10 May 2020

This week, only the accompaniments for hymns have been recorded, and you are invited to read or sing the words in time to the music. The organ accompaniments for Fulda and Slane are provided by Richard M. S. Irwin (https://play.hymnswithoutwords.com) and are used with his permission.

Order of service

Piano prelude: Voluntary in A minor – Anon. 17th cent.


Good morning. It’s good to be connecting together again in this way.
Today at the beginning of Christian Aid Week, I am using the readings and prayers suggested by them, and even a good lot of the material they’ve given as sermon pointers.

Like many church activities at the moment, Christian Aid Week is being done differently. During this time together we’ll have space to read and listen, sing and pray, and remember and acknowledge that we are part of a global community. We are neighbours near and far who are going through this coronavirus pandemic together. Our shared experience will unite us in praise and prayer as one family, separate but together in the home that is God’s world.

Gathering Prayer
God of all the Earth, be present with us now,
in each of our homes, as we connect together.
Build us into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood,
offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to you
through Jesus Christ, our risen redeemer and healer. Amen

Tune: Billing – R. R. Terry (1685 – 1938)

Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God,
In every part with praise,
That my whole being may proclaim
Thy being and Thy ways.

Not for the lip of praise alone,
Nor e’en the praising heart,
I ask, but for a life made up
Of praise in every part:

Praise in the common things of life,
Its goings out and in;
Praise in each duty and each deed,
However small and mean.

Fill every part of me with praise;
Let all my being speak
Of Thee and of Thy love, O Lord,
Poor though I be and weak.

So shall no part of day or night
From sacredness be free,
But all my life, in every step,
Be fellowship with Thee.

H. Bonar (1808 – 89)

Prayer of confession and absolution
Before we pray, think how many times have you washed your hands today…
We approach our prayer of confession and absolution, mindful of the ritual significance of hand washing in the Bible, which is closely associated with innocence and cleansing from sin. Maybe at the end of this prayer, pause the podcast and go and wash your hands.

As we turn on the tap, we turn our hearts towards you, O God.
As we wet our hands, renew our thoughts, so we might be transformed.
As we lather soap between fingers and over all our hands,
purge from us all that brings us harm and might harm others.
Remove the invisible guilt and shame that so often keeps us from you.
As we rinse our hands, we trust in your overflowing grace, making all things new.
In Christ’s name, Amen.

Introduction to the first reading
Our first reading is Psalm 31, attributed to King David. Since the words express many of the emotions that we might be experiencing at the moment, we will take the time to read and listen to the whole Psalm. As you listen to it, be aware of any verses or phrases that jump out at you, and any phrases that you find helpful. It is read to us by Richard Byrn.

Reading: Psalm 31

Piano interlude: Lied – H. Hoffmann (1842 – 1902)

Introduction to the second reading
This is part of the long farewell discourse between Jesus and His disciples during the last supper. It took place shortly after He washed the feet of the disciples with His own hands. Even though it is the Fifth Sunday of Easter, these words have a poignancy and power for us this Christian Aid Week Sunday. It is read to us by Sara Henderson

Reading: John 14: 1 – 14

For some, the psalms have taken on even greater meaning at this difficult time. While the context of Psalm 31 isn’t the same as our circumstances, it expresses the honest emotions of grief and lament that many are currently experiencing. Verse 24 alone is one which many may find helpful to think on while we wait on the Lord for strength and courage. It says, ‘Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.’

While written as an individual prayer, the psalmist inspires our collective prayer in verse 2 for the global community. He says, ‘God, incline your ear to us; rescue us speedily. Be a rock of refuge for us, a strong fortress to save us.’ He prays as we do now, for God’s protection, and for deliverance from whatever may threaten our lives. He is also not afraid to tell God how things really are, and this reminds us that God is interested in our physical suffering and wellbeing.

In these days of isolation, when we have had to retreat to the fortress of our own homes, we may gain a new understanding of God as our fortress, the place of security and safety we can turn to. God is not a fortress who barricades us in, but strengthens and reinforces us, enabling us to look out for the most vulnerable, near and far – albeit by phone or from a safe distance. Christian Aid has always been about reaching out to our neighbours.

In verse 11, the psalmist talks about his enemies. Some have found it easy to speak of those thought to be carriers of the virus as the ‘other’, the alien, holding them in contempt rather than compassion. Or we can find ourselves judging those who’ve been panic buying, while failing to understand the fear that motivates them; or those we have seen not distancing, when closeness may be what they cannot do without.

When our own hands, and the hands of others, have become something of a threat, and when many are no longer experiencing the reassuring touch of a hand on a shoulder, nor comforted by the embrace of a hug, the references to hands in the Psalm are poignant. The psalmist writes of committing his spirit into God’s hands, and of being in God’s hands. He also describes his desire to be delivered from the hands of his oppressors and from that hidden invisible net which threatens to entangle him.

On the cross, Jesus quoted v5 of the psalm, ‘into your hands I commit my spirit’, that committing into God’s hands. As we face the reality that coronavirus has and will lead to the end of life for many of our neighbours, near and far, it is into the hands of God that we entrust them to His eternal keeping.

So we look to the gospel passage. The promises in John chapter 14 are often offered as hope and reassurance at times of bereavement, and will have a resonance for those who have lost loved ones in recent weeks and months, whether or not to the virus.

The comforting words: “do not let your hearts be troubled”, are spoken to the disciples who have good reason to have troubled hearts with all that lay ahead of them. They are words of comfort offered to all, and can be a comfort in these unsettling times. When many are turning to mindfulness and meditation, this assures us we are safe in God’s love.

In verse 10, where Jesus says, “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me…”, we are invited to spend time in God’s presence. For those who can find the space, our homes can become a place for spiritual retreat. When we can finally leave our homes, we can still carry this sense of God’s presence with us, wherever we go. For Jesus, time in God’s presence as He went off on His own to pray, was the source of all He said and did in the world. So we are reminded that the Father’s presence is with us, and His Holy Spirit lives in us as we reach out to others.

This gospel passage concludes with a call which Christian Aid are encouraging this year – a call to prayer. Right in the middle of the last supper, Jesus encourages the disciples to ask Him for anything and He’ll do it. In the face of unanswered prayer, this may seem hard to hear at this time. However, these are words Jesus wants His disciples to remember when He’s no longer with them. He wants them, and us, to come to Him with every cause, concern and request.

So we reach out in prayer: to pray in trust, like the psalmist, that our times are in God’s hands; to pray for deliverance from hands that might harm us, including our own; and to bring everything to God in prayer through Jesus. Christian Aid thanks God for all in the past who have delivered and collected envelopes; for all the hands that have poured cups of tea and coffee, put up posters advertising events, and many more things besides; and of course, who counted and returned the money collected.

Thank God for the hands that have put love into action, have been good neighbours and counted no-one as enemies, and who continue to work for the world’s poorest, the most vulnerable in this crisis. Thank God and pray for the hands of all those working on the medical frontline now to save lives, in the UK and around the world, and who bring healing and comfort. Thank God for hands stacking shelves and delivering groceries and post.

We reach out by clasping our hands together in prayer for our neighbours, and holding our hands open before God as we offer needs and concerns for their wellbeing and our own. As we wash our hands more carefully and more often, we can pray to God to hold in His care all those we have held hands with, carried and hugged, until we can again. We can also pray for those we have never touched, but who have been reached with generous hands in our giving.

This Friday, 15th May, we are joining prayer as a Church with the Prayer Wave across our country. Join in prayer from 9-9.30am and 4.30-5pm. Details will be coming around by email this week, but our thoughts today are the basis of our prayers for the UK, and the world, in this Christian Aid Week.

Tune: Fulda – Gardiner’s Sacred Melodies, 1815.

Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
in living echoes of thy tone;
as thou hast sought, so let me seek
thy straying children, lost and lone.

O lead me, Lord, that I may lead
the wandering and the wavering feet;
O feed me, Lord, that I may feed
thy hungering ones with manna sweet.

O strengthen me, that while I stand
firm on the rock and strong in thee,
I may stretch out a loving hand
to wrestlers with the troubled sea.

O teach me, Lord, that I may teach
the precious things thou dost impart;
and wing my words that they may reach
the hidden depths of many a heart.

O use me, Lord, use even me,
just as thou wilt, and when, and where,
until thy blessed face I see,
thy rest, thy joy, thy glory share.

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-79)

Prayers of lament and intercession
Our prayers of lament and intercession are read to us by Susan Bollon. There will be a pause after each section to bring our own prayers. While we pray with the words, it is suggested we pray with our hands open, as a sign of offering our prayers to God and receiving from Him.

God our refuge,
we come to you with open hands,
some of us with hearts full of questions,
some of us bruised by bereavement,
some of us fearful of what the future holds,
all of us stunned by the events of this year.
Draw close to us now in each of our homes
as we place our honest questions and hopes
into your open, resurrected, yet scarred hands.
God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

With the honesty of the psalmist,
the wrestling questions of Job,
and the lament of the prophets,
we bring to you our questions or our silence.
Hold before God those questions.


God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

Hear the cry of our hearts, Lord, silent and aloud,
for bereaved neighbours, near and far.
Comfort those pained by being absent,
and hold close those who are hurting alone.
Hold before God those known to you.


God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

In this season of Easter,
renew us with resurrection hope that while weeping lingers in this night,
joy will come with the morning.
Hold before God those thoughts of joy of what you hope for the future.


God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

On this Christian Aid Week Sunday,
we pray for and with communities across the world who are
most vulnerable to coronavirus.
We pray for people living in refugee camps and city slums,
with limited sanitation facilities, who are unable to wash their hands regularly,
and have little opportunity to isolate from others.
We pray for Christian Aid partners working to provide soap and buckets,
communicating clear, accurate information, raising the voices of the most vulnerable
and ensuring they are kept as safe as possible.
Hold refugees and Christian Aid partners before God.


God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

For those of us who are self-isolating,
which can sometimes feel like we aren’t doing anything,
remind us that we are all doing our part, and saving lives by staying at home.
Hold yourself before God.


God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

We pray for much wisdom and resources for those in local and national authority
for all frontline and key workers here in Britain, Ireland and across the world.
Hold them all before God.


God in your mercy,
hear our prayer.

As we have clapped to honour them,
we clap our hands now in praise of your glorious creation,
and with hope that the first shoots of another possible world are coming into view.

pause to clap

God in your mercy, hear all our prayers, in Jesus’ name,

Please join with me in the words of the Lord’s Prayer

Tune: Slane – Irish traditional melody

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
naught be all else to me, save that thou art—
thou my best thought in the day and the night,
waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
thou ever with me and I with thee, Lord;
thou my great Father, thy child let me be,
thou in me dwelling, and I one with thee.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
be thou my dignity, thou my delight,
thou my soul’s shelter, and thou my strong tower;
raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor earth’s empty praise,
thou mine inheritance, now and always;
thou and thou only, the first in my heart,
High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, thou heaven’s bright sun,
grant me its joys after vict’ry is won;
heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

Ancient Irish poem, tr. Mary E. Byrne (1880-1931) and Eleanor H. Hull (1860-1935) altd.

Closing blessing
As we go and wash our hands again:
May the presence of the Creator refresh us,
may the comfort of the Son renew us,
may the inspiration of the Spirit restore us
to be love in action, even from a distance,
in neighbourhoods, near and far,
this day and for evermore. Amen.

Piano postlude: Sonata in C major – Allegro – J. Haydn (1732 – 1809)