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From The Vicar, June 2020

From Reverend Teresa Stewart-Sykes - June 2020


We’ll be back soon……….


Apart from Sci-Fi afficionados, doomsday-mongers and Bill Gates none of us ever imagined we would be living in times like these. At the time of writing, we are still shut in our homes and our church doors are closed and locked. We do not know when our lives will return to normal. Emotionally, we are in a place that could be described as a wilderness, an inhospitable region, an unchartered country. That said, our village communities remain buoyant, supportive, and hopeful places. The message pinned to our church doors, ‘We’ll be back soon’ draws our eyes to future horizons, but is there anything at all we can learn from our current situation?


In Christian spirituality, ‘going into the wilderness’ can be a positive experience. The Israelites wandered around in the desert for ‘40 years’ learning to know themselves, to discover what was important to them, and to rely on God for the very bread and water that enabled them to survive. They emerged from the wilderness a people capable of establishing a nation and a culture, a self-confident community equipped for the battles ahead. So, for Christians a time of retreat spent apart from the world is seen as an opportunity for reflection, analysis of self, and spiritual growth. For many, these days under the lockdown are similarly an opportunity to discover what we value the most, who is most important to us, and what direction we would like our lives to take after the lockdown. Our time in this ‘wilderness’ is a time for us as a community and a nation to examine our shared ideals and to change our lives and the lives of those most vulnerable in our society for the better.


The flip side to this ‘wilderness’ experience is what is known as the ‘dark night of the soul’ a place of devastating loss, of weariness, and listlessness. We’ve all been in this place at some point in our lives and have struggled to make sense of it all. There are many of us who are suffering currently because of Covid 19, the cruel way in which it separates families and loved ones at a time when the comfort of a hug and the loving touch of a hand is most needed. The book of Job in the Bible is an excoriating account of an individual wrestling with God to make sense of the darkest experiences of human suffering.


Even the most devoted Christians have battled to live through such times; Mother Teresa spent the last 50 years of her life afflicted with a spiritual darkness, but like Job she eventually came to accept her pain as part and parcel of her calling to serve others. The collective pain we are experiencing in these times tests our character. The love and gratitude we are feeling for those who serve us, the Doctors and Nurses, the carers, the refuse collectors, and the postal staff; is a testament to the character of our communities. It is not so long ago that we were anxious about the divisions in our society, but we are discovering a commitment to each other that is as courageous as it is loving.


‘We’ll be back soon’ and the future holds the possibility of change and renewal. God’s blessing to you all until we meet again.


Rev Teresa



The Revd Teresa Stewart-Sykes is Team vicar for The Baldons with Nuneham Courtenay, Berinsfield and Drayton St Leonard.

e-mail: RevTeresa@outlook.com      and tel: 07823 809112

A clergy person can always be reached in a pastoral emergency by ringing the Dorchester Team Office 01865 340007










From Reverend Teresa Stewart-Sykes - May 2020


Idle; gerund or present participle: idling; Definition: spend time doing nothing

Similar: do nothing, be inactive, vegetate, sit back, take it easy, rest on one's oars, mark time, kick one's heels, twiddle one's thumbs, kill time, languish, laze (around/about), lounge (around/about), loll (around/about), loaf (around/about), slouch (around/about), go to seed, degenerate, moulder, stagnate, move aimlessly or lazily.


In this period of lockdown does this definition have any resonance with you? I find myself doing quite a lot of idling at the moment! That’s not to say I haven’t been busy; we’ve had Holy Week and Easter and I have had to learn to be a priest in a completely new way, finding new means of worshipping and sharing time with scattered congregations via social media, which I am not ashamed to admit has been a steep learning curve! I’m sure that’s been your experience too.


But in between this frantic activity in front of the computer, I have found these days of lockdown disconcertingly vague. I’ve been idling, lounging about, marking time. Sometimes this has been lovely, especially with the sun out and the garden springing into new life. Other times it has been hard to sit back whilst others are desperately working to save lives in hospitals, or comforting the sick in care homes, or stacking the supermarket shelves so that people can buy what they need for their families and loved ones. There are many more for whom doing nothing means loss of income, a threat to their business, severe financial hardship in the future.


In such times we naturally look to familiar routines and rhythms of life to anchor ourselves. For the Church this Easter season is a time of revival, of fresh hope and new plans, it is the season when we say ‘Alleluia’ quite a lot! However, this year it is a time of waiting; our joy is suppressed for we do not know what the future will hold. We are idling.


Our anchor may perhaps be found not in routines but in people, in our families, in our communities. Our anchor may be in the small and surprising acts of kindness of our neighbours; the phone call to see if we need anything from the shops, the friendly wave as we pass each other whilst out for our ‘daily exercise’, the breezy chat through the safe barrier of a shared hedge! This too is our hope, we can believe that it will get better because when it comes down to it what matters to us is that we care for each other.


God’s blessing to you all, may we share lots of hugs and ‘Alleluia’s in the near future.



Rev Teresa