It was beautiful to connect with friends from around the world this Easter through shared technology and faith. I have never had a cyber Easter before, and never imagined I would! It made me recall sitting next to a young woman at a Judy Collins concert in January. I noticed her American accent and asked her where she was from. ‘Virginia’, she said. I asked her what brought her to Birmingham and she said ‘Jesus. Jesus wants me to help teach the world how to use technology.’ I didn’t expect that answer, but now I understand it more this Easter Sunday. Today I attended my friends church service in New York via ZOOM, in my haste and excitement at working it out I responded to her private message, by accidentally sending comments to the whole church congregation as my setting was on ‘EVERYONE’! Via MESSENGER she quickly told me to stop TEXTING. The preacher said ‘Glad you’re with us .. but please can you DM Christina privately.’ My face grew hot, and I hung my head in shame, but soon laughed knowing that this was simply just another Easter blessing. Humility! God has a sense of humour and is just glad we showed up.
On Good Friday I spoke with my friends from Africa via WHATSAPP. They have been praying for us in churches in their communities since the virus outbreak, despite the poverty and disease they face day to day. My friends didn’t believe me when I said in the UK we celebrate Easter with chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and flowery hats. I asked them what they believed Good Friday to represent and they said the broken relationship with God, lost faith. It struck a chord with me as despite enjoying the pleasures of a peaceful quarantine, especially with a stash of Easter chocolate I sometimes feel lost that we live in a country where our primary source of ministry (PM), if you translate the name literally, doesn’t often mention faith or prayer. I understand that we are a multi-faith country so its difficult to give a one size fits all type of message. So I was relieved to hear the Queen’s speech, honouring all faiths and none, prayer and meditation, in her address to the nation, although it felt like a long time coming.
My time in Africa each year, feels like a homecoming, a country that is very close to God, and prayer is part of every day life. I love my time in America too, as despite the politics, I can talk and sing about God openly, as on the whole it is part of a language that isn’t seen as preaching when you express it. Maybe its because its written in their constitution. Faith can sometimes have a bad name, as ‘holier than thou’, but faith is not because you think you are better than, you pray because you are human and have frailties, and life on this earthly plain is difficult. We need help. I received this quote via BLUETOOTH today. “Prayer is more than you can ever imagine, because God is so much beyond what you can conceive. We are surrounded with Gods that are too small to be up to the task of holding our deepest longings, never mind the world’s most urgent problems.” David G. Benner
The government have been diligent in the daily information in their ONLINE VIDEO CONFERENCING, guidelines on social distancing, hygiene, shopping, exercise, business, mental health, and as of yesterday domestic abuse, but the value of prayer, or faith in these uncertain times is often left to religious leaders. We are encouraged to ‘clap’ for the NHS as part of a national morale building campaign, which feels kind of awkward in light of the grand sacrifices front line staff are making for us. Its probably more appropriate that we sing their praises from our rooftops, or we get down on our hands and knees and thank God for them for risking their lives. A round of applause, or a pat on the back, just doesn’t seem to cut it. I can’t help but think if some leader like Mandela was in a position of power there would be more reverence, more dignity, and no separation between love and politics, faith and government. Mandela was in isolation for 27 years, with no family, no luxuries, no FACEBOOK, just hope and a vision. This is what I yearn for, to live in a country where faith is at the core of our policy, core of our values, not the white elephant in the room. I watched the Pope’s recent mass, his message to people was not just to stay at home, but to go home to God. His words were inspiring, enriching and poetic. In America, Marianne Williamson, who was recently running for presidency, calls for Global prayer every Sunday and sees this as a revolution to return to love and surrender to a power greater than ourselves. The Pope’s a Catholic, Marianne’s a Jew, but it doesn’t matter, these are leaders, figures of influence who bring comfort and hope in an intelligent way, they bring peace in our hearts in a hurting world. God is love, and where there is faith, fear cannot exist. There have been times when I have slipped into fear as family members have been unwell, or something feels amiss with government reports or statistics, but faith is always my lifeline, not as a crutch or some false ideal but as a sense of knowing that there is a far greater plan in motion, that my small self can’t even begin to fathom, although I have a few ideas.
A young child once said to me when I asked him what Good Friday meant, he said ‘discount’ confusing it with Black Friday. I laughed, because of the innocence, and its hardly surprising when we look around at the world we live in. In lockdown the things we are mourning most are the loss of Easter gatherings, cancelled weddings and christenings, often in churches, and the shocking notion of a LIVESTREAM funeral, but many of us say we don’t believe in God, and these are just traditions. It can be confusing, the disparity between what we celebrate and the beliefs and values we express. Maybe we’ve been too loud, or too busy to really even think about why we do the things we do.
I will never forget last year when I was sat on a bench and a man wtih a can of lager in his hand, came to me and drunkenly said ‘look what I just found, an ancient old nail from the castle walls,’ and he placed it in the palm of my hand. It was Good Friday. I looked down and remembered the story that is told in most school assemblies today, Jesus was crucified, hung on a cross with nails in his hands and feet to save us all. I never understand what was ‘Good’ about that. Easter eggs represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and his resurrection, thank god for them! There are so many references to washing hands in the bible, most profoundly ‘cleanse your hands, purify your heart.’ I can just see that now as a slogan on the stand in Downing Street.
Enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone, he is risen, and Easter bunny is real. See you on SNAPCHAT x