The Manse of St John’s and St Leonard’s in the Fields
Letter for Late June 2021
“He who sings prays twice” St Augustine
“God has created me to do Him some definite service…He does nothing in vain: He knows what he is about”
St John Henry Newman
My dear friends* of St John’s and St Leonard’s in the Fields and many other friends throughout the world: Hello!
Can it really be 58 years now since Cliff Richard’s “We’re all going on a summer holiday”?… and you are now breaking into song!
For many, the chance to be on holiday has finally arrived: for families with school-aged children the long wait is over. Spare a thought also for all who teach: they too, perhaps most of all in society, need a total rest.
Holidays are always special: the old spelling of the word was “holy days.” The original meaning of holy was “different, set apart” and a holy day was a chance to remember a saint of the church and enjoy a rest in his or her honour, as well as worship in the local church. In fact that is the pattern for the true meaning of a Sunday in our Christian tradition: and now a bonus: the chance to worship God with singing has at last come back.
What a difference it has made since both congregations sang for the first time since 15th March 2020 during Morning Service on the 13th June 2021. St Augustine’s words above take on an even greater significance.
However, during the lockdown months, Alex Stewart and I would often read out in Sunday worship the verses of each hymn, to be followed by the Organist playing the tune and, interestingly, that pattern appealed to many who told me that that style enabled a greater concentration on the meaning of the hymns’ words.
I read recently that a London Church which staged the premiere of Sir James MacMillan’s musical reflections on Cardinal Newman’s words, as above, used a similar technique when Newman’s words were read out by Alexander Armstrong.
How we participate varies: crucially what matters most is our approach, attitude and ability to honour God.
I hope that in these summer days which stretch ahead now during July and August, you will find many opportunities for rest, for re-creation, for a re-charging of your batteries in music, instrument and song, in poetry and prose – alongside perhaps a barbecue in your garden or on the beach, or a campfire on a hill or perhaps the building of a sand-castle with children or grandchildren and maybe many other restful pursuits; and, yes, the singing of songs or the reading of Scripture or the meditations of prayerful people, such as Augustine and Newman and no doubt many other great mystics – all of these are surely meant to enhance our well-being, spiritual, physical and emotional, as our hearts and minds incline to God and his love, amidst our families and the fellowship of the baptised.
Enjoy these summer days. Keep well. Swim safely. Walk far, climb carefully, holiday happily. Go with God.
My very best wishes
I know many across the world connect with us on Sunday Mornings to join with our Congregation in Worship. Perhaps, if you are reading this from afar or even near at hand, and wish to become a “Friend of St John’s”, I’d love to hear from you. If you can, look at our website and under the drop down menu heading “Support/donations”, you can read all about how to become a Friend. We need YOU!