Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 7th April 2024

Dear Friends, It’s a lovely time of year, with flowers, sticky buds, lambs in the fields, holidays, family gatherings and much more. A time to celebrate – but what, exactly? Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 7th April 2024

Dear Friends,

It’s a lovely time of year, with flowers, sticky buds, lambs in the fields, holidays, family gatherings and much more. A time to celebrate – but what, exactly? When I was growing up, someone said ‘you can’t really have Easter Day without Good Friday’. I agree. Suffering is part of life and so how we deal with it is vitally important for our wellbeing and surely must affect the way we worship, whatever form that may take. So people of all faiths and none will be picking up their particular cross here and now and some of them will have reached the point of resurrection. Perhaps I can better explain what I mean in the words of Desmond Tutu who wrote of Nelson Mandela:

‘In our universe suffering is often how we grow emotionally, and spiritually and morally. That is, when we let the suffering ennoble us and not embitter us. In God’s universe, while we are not free to choose whether we suffer, we are free to choose whether it will ennoble us or instead will embitter us. Nelson Mandela spent twenty-seven years in prison, eighteen of them on Robben Island breaking rocks into little rocks, a totally senseless task … Many people say “what a waste! Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if Nelson Mandela had come out earlier? Look at all the things he would have accomplished.”

‘Those ghastly, suffering-filled twenty-seven years actually were not a waste. It may seem so in a sense, but when Nelson Mandela went to jail he was angry. He was a young man who was understandably very upset at the miscarriage of justice in South Africa. He and his colleagues were being sentenced because they were standing up for what seemed so obvious. They were demanding the rights that in other countries were claimed to be inalienable. At the time he was very forthright and belligerent, as he should have been, leading the armed wing of the African National Congress, but he mellowed in jail. He began to discover depths of resilience and spiritual attributes that he would not have known that he had. And in particular, I think he learned to appreciate the foibles and weaknesses of others and to be gentle and compassionate toward others even in their awfulness. So the suffering transformed him because he allowed it to ennoble him. He could never have become the political and moral leader he became had it not been for the suffering he experienced on Robben Island. So much was anger replaced with forgiveness that he invited his former jailer to be a VIP at his inauguration.’

In this way it seems to me that the Nelson Mandela story is a resurrection story (the word means rising again and comes from the Latin surrectum past participle of surgo, surgere to rise, something we all do every morning when we get out of bed). There are many resurrections going on all around us – people battling and winning against addiction; some facing bravely mental health issues arising from traumas; some dealing with anger caused by past or present injustices; rising above seen or unseen handicaps sometimes for a lifetime, sometimes in the fragility of old age. It is with these peoples’ victories in mind that we could enjoy the Passiontide and Easter music, or just sit quietly in a garden.

With love from

Caroline

on behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)