I was refreshing my memory of what I wrote in my blog post two months ago, and was struck by my prayer request at the end, where I wrote:
“Alex and I have a lot of change and uncertainty on the horizon, which is both exciting as well as a little anxiety-inducing! We’d love it if you would join us in praying for God to lead us really clearly; to provide the finances we need as well as a suitable place to live; and for an ability to remain focused on our relationship with God and with each other over and above wedding planning”.
God has been answering these prayers in ways I never imagined. I am so grateful (and a little surprised, I must admit) that amidst even more uncertainty than I had before, I’ve felt a strong sense of God’s peace and blessing in the last few weeks. Regarding the wedding planning remark, I never anticipated that our need for pretty much all wedding planning would be taken away from us completely and overnight – a shock and disappointment – but also an opportunity for us to spend more time focusing on our relationship and preparing for marriage, which has been very positive in many ways. And praise God for his miraculous provision of finances since I last wrote, thanks to some of you, some of Alex’s supporters, and Alex’s former church, who have now committed to monthly support. We have almost exactly reached our target. Thank God for hearing our prayers!
This time in lockdown is a struggle for all of us in different ways. My heart sinks when I read articles that write about the impact of COVID-19 on society and the likely long-term need for social-distancing. I wonder when I’ll be able to see Alex, friends and family again. I feel for those living on their own… for those who are living in stressful home environments and can’t escape… and those who have lost loved ones at this time. Having acknowledged these sentiments and the reality of these challenging times, I am keen now to focus this post on some of the blessings I have experienced during lockdown.
I am part of a scaled-back staff team at Yeldall Manor, with some colleagues having been furloughed and others working from home. I’m grateful for the change of scenery and routine this provides. We are continuing to run a full rehabilitation programme, with a simple timetable that is easier for us to implement. Restrictions for residents (particularly not being able to go off-site or receive visitors) are challenging, but overall, they have been in good spirits and appreciate being in such a spacious and beautiful place at this time. It is a privilege to work there. One resident posted on Facebook:
“Thank you to the powers that be at Yeldall Manor while the world’s going mental outside, they have done what they do best!! They’ve thrown their arms around us n heaped more love on us. They’ve adapted the programme to help us in isolation so we can keep progressing. While other treatment centres are closing their doors n basically leaving clients to their own devices Yeldall do the opposite! It’s truly humbling I thank god every day… I’ve never known such love n commitment. I sat out the other night having a ciggie, thought about all this n what’s going on n it brought me to tears man. Feeling blessed”.
It has been interesting to see how churches have responded to this crisis. It reiterates the question that I already had in my mind following my recent ‘Missional Ecclesiology’ module at CMS, which is ‘What is Church’? Churches have been forced out of their buildings and pushed to think creatively about how to maintain a sense of community and help people to engage in worship and prayer in new ways. As a pioneer-in-training, I think this raises a healthy challenge for the church, and demonstrates that we can (and must) adapt, do things differently, and still be ‘church’! It has been encouraging to see how online services, prayer events and homegroups have been made possible, though I wouldn’t want to worship and have fellowship only through zoom or other virtual platforms in future. I have particularly appreciated joining some ‘Examen’ prayer sessions (a contemplative prayer of reflection looking back over your day with God), which my curate is running each evening over zoom.
Some other lockdown blessings include having more quality time with my housemate, including fairly regularly cooking for each other and eating together; connecting with neighbours through waving across the street during claps for NHS and a mutual support whatsapp group I created after putting letters through doors of everyone on my road; more time for baking, crafts, gardening and exercise; family zoom chats and baking/walking/praying/reading video dates with Alex!
Lastly, some of you are probably wondering what we’re planning to do regarding getting married. Good question! We were due to get married in St Mary’s, Wargrave, on 16th May, followed by a marquee reception at Yeldall Manor up the road. This is no longer happening! We are still thinking through options, which are all dependent on how and when restrictions are lifted. What seems most likely at this stage is that we’ll have a small wedding in Alex’s local church, St Mary’s, Northolt, when restrictions allow. We are looking into making this available for people to join ‘virtually’. Depending how scaled back this ceremony turns out to be, we may hold another celebration/wedding blessing later on. Prayers appreciated for wisdom and guidance on this. We are hopeful that we’ll be able to move into a 2-bedroom flat that has become available on the council estate round the corner from where Alex currently lives, which belongs to the church there and seems a perfect fit for us. Another answer to prayer!
I hope and pray that you’re able to experience some blessings in this difficult time too. Feel free to share some blessings in the ‘comments’ to this blog, which may encourage others. Thank you as always for your love, interest and support.
Blessings and love,