A Bank Holiday weekend should be a time for get-togethers, time-out, celebrating, and for me, the August Bank Holiday marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn; I always think you can sense the shift in atmosphere and see it in the light and in the trees.
Autumn marks the beginning of a new year for education and it marks a return to working ways after the holiday period; everyone is back in the office again – or so it used to be. This year, while this is happening so much, is still uncertain.
It seems as if for every step forward there is then a step backwards, the virus remains persistent and present in too great a number of people for us to ignore it.
When ‘this’ started we thought that schools would be back after the Spring holidays, we thought … Now we wonder when this virus will finally be reduced in impact – and many are advising that things will not be anywhere near normal till well into next year. This is not – it seems – a short sharp shock, but a prolonged challenge to our ways of living and our mental ordering of time and living. Here in the NW we are concerned, rightly for our part of the world, but in other parts of the world the impact is much more serious, and we must not forget that.
Our “instant” generation is being faced with a longer-term challenge, not a problem that can be sorted in a couple of days, or for which an alternative can be worked out. People of faith can be similar, wanting God to answer prayers or take away problems quickly. We can get despondent and feel God is absent because he does not sort things at our pace. Over the last weeks we have often used the phrase “walk with me, God” or “help me walk with you” or similar. It is easy to offer the words, but much harder to learn to walk with God over a longer period of time when the answers don’t seem to be coming. Some, however, live with this all the time, and have for years, whether in loneliness, in pain or with poor mental health, for themselves or for a partner.
As we see spring became summer and now summer moves into autumn, so we must learn to live with the rhythm of seasons and maybe the years, not the more frenetic movement of days and weeks.
And in the slower movement of seasons and years, there are still those wonderful openings, those glimpses of difference, those moments of awe, those reminders of transcendence. While the plants grow and die away, the trees grow slowly (even if the leaves grow and fall and die each year). May we see and rejoice in those moments but also learn to live the slower rhythm with a sense of inner peace, knowing God is under all and over all.
Rev’d Peter Reiss: 28th Aug 2020