We have been unable to sing in church for many months now, due to the restrictions of the pandemic, and it has been a great loss to many in church, not just on Sundays but at weddings and funerals. Apart from singing in order to express something to, or about, God, people benefit from singing, many people enjoy singing. Research says it is good for you! I am not the greatest singer by any means, but I do enjoy it – not least when driving alone and I can sing as loudly and unselfconsciously as I like! For years I have said that one day I will pluck up the courage to have some singing lessons. Maybe this year is the year?!
These are the words of the first verse of one of my favourite hymns:
Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.
Powerful words about the constant, unchanging nature of God. But is that an accurate thing to say about God? Well in one sense, yes, if by unchanging we refer to the nature of God. In the context of this hymn we think of God’s constant faithfulness, God unfailing compassion and we are assured in the bible of the unchanging nature of his love for humanity and the world.
But God is also the God of new things. The bible is full of accounts and poems and stories of God doing a new thing. New ways of reaching out to the world he loves, new ways of showing that love, new ways of reconciling, new ways of blessing. This should be an encouragement as we face an ongoing situation of uncertainty. There has been great change over these past months and we are emerging from this pandemic as different people, changed people – and a changed church – and we must remember that the love and faithfulness of God remains constant, unchanged while at the same time trusting that he can still be at work, still be present when everything around us has shifted, changed, is different. In addition, I think we have to be imaginative, to dream new dreams, to discover new possibilities in the life of our churches, while trusting that God will still be there, even if it is not quite like it always has been.
Change can be uncomfortable and frightening as it sometimes feels like a loss, but it can also be exciting and very positive and if we have learned anything this year or so, I think it is that we can discover real nuggets of treasure amidst difficult times.
There are more changes to our service pattern at Grantchester and St Mark’s over the summer, as we try and balance returning to something like normal, but taking forward all that we have learned during the pandemic. This means that services will return to something approaching our previous main morning pattern, but retaining some Zoom services as well. In particular, please note that the fourth Sunday sees a joint Zoom as the main service, but also there is an additional Zoom in the evening on the second Sunday, along with a return to 8am and 9.30am services on the first three Sundays of the month at St Mark’s (11.15am at Grantchester). Full details are found here.
So amidst all the changes of life, the good ones and the more uncomfortable and difficult ones, we remember a God who delights in doing new things but whose love, faithfulness, compassion, care and presence with us are unchanging and constant. And maybe we recommit to embracing new things, being creative and continually watching out for the glimpses of God at work.