be prayed across the UK at this time of continued crisis.  It has had enormous impact it’s been viewed over 3.2 million times in just a short few weeks. Even our Prime Minster has written a letter of thanks to Tim Hughes the Worship leader who organised and arranged it. Boris Johnson said: "At a time when our churches are closed, I am filled with admiration to hear how you have used the power of music to bring together Christians of all denominations from across our United Kingdom. Your sensational singing masterpiece 'The UK Blessing' is truly uplifting and has touched millions around the world with its message of hope and its beauty.

As churches we have been finding new and creative ways of keeping connected, keeping our faith strong and steadfast. We should never underestimate the power of prayer and music; it can be a very emotive and potent way of enabling God’s words to enter the depth of our hearts and minds. It can help us to remember the faithfulness of God.

At this time of year, we often hear of people expressing their hopes for a summer holiday, a break from normal routine and traveling to places near and far. Our plans for this year may be in shreds, travel to far flung places on hold, churches are in the early stages of considering how to reopen, public worship is currently online in various ways. But we are seeing and have witnessed how creative people can be facing a new challenge. We have quickly learnt the norms of social distancing whilst helping each other. It’s been very heartening to see the growth in neighbourliness during this time.

As more changes are happening and uncertainty grows around the best ways forward, whichever way forward we go, we can go in the strength of God who is our rock, our fortress and our hope.

As we mourn those who have died, let us continue to work together to continue to minimize the risk. Some of us are experiencing the biggest break from normal routine in living memory. Let us all continue to encourage one another as we continue to face levels of social distancing unheard of until this year. Let us look forward to those days when we once again can meet freely with our friends and family and worship in our churches once more.

St. Paul through all his troubles in life said ‘ I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ Romans 8: 38 -39.

May you receive comfort of knowing that you are loved and treasured by our Lord today and every day.

Revd Joanna Porter