LETTER FROM OUR MINISTER, REV. Robert Barthram
Firstly, I would like to thank you for your prayers following the recent death of my mother. Thanks also to all those who sent cards, letters, emails and various messages. These strange times we are in add constraints that are not normally present, so your kindnesses were appreciated all the more.
One of the constraints our family has experienced, as has thousands of others recently, is being unable to have the funeral service we would want and instead having to settle for the committal at a crematorium with just three of us present. There is a plan for something more appropriate when circumstances permit at my mother’s church. We will then be able to share memories with those who knew and loved her and be reminded of things we have forgotten.
One of my memories I cherish is of family holidays. In particular, the seven years in succession we went to Woolacombe in North Devon, when I was quite young. The sights, sounds and smells of that beautiful part of the world are etched into my memory. Part of those holidays was attending the local Methodist chapel on Sundays, which taught me the importance of attending worship on holiday. Over the years it has been a joy to experience that sense of family when attending worship in different parts of this country and the world. A joy to experience the varieties of worship due to different Christian traditions and local custom. We are fortunate that English is so widely spoken but even when not, it has still been wonderful.
On one memorable occasion, I went to join my youngest daughter after she had attended a youth conference in Israel/Palestine and on the Sunday, we attended the Church of Scotland in Jerusalem. The building looks across a valley to the ancient walls of Jerusalem and is built by ancient tombs on the original road to Bethlehem. It was near that church building, in 1979 that archaeologists found two silver scrolls, apparently once used as amulets (big bracelets) and on them was inscribed words from the Old Testament book of Numbers. Those silver scrolls contain the oldest surviving text from the Bible, which by the most modern dating methods places them from just before the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Meaning these words were written down during the lifetime of the prophet Jeremiah, so immediately prior to the events described in the book of 2 Kings Ch 25.
The most ancient text we yet have from the Bible and on a recent Sunday it appeared in a very contemporary way - it popped up on my mobile phone on WhatsApp, sent by another of my daughters. The words were being sung by a choir from numerous churches across the UK, all in their own homes but beautifully blending together in what is simply called The UK Blessing and it concludes with the reminder, ‘our buildings may be closed but the church is alive.’
If you haven’t yet seen and heard it try and do so, it is inspiring. I mention it however because it reminds us that the words of our bible may be very ancient but they are also as modern and contemporary as anything in today’s world. We are in difficult times but the bible and our faith are as relevant now as ever they were. Those ancient words that are sung today are:
“The LORD bless you and keep you:
The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”
Yours in Christ,