Living with Plan A
Readers of the Church Times will have been struck by the story of Becky Tyler, a quadriplegic and cerebral palsy sufferer, who spoke at the recent Greenbelt Christian Festival.
The Greenbelt Festival describes itself as, “engaged with the arts, sustained by faith… (creating) spaces… where art, faith and justice collide.” The organisation has run a festival, today at Boughton House in Northamptonshire, each August Bank Holiday weekend since 1974. Except for this year. As with so many other gatherings, the coronavirus pandemic, brought a halt to the physical festival for the first time in 46 years. So it went on-line. You could say, they switched to Plan B.
What was striking about Becky Tyler’s address was that she challenged the assumption that, being disabled, she could not live life’s Plan A and so had had to put up with Plan B. She explained how life’s twists and turns could suddenly lead to an outcome to which we react by saying, “Surely, this is not how life is meant to be!” For Becky that was the moment at her birth when she was starved of oxygen. She will need care for the rest of her life. Yet, from her own perspective, God had known what was to happen and was there for her. She was not living Plan B, but living God’s Plan A. She went on to remark that God has no Plan B for he remains sovereign.
Of course, Becky was speaking out of her own experience, and is not for us to use that as an excuse to minimise their disadvantages in an able bodied person’s world, or to fail to work to give everyone equal access to the basics of human living. It takes huge courage and great faith to see being disabled as actually, in a way, being enabled. The prospect leaves most of us wondering whether our own faith would be that strong if we were in that position.
But the point of Becky’s address was not to focus on herself and her relative abilities compared with others, but upon a very simple theological point. A point that shines out throughout Scripture that is so very easily forgotten: that, quite simply, God is in control.
We may wonder why we so easily forget that. Partly, it may be due to the kind of question that asks how God was in control when things went wrong for Becky. Why does suffering happen? There are no easy answers to that, and it would be carelessly glib to explain away the suffering of others lightly. The Christian perspective always starts with admitting the depth of a bad situation. When we meet it head on in faith we find strangely that we are able to face it in a positive way. We can be confident that God is in control, not because bad things don’t happen, but because he is not defeated by them. Working through such a time is hard. We may often feel far from positive. But, by God’s grace, we need not be defeated either because we can draw on his love and his strength.
Becky also went on to remark that maybe it takes a life changing event like a pandemic for God to grab our attention in order to show us what was most important. In spite of all the crises and challenges we face, it remains God’s world, he in charge and in him there is always hope. When our control slips we look for a Plan B. When God is in charge there is only a Plan A – and our response as his partners in creation.
As I write, the Government have just brought in new restrictions about how many people we can meet at a time. We are warned it will not be a quick fix. For many families, including mine, this will have implications for forthcoming significant birthdays, and for Christmas not all that far away. As the pandemic rolls on, there are moments when we feel the darkness most keenly. It is in those moments that we need to hold on to God, not because there is an easy answer, but because he is faithful. In him there is always hope.
Greenbelt have clearly grasped that truth. Next year’s tickets are already on sale. Robin
It has been good to see so many of our church family gathering for worship again in recent weeks. A big thank you to everyone who has had to get used to the new way of being when we come to church, and to our churchwardens, Stephen and David, for leading us in the measures we have taken to keep us all safe. For those who remain uneasy about larger gatherings, it is good that we have the livestream to our Facebook page each Sunday. These recordings remain on the page for some time afterwards if you’d like to revisit them.
From 13 September we were able to welcome back our Choir to lead us in our worship. Congregational singing is still discouraged, but for those of us who enjoy the colour and sound of traditional worship, which has felt somewhat dented of late, this is good news indeed. We hope to restore other aspects of our worship in time as conditions allow.
The Wednesday Eucharist
Now that we are beginning to get used to the way we need to worship during the pandemic, it is right that we begin to provide other opportunities to worship. From Wednesday 7 October we shall reopen the midweek Eucharist at its usual time of 10.00am. We aim to use the Lady Chapel, although social distancing rules mean that there will be fewer seats which may mean a move to the main body of the church. At this service you will not be guided to and from your seat, but all will still be required to use hand gel at the appropriate points, and to wear a face covering. Sadly, it is not yet possible to return to serving coffee after the service.
New St Andrew’s
Thanks to success with a number of grant applications, and the generosity of many in our congregation, we have got there in terms of the finance needed for our toilet extension. Alan, our Project Manager, is working with our Architect and contractors to establish a date for the main building work to begin, though some preparatory drainage work should be carried out shortly. The next stage is to begin planning on the kitchen and narthex refurbishment to make a really useful meeting space for church and local community, work which is a key aspect of our outreach as a parish. Huge thanks to Alan and the NSA Team for their work leading us to this point.
This year’s Harvest Thanksgiving will be held on Sunday 11 October as part of our Parish Eucharist. We are very sorry that it will not be possible to decorate our church in the usual way this year, or hold the Harvest Lunch afterwards. We will be supporting Taunton Foodbank, who have requested cash donations rather than goods this year. We can collect cash and cheques at Harvest Festival, or bank transfers can be made to:
Sort code 60-80-06 / Account no 59884110
This year’s delayed Annual Parochial Church Meeting has now been set for Sunday 18 October. We will hold the meeting in church, after a short pause following the Parish Eucharist. We will remain seated in our allocated “stations.” Papers for the meeting will be made available in the usual way for those who request it, or by email from Sue Goodman, our PCC Secretary, to whom all enquiries can be addressed. Sue also holds the nomination forms for both churchwarden and PCC roles. There are a number of vacancies on PCC this year of varying time lengths. If you would like to explore standing for election, please see Sue, or talk to the clergy or any other PCC member. Never has there been a more important time to make sure we have a sure footed and confident governing body to lead our church.
All Saints and our keeping of All Souls takes place on Sunday 1 November this year. As well as our morning Eucharist, we are planning the usual All Souls Service in the evening at 6.00pm. The current arrangements for worship, of course, apply to this service too, but as usual we will be inviting the families of all those who have had a funeral service through St Andrew’s over the past three years. We will not be able to serve the tea this year, nor linger in conversation before or after the service, but we will be able to remember our departed loved ones in prayer as we always do. Ruth will be collecting the names of those you would like to be remembered in the service, see details on p 12.
…to Louise Bale, on her ordination to the diaconate on 26 September, and to our curate, Katy, on her ordination as priest on 29 September. Sadly, it was not possible for church members to attend the ordinations as we had hoped, but our prayers for Louise and Katy were no less fervent for that!
Katy will preside at the Eucharist for the first time on Sunday 4 October, our usual Parish Eucharist. Louise will begin the next stage of her training at St Mary Magdalene and St John the Evangelist here in Taunton the previous weekend, and as part of the Chaplaincy Team at Musgrove Park Hospital where she has already been serving.
One of the privileges of having a linked church school is to provide two foundation governors for the Local Governing Body at St Andrew’s School. Besides parent governors, other governors are appointed by the Bath & Wells Multi-Academy Trust, and there is currently a vacancy. The Governors would be pleased to hear from anyone in the church community who has a heart for education and would like to make a difference by serving in this way. If you would like to know more, please speak to Robin in the first instance and he can put you in touch.
A big thank you from Robin for the “unauthorised” but heart-warming advice in last month’s Inspire of his forthcoming significant birthday! He notes that his last “significant birthday” was also spent at St Andrew’s. How time flies!!
- St Andrews Church
- Greenway Avenue
- TA2 6HU