As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.
Friday 19th June 2020
‘Nellies’ & ‘Veras’!
Yesterday I conducted the funeral service for our Oldest church member, Nellie Tomson, who passed away at the grand age of 101 years. Nellie was a unique character and well known within the community of Cruden Bay and Port Errol. Among her many qualities was an engaging sense of humour coupled with a warm outgoing personality. She lifted people spirits in so many different ways. In the residential care home where she spent the final years of her life, Nellie made many good friends and was very popular amongst the residents and staff. Here Nellie was in her element. It gave her a new lease of life. She loved being amongst people and the place where she sat during the day was known as the ‘naughty corner!’
For many years Nellie was the cook at Port Errol School. I was told how the sound of joy and laughter would be frequently heard emanating from the school kitchen. She was well known by the children and played a significant role in making the school such a happy place, which in turn helped and encouraged the youngsters who were going through difficult experiences or feeling stressed out at exam time. To this could be added the quality of food she produced, especially the puddings!
Also reported yesterday was the death of Dame Vera Lynn at the grand age of 103. Vera Lynn is perhaps best remembered as the ‘Forces Sweetheart’ for her work amongst the troops during the Second World War. The nostalgic lyrics of songs such as ‘We'll Meet Again’, ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, and ‘There'll Always Be an England’ made her a major celebrity. She performed in the London Underground, singing to people using the platforms as air raid shelters, visited hospitals and munitions factories.
In 1941 Very Lynn had her own radio programme, Sincerely Yours, sending messages to British troops serving abroad. Later in the war she toured Egypt, India and Burma, giving outdoor concerts for the troops. Often living in the most basic of conditions she made an incalculable contribution to lifting the spirits of the armed forces. In her obituary in the Guardian Newspaper, it was noted how by 1945 ‘this working-class young woman had become a symbol of the British wartime spirit, with a status comparable to that of the prime minister, Winston Churchill. After the war, her friend Harry Secombe liked to joke that “Churchill didn’t beat the Nazis. Vera sang them to death.”’
For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD,
Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’
He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’
He said to me: ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.
Matthew 10: 29-31
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
We all need our spirits lifted, especially at the present time. Covid-19 has wrought so much pain and damage, bereavement and social isolation, loss of income and unemployment to name but a few. Whilst there is light at the end of the tunnel it is far from over. It will be many months before the usual routines of life are fully restored.
Lifting our spirits is a major theme of the Christian Faith. There are many Bible verses that speak of God’s love and care. The prophet Jeremiah writing during the late fifth/early sixth century BC, gave words of encouragement to the Jewish people who were exiles in Babylon. Here we encounter the mystery of God’s providence and the promise of hope and restoration.
At the very end of the Bible, the exiled Apostle John, writing from the Island of Patmos records a vision given to him by God. After many chapters and verses containing extraordinary images, John ends with the final victory of good over evil and the coming of God’s Kingdom in all its fullness and glory. Along with God residing in the midst of his people, there is a great outpouring of comfort and joy. Tears wiped from every eye and an end to death and mourning and pain.
And in the Gospel of Matthew are words spoken by Jesus that help us to understand God’s knowledge and care for us. Every hair on our is numbered. (There is about 100,000 hairs on the average human head.) God even knows when a sparrow falls to ground and we are worth far more than many sparrows.
Lift might be hard and difficult. Our hearts many be weighed down with many burdens and our minds full of worry and anxiety, but these promises, along with countless others, are there to encourage us and lift our spirits. To this could be added spiritual experiences that remind us of God’s real presence in our lives. And not forgetting the ‘Nellies’ and ‘Veras’ who enrich our lives!
Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church
(Comments about the late Nellie Thomson are made with the kind permission of her family)
Give thanks to God:
For all the good things in your life
For all the people who love and support you
For the all the people who have held your hand and sat with you in the darkness
For the people who have encouraged you and offered practical help
For the people who have accepted and affirmed you
For the people who have nurtured you and helped you to grow
For the people who have accompanied you on your spiritual journey
For the people who bought joy and love into your life
For the ‘Nellies’ and the ‘Veras’
Let us pray
For the health workers tending the seriously ill
for the scientists working on a vaccination
for the researchers analysing data and identifying trends
for the media outlets working to communicate reality
for the supermarket workers, hygiene and sanitation providers
for the good news stories of recoveries and effective planning
for the singing from balconies by locked-down communities
for the recognition that isolation doesn’t need to mean loneliness
for the notes through letterboxes offering help and support
for the internet and telephones and technology that connects
for the awakened appreciation of what is truly important
Thanks be to God.
For those who are unwell and concerned for loved ones
for those who were already very anxious
for those immune suppressed or compromised
for those vulnerable because of underlying conditions
for those in the ‘most at risk to coronavirus’ categories
for those watching their entire income stream dry up
for those who have no choice but to go out to work
for those who are afraid to be at home
for those who are more lonely than they've ever been
for those who are bereaved and grieving.
God be their healer, comfort and protection,
be their strength, shield and provision
be their security, safety and close companion
And raise up your Church
to be your well-washed hands and faithful feet
to be present to the pain
to respond with love in action
if even from a safe distance.
God, in your mercy,
Hear our prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and forever.
May grace and peace be ours in abundance,
in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
May we be thankful for simple things,
for friendship, for health, for daily bread, for good news.
May we rise above the corruption of power
and become participants in the divine nature.
May we go from this place
to pursue goodness, wisdom, holiness and love.
God the Creator, call us to the work of the kingdom
God the Redeemer, keep us from stumbling
God the Sustainer, transform and inspire us.