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(From Community Notes, Fairacres Chronicle 2024 Summer)

Dear Friends,

I write these summer notes at a time of great uncertainty and change. The situation in Gaza continues to worsen, alongside a rise in anti-Semitic feeling in many parts of the world. The situation in Ukraine is no nearer resolution as Russia continues its offensive. And here at home we approach a General Election at a time when the National Health Service continues to struggle to provide a service to those who need it.

I am also beginning these notes on the eightieth anniversary of the D-Day landings, remembering the sacrifice of those who fought to obtain freedom and peace for the world. It would be another seven months before the camp at Auschwitz would be liberated, but this was the beginning of the move towards peace. As has been pointed out, there are now very few remaining of those who survived landing on the beaches of Normandy on that day. Gradually fewer and fewer people remember the war years and the deprivations experienced, but we continue to face issues which have their origin in those war years—or going back centuries before.

This edition of the Chronicle addresses some of these issues; a reprint of an article by Rabbi Howard Cooper from 2015 faces the issues raised by the war in Gaza and in other areas head on, while Hamish Fullerton’s article takes us into the depths of the experience of human betrayal. The Chronicle also points us to how we should respond in Andy Lord’s article, ‘Presence and the Jesus Prayer’. The response of prayer and intercession is a vital part of our lives as Christians.

Watching the televised ‘debates’ (more like arguments) between our political leaders at this time of pre-election frenzy, reminds me that many of our troubles stem from our inability, or unwillingness, to meet the Other, to discuss and share our difference and similarities. An important text in the SLG Rule is found in Chapter 20, ‘Demeanour’:

As part of the repairing of people’s lack of respect for human nature and of their cruelty to one another, the Sisters shall remember the presence of God and his indwelling in any to whom they may be speaking. Therefore, quietness, reverence and love shall rule both words and actions.

Fallen humanity can tend to see the Other as an object either to be grasped or pushed away. Christ teaches us the way of the Kingdom, seeing others as unique individuals to be respected and cherished. While we may not agree, if we can learn to live together with trust and goodwill, those differences can become indicators of richness rather than badges of division.

We are perhaps most vulnerable as we approach death. Here in Community, we have been watching and waiting with Sr Julie as she neared the end of her life. We have had the privilege of being able to care for her at home; the experience of being with someone as they gently draw near to death is very different from that of those who lose their lives in violence and warfare. Sister Julie died peacefully just after midnight on 12 June, just before this issue of the Chronicle went to press. Our Rule challenges us as a Community to pray for the dead and for the dying,

remembering the countless numbers of those who have passed from this life spiritually uncared for and who are in special need of prayer. (Rule Chapter 18, ‘Intercession’).

Remembering those who have fallen in war, whether in the past or in more recent times, we can become aware of the absence of care in those situations. We can also be aware of those who, due to the circumstances of life, have no one close to them when they die. Again, we are reminded of the preciousness in the eyes of God of each individual person, a preciousness and respect which we should all endeavour to recognise, and which calls for a response of intercession and prayer.

This is easy enough with the people with whom we agree, who are friends rather than enemies. But through his self-offering on the Cross, Jesus teaches us that we must extend this love to all people. This is a lifelong task. Imagine what the world could be like if humanity was able to follow this path! However, we are fallen; we have to look to our Lord to tread the path before us.

What we can do is just as the SLG Rule reminds us; remember the presence of God in all whom we meet, and act towards them accordingly, with respect and a willingness to listen. This is something that we are all able to do, or try to do, in our own situations. And small as it is, it makes a difference, to us and to those around us.

Of course, all this is undergirded with love, the Love of God. Each day the Sisters pray a morning oblation, which includes the words:

My God, I desire to love thee with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul and with all my strength.

It is an echo of the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4–9, and we pray it each day as we ‘begin again’ daily—as we all do. It is all about love: our love of God, but more importantly, the Love of God for us.

In that Love I send you our prayers and best wishes.

Sister Clare-Louise SLG