Sunday, 30 August 2015
Caught off-guard beside the Syrian
Sea in two churches in Cambridge
I was challenged unexpected;y not once or twice but three times in church today [30 August 2015] to think again and to pray more and do more about the crisis in Syria.
In the morning I attended the Eucharist at the parish church of Saint Mary and Saint Michael in the village of Trumpington, on the southern fringes of Cambridge, where I was staying for the weekend before moving into Sidney Sussex College for a study week.
The Offertory Hymn was that well-known hymn by the American Quaker poet and activist, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892), Dear Lord and Father of mankind. I had been fumbling in my pocket for the collection, and as I returned to the hymn at the opening words of the second verse, I was struck by the lines:
In simple trust like theirs who heard,
beside the Syrian sea,
the gracious calling of the Lord,
let us, like them, without a word,
rise up and follow thee;
rise up and follow thee.
After receiving Communion at the rails, I returned to my pew, and joined the Communion hymn at the fourth verse of Kate Wilkinson’s hymn, May the mind of Christ my Saviour:
May the love of Jesus fill me
as the waters fill the sea …
How could I not find myself thinking and praying this morning about Syrian refugees on the sea?
May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only onto Jesus
as I onward go.
Later in the day, after I had settled into my rooms in Cloister Court in Sidney Sussex College, I slipped around the corner to Saint Bene’t’s Church for Evening Prayer. For the last few years, while I have been attending the IOCS summer schools and conferences in Sidney Sussex College, Saint Bene’t’s has been the nearest thing to a parish church I have in Cambridge.
This evening, Evening Prayer was being led by the associate priest at Saint Bene’t’s, the Revd Rachel Nichols. The Gospel reading this evening was Matthew 4: 23 to Matthew 5: 20.
Immediately before the Beatitudes we are told, “So his fame spread throughout Syria …” (Matthew 4: 24).
The crisis in Syria and the Syrian migrants on the sea cannot be pushed out of our minds and our prayers if we seek to be among those who are blessed because they mourn, because they are poor, seek peace and justice, peace righteousness and because they are merciful.