Ministers’ Page

From Rev. Anna Bishop

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I have got used to having an almost empty diary over the past year. And perhaps I’ve lost the knack of diary management (insofar as I ever had it!), because with almost nothing in the diary, I have still managed to doublebook myself twice in two weeks!

It’s funny, isn’t it, how when we’re busy we feel that we’re rushed off our feet and never get a moment for ourselves, or to take stock. And yet, when everything has been stopped during the lockdowns of the past year, we have felt frustrated or bored and in desperate need of activity! There’s just no pleasing human beings!

It’s a good thing we can have a good laugh at ourselves, but let’s not regard it as only a joke, because I think there might be more to it than “human nature” or “thegrassisalwaysgreener syndrome.” I think this observation might be telling us something rather important about human nature and human needs.

Last week Grace, who wants to grow her hair, informed me that I could not possibly cut her hair on a Sunday, because the sabbath is a day of rest! Trust a child of the manse to use it to her advantage!

But it made me recall Jesus telling the Pharisees,“the Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2: 27). Sabbath is given to us as time for needful rest, relaxation and restoration.

Our former District Chair, Rev’d Dr Andrew Wood, frequently said that as well as a sabbatical every seven years, we also need a sabbath every seven months, every seven weeks, every seven days and every seven hours. The point he was making is that we need to work times of rest and stillness, into our everyday habits and routines on every level. We need regularly to make time just to be in the present moment, and to be absolutely aware of it.

It is not good for us to work without a break until ill health and exhaustion force us into a sabbatical. Nor is it good for us to have nothing to do for so long that we become frustrated, resentful and lose our sense of selfworth. We need balance.

It is on this wisdom that the ancient monastic rules of life were based. It was designed to be a way of life in which no one mode of being dominated, but there were regular daily times of work, rest, prayer, study, recreation, eating, fasting, solitude and community, all held in creative and healthy balance with one another.

Inevitably some must have preferred some aspects of life to the others, but the discipline of theRule meant that they were challenged to do those things they found hard, as well as those they enjoyed, but also that they never had to spend too long at once doing something that they found hard to bear.

The Methodist Way of Life, which we are looking at in detail this year, is really an invitationto craft for ourselves a way of life that is balanced by committing ourselves to habits and routines that engage us in both activity and stillness, and gradually increase our capacity to live in awareness of the present moment.

So as we gradually emerge from lockdown and the diaries start to fill up again, whether you feel liberated or burdened by that, I invite you to bring with you a little bit of lockdown to make sure that you leave just a little space in your diary each day (each week, each month, each year) to be still and to rest.

With love,