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Parish letter

From the Curate

Joy is not something we actually normally often fully experience and likewise, sadness or at least depression, is not something we normally endure, both experiences for most of us for most of time sit on the extremes of our life, we are sometimes quite jolly and sometimes a bit down, some of tend to a more cheerful disposition and some of us struggle to be generally cheerful.  However, genuine ecstatic joy or the pit of depression these are not things we normally experience day after day.

However, some people are deeply and persistently depressed, often after something really bad has happened and they have, for whatever reason, lost an ability to pull back up, to accept the complexity of life and make the best of what is available.  We cannot sit in judgement or tell such lost souls to ‘snap out of it’ we are not where they are and maybe never have been or will be.

Like many, however, I tend to suffer a little from seasonally affected sadness; depression is too strong a word.  This morning the sun shone and, whilst walking the dog, I clocked the birds singing and the slight warm of the sunlight on my face, the pleasant freshness rather than chill of the air that I breathed, and, spontaneously I felt an urge to give thanks to the Lord.  Not thanks for the unusually pleasant January weather, but thanks for simply being; thanks for nothing more really that I am in existence and that I can take pleasure in being part of the created order.

The Old Testament is something I have written about before, and I am personally re-engaging with Old Testament texts, in part, because they often speak honestly to the complexity of life.  Psalm 23 is well known, as a child brought up in the Presbyterian tradition in Northern Ireland, it was a Psalm we sang in school, in church and most movingly, unaccompanied by musical instruments at gravesides, in my mind, always in the cold damp mizzle of a grey Ulster winter day.

It catches me unawares when sung.  Not so much that memories come flooding back but rather a reality about life and death which I sensed or perhaps momentarily grasped as a child, is reawakened, re-stirred, re-stirred deep within me. The Psalms can help us to learn how to articulate and process some the pain and the grief that we experience.  We do not have to hold on to the pain, we can let it go.  Neither do we have to ‘shake our fist at God’ or vent our anger and frustration and despair on others, we can accept reality; we can walk, walk in the life that God has given us. 

When we sing or pray the Psalms we are often looking deep into the pit, acknowledging its depth and then in a sombre honesty moving away, moving into the light of God.

‘4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. ‘

God Bless, William