Thursday 23 April 2020

Thoughts on Isolation - notes by a submariner

Sent in by Bishop John Davies.

The following is written by an altar server at St Bride's Scottish Episcopal Church, Glasgow, who is also a submarine commander based at Faslane naval base on the Clyde.

We are naturally sociable creatures. Faced with the prospect of isolation at home, we will have to adapt in many ways. No doubt initially, for some at least, it will be an adventure and an opportunity to get on with all those chores and projects that daily life shunts down the priority list. I, for example, got out an old airfix plane today which had sat in a partly painted state for at least two months. Even those who are most content when in their own company may lose something by solitude being enforced. 

What, in your day to day life, provides the structure to create fulfilment and satisfaction at the end of the day? Work is the core component of a lot of people’s routine. The daily sequence of breaking one’s fast, dressing, commuting, clocking on, breaking for coffee &c. turns twenty four hours into defined, bound chunks. Weekend routine mid-week, from being made to stay at home, can develop lethargy, apathy and restlessness. Without work, something else needs to be created to punctuate the passing hours in the day. 

Those of you that have retired will have already made the transition to a self-driven routine but I suspect that scheduling, for some at least, is new and essential. Rather than looking ahead to a distant and undetermined end date, busyness and focus can be generated by working towards the next short term task. As each is accomplished and rewarded with satisfaction, we gain the motivation to tackle the next task.

On patrol on a Royal Navy Submarine, the commanders know from tradition the importance of routine. The day is split into six hour watches, with everyone on board alternating an on watch with an off watch. These regular handovers make the days pass surprisingly quickly and handing over to the same person four times a day creates a specific sort of social bond which is a hook to support the individual’s overall sense of contentment.

The layers of habit do not stop there. Famously, a sailor knows which day it is by the meal he is served for dinner. Some of these are old traditions with origins in the Church such as fish and chips on a Friday and a Sunday roast, but also curry Wednesdays, Steak Saturdays and other meals throughout the week. Modern innovation creates a Chinese takeaway night or a Nando’s night. The expressions ‘an army marches on its stomach’ and ‘a good chef means a happy ship’ are grounded in truth: food is vital to morale in the armed services and will be to those stuck at home too. Making nourishing meals with what you can will keep you healthy and happy. Perhaps not only for the food itself, but the time spent preparing and the satisfaction of creating.

Of habits that you may have, daily outdoor activity is one I encourage you to keep or pursue. It could be jogging, cycling, walking the dog, or gentle gardening (respecting the rules of social distancing). If you cannot go out, then open the windows and let the outside in, even just for five minutes. For months at a time, submariners are without the simple pleasures of breathing fresh air, looking at the sky or feeling the sun and wind. You do not have to be. Studies have proven that connection with nature can lower stress levels and improve individual’s wellbeing, so make time in your routine to do so.

One other major limitation to life on a submarine is the inability to communicate with family. Everyone on board receives a paragraph of unpunctuated block capitals text from home each week, but the necessity to stay hidden means that nothing can be sent in reply. Thankfully, life under COVID-19 is not quite as restrictive. Indeed, with modern technology we are always connected, and whilst pre-occupied with something else we can send an inane response to a joke that has been relayed from somewhere else. But not being able to support those quick messages with visits and face-to-face conversations will require adaptation. I urge you to schedule dedicated time for a real conversation with your loved ones, whoever that may be, a spouse, parent, child, grandchild or friend. Feeling locked in and alone will be softened by knowing that you have made time for others and they for you.

I expect that the proportion of people who can honestly say that they ‘have not noticed’ the effect of the virus will substantially diminish as we progress in these uncertain times. However, I trust that everyone will find their way through and that the turning point will become clear. We will adapt to new routines and find new ways to connect and communicate. Keep in touch everyone, and stay safe.

Saturday 18 April 2020

from Val

Dear Friends
I hope you are safe and well and managing OK in these unusual circumstances. It has come as no surprise that the period of lockdown has been extended for at least another three weeks. 
Easter was certainly different this year, but the quieter time gave us an opportunity to reflect on the good news of the Risen Lord.  Some found this time extremely helpful, whilst others struggled with the lack of fellowship, but we each marked Easter Sunday in our homes and we are still united as the Body of Christ in this place.
The Gospel reading for Sunday 19th April is the story of Thomas, a story familiar to us all.  I always feel sorry for Thomas after all he has spent 2,000 year being known as Doubting Thomas. Yet he was a very firm believer and Thomas gives us permission to doubt and to ask questions in order to deepen our faith and draw closer to Christ.
Just as Jesus came to the disciples in the locked house, Jesus still comes amongst us in our 'lockdown' homes and says ‘Peace be with you’.  In a special way in these uncertain times the peace of God surrounds and upholds us.   Thomas’ encounter with the Risen Lord was the beginning of something wonderful.  He went on to be a faithful witness to Christ and is credited with bringing the Gospel to India.
May you know his comfort and his peace in these difficult days.
Every Blessing…Val

The readings for Sunday April 19th, and Bishop Gregory's Pastoral letter of April 15th, are available to download on the NEWS page.

Sunday 12 April 2020

from Val

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Dear Friends

Today we rejoice in the Risen Lord.  The dark days of Lent and Holy Week are over and we walk in the light of his love.  We may not be able to meet in Church but we celebrate the Resurrection in our homes united in God’s love.  We know that these troubled times are far from over and continue to pray for all who suffer at this time.  The message of Easter remains the same and brings hope and promise as we face the future.

I know many of you have family who are front line key workers.  We hold them and you in our prayers. We give thanks for their care and dedication and pray they remain safe and well.

The Church may be closed but we are able to be part of Easter services through the printed word and services on the television and the internet.   By the power of technology we join together united with Christians throughout the world.

I send you joyful Easter Blessings.  May the joy of the Risen Lord fill your hearts and your homes this Easter and grant you his love and his peace.

With Many Blessings….Val

Saturday 11 April 2020

Easter Sunday readings

The readings for Easter Sunday are now available to download on the NEWS page.

Friday 10 April 2020

Good Friday Prayers

Dear Friends

On this Good Friday we know that we are in unprecedented times and there will be more difficult days ahead.  As we unite at the foot of the cross we share with the disciples that sense of despair as we too are caught up in events which are beyond our control.  But we stay strong in faith remembering the events of Good Friday are acts of supreme love;  John chapter 3 verse 16

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Every Blessing...Val

Dear Jesus, who died to save all mankind, we come before your cross to remember your great love for us.  We are sorry for the times when we have not returned your love
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy

Lord Jesus you were tested by the evil one
Break in us the hold of power and pride.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy

Lord Jesus you knew deep tears and weaknesses
Help us to be vulnerable for you.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy

You followed to the end the Way of the Cross
Help us to be faithful to you
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy

May Almighty God who sent his son into the world to save sinners, bring us his pardon and peace, now and forever. Amen.

Jesus, Son of the most high God,
whose love for us knows no limits,
who died the worst death a human being can know,
tortured, mocked, abandoned.
we stand at the foot of your cross in awe.
Just as you finished your work on earth,
complete your work in our lives.
Open us to your Spirit until we are all yours,
and let nothing hold us back
from following you all the way to the cross and beyond.
Jesus, lifted up, we lift up our hearts to you.

Sunday 5 April 2020

from Val

Dear Friends

I hope you and your family continue to stay safe and well. 
As we come to the beginning of Holy Week we are only too aware of the seriousness of the situation we are facing at this time.  We are unable to come together for our usual Palm Sunday and Holy Week services and Good Friday 3 Hours at the Cross.  This is the first time since I have been here that we have been unable to meet in this way.  We are facing dark days but Holy Week reminds us that life and death are intertwined and from darkness comes light. 
Thank you to all who have commented on the services we have sent out so far, we are still Church just a different kind of Church.  
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
With Many Blessings....Val

A service for Palm Sunday, and the readings for the day, are available to download on the NEWS page