It has been a difficult year for us all with Covid-19 and lockdown restrictions. Whilst we have not been able to reopen our Church, we were able to hold a successful picnic on the front lawn on Sunday 2nd August. All our members were invited, as were the congregation from the Gateway Community that uses our Church in the afternoons. Naturally, many people were wary about being in public and opted not to come, however, we were pleased to welcome around 18 people to the picnic.
The weather was perfect for our get together and everyone was happy to catch up and chat with people they had not seen since March. Keith White from Mill Grove popped by to say hello, bringing with him Bibles and newsletters for us to look at. We prayed for our Church, the people of Gants Hill and the wider community but, due to the current rules, we could not do any singing.
Having a picnic on the lawn meant passers by could see our Church was still functioning despite the current circumstances. Workers from Shalom Bakery also noticed us and generously gifted us four cakes, which was more than enough for our gathering. This goes to show that, irrespective of religion and what the world throws at us, there is still kindness and friendship.
In the early hours, as many people’s alarm clocks prepare to go off, BBC Radio 4 broadcasts a daily prayer and reflection. Prayer for the Day Vol. II is the second book published by the radio team encompassing more reflections for daily inspiration. With over half a million devoted listeners tuning in to the station everyday, this second volume promises to be as popular as the first.
After a brief foreword by Bishop James Jones, who explains that prayer should be a daily part of life – not just for times of tragedy - an individual reading is provided for each calendar month. There are 365 (leap years have evidently ceased to exist) meditations or reflections lasting only a couple of paragraphs, followed by a short, one line prayer. Each entry has at some point featured on the radio programme within the past decade, and offers thoughts and perspectives about current challenges, opportunities, gratitude, hope and joy.
The idea of the Prayer for the Day radio broadcast is to equip the listener with the positive attitude to commence the day. Unfortunately this is only beneficial for the early risers, meaning that those who enjoy a lie-in or live an alternative lifestyle miss out on these words of wisdom. With this book, no one misses out on the opportunity to pray; it can be read whenever and wherever one pleases.
Although largely targeted at British Christians (of all denominations), contributors include Jews, Sikhs, Muslims and Buddhists. Admittedly, Christianity is the most predominate, however other religious insights give people the chance to view ideas from an alternative perspective. None of the daily entries attempt to convert readers to a different religion; instead they reveal how similar the ethics and moral codes are. If religious labels and prejudices were removed, the world would be a much more peaceful planet.
There are already books, diaries, magazines and so forth offering a similar day-to-day reading, however some delve too deeply into the bible (or indeed the Qur’an etc) that the message gets lost in profound ideas and complicated language. Prayer for the Day is compiled by dozens of different people; some are bishops, ministers, imams, and authors - essentially the average religious person. Knowing their target audience, each contributor talks to the reader or listener, rather than at them. These are not sermons; they are a short, often personal, message the writers/speakers wish to share with the world. From both a religious and educational point of view, readers are more likely to gain something from this volume – and previous volume – than they would reading essays, documents and books on the subject.
As mentioned above, each daily reflection has previously been broadcast on the radio within the last decade. This, however, causes a few problems. The book is not intended for a specific year (hence why the missing 29th February will at some point be an issue), therefore religious occasions – specifically Easter and Ramadan – will not fall on the same date every year. In this volume, Ramadan occurs several times, and there is at least a week between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Mentions of specific events such as the Syrian refugee crisis or earthquakes will become, or already are, outdated.
Nevertheless, regardless of the time of year, there is something worth learning or considering every day. As the entries (except for having been broadcast on that exact day in the past) are not in chronological order, there is no need to feel compelled to read everyday. If circumstances hinder the opportunity to pick up the book, you do not need to worry about trying to catch up at a later date. As it is impossible to remember word-for-word everything written, Prayer for the Day can be read year on year, offering insights you may have missed or glossed over previously.
For those looking for a prayer book for the coming new year, BBC Radio 4’s Prayer for the Day is definitely worth considering. Not only is it easy to read and understand, the book itself (hardback) is beautiful to look at. Designed by Francesca Corsini, this book will not look out of place next to your bible (or other religious text).
August is named after the first Roman Emperor, Augustus Caesar. He was also the Emperor of Rome when Jesus was born. This is usually the season for holidays; a time to reflect, to relax and recharge our batteries. Many of us will have cancelled our holidays this year but, if we have been lucky enough to book something, going somewhere different, changing our routines, seeing different views, can really be a spiritual burst to our lives. It is important that holidays provide a break from routines and habits but, just as importantly, they make us question why we do things a particular way when we come back.
Being able to look at our lives from the outside helps us reject bad habits and the routines that take us further from God, allowing us instead to reassess ourselves, our identity and our role in the community.
Lockdown, in a way, has caused us to change our routines and adapt to new rules and safety measures. As the country prepares to return to “normal”, think about your old routines. Will you fall back into them? Have you developed new routines that are better and more productive? Think to yourself, “when I pick up the routines again of normal life, will they enrich and enhance my life or will they drain and hold me back?”
If you are going away, enjoy it. I hope the weather will be lovely and that you stay safe but have lots of fun.
We are happy for you to use any material found here, however, please acknowledge the source: www.gantshillurc.co.uk
Rev'd Martin Wheadon