April 2022 - Rector's Ramblings

Andrew DoyeOn 3 March 2022, I found myself in Easebourne, just north of Midhurst, making a visit.  Whilst I was there, I went into a branch of ‘Cook’, which provides frozen meals for home consumption.  I had with me a generously-given token which allowed me to choose a delicious meal for the evening of my forthcoming birthday.

What a contrast.   Russian forces had begun to invade Ukraine just one week before.

The shop was empty apart from me and one lady behind the counter.  Out of the quiet, the engaging woman who ran the outlet piped up in my direction: ‘how do you sense people are feeling’?

That’s a surprising question from the lips of a complete stranger; a privilege to be allowed to speak for others; a deference that no doubt arose from my recognition as a clergyperson from the dog collar that I wore.

After checking that the lady had in mind the horrible events in Eastern Europe, I offered a tentative response.

‘How do you sense people are feeling’:  ‘Well’, I said, ‘those I know are deeply sorrowing.  You see it in their eyes, and in the way they hold themselves.  It has got them right here’, I pointed, ‘in the pit of the stomach.  Some, I sense, are anxious for the consequences for themselves, and the prospect of a wider war; and that is understandable; but, for most, it is a hurt and compassion, and extreme grief, for the Ukrainian people’.

We talked further, and at length, on connected subjects.  What stayed with me, however, was that initial question: ‘how do you sense people are feeling’.

Actually, overwhelmingly, I cannot know for certain how individuals are feeling.  None of us can.  It is surmise, and observation.  It is communication; but often that is interrupted, or somehow couched in ambiguity.  Sometimes people deliberately wear their heart upon their sleeve; other times they are a whole shade more guarded; and in some, that degree of vulnerability is not at all on offer.   How are they feeling?     All I can say is: enough to make me cry and pray for those around me, as well as for all Ukraine.  And to listen, attentively, even to the unspoken sadness.

This threshold month we trace in our liturgies the closing days of Jesus’ life; and, just hours later, the first encounters of his resurrection.  It is a powerful experience to place ourselves in the shoes of those gospel characters, asking ‘how did they really feel’?

… Under threat, angered, compassionate, overwhelmed?  Tired, distressed, ashamed, empty?  Amazed, bewildered, joyful, entranced?  A-fire, re-coloured, re-born?

Those who travelled those last days and these first (new) days, with him, were prey to a most remarkable series of intense experiences.  Sensations were amongst the strongest they had ever known; but, for each, would differ: from depths to heights; from despair to unparalleled joy.  We enter imaginatively into their journeys and encounters.

We cannot know entirely, and reliably; but we can accompany them, too … and ask … and surmise … and share with them the possibilities of those life-laden days.  What toll they took; what hope they kindled.   And we can invite the truth of their belonging to speak to our own reflective hearts.  The question itself becomes a precious weighing; a measure of fellowship for each one of us:

‘What do you sense .. those people were feeling’?

A prayer of the Methodist Church:  Holy and Gracious God, we pray for the people of the Ukraine and the people of Russia; for their countries and their leaders. We pray for all those who are afraid; that your everlasting arms hold them in this time of great fear.

Wishing you and all the world, a peaceful blessed Easter (despite the present prospects).

Andrew Doye



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