Thought for the Week, 31st March 2020

Some days I find it harder to focus during Morning Prayer than others.  This morning was one such time. I found myself lingering over the fact that today in the Church calendar, we commemorate the life of the poet and priest, John Donne.

I remembered how studying some of Donne’s poems at A-Level opened up a new world for me – one that was certainly key in my decision to go on to study Psychology.  In fact, John Donne shaped my adult life in more ways than one. For when Christopher and I met as guests at a wedding, we spent an extraordinarily long time together talking about Donne and the metaphysical poets.  It was then that I think we both realised that we might just be seeing rather a lot more of one another!  

John Donne was born in 1571.  As a young man, religion played very little part in his eventful  – and flamboyant – life. By the age of thirty, in addition to study, he’d been a ‘gentleman explorer’ sailing to Cadiz and the Azores; and an Member of Parliament.  And he’d briefly been imprisoned in the Fleet – having confessed to his secret marriage to Ann More. Ann was to die in 1617, after giving birth to their 11th child, who was stillborn. 

Donne’s faith in God gradually came to the fore, and after much heart-searching he was ordained into the Church of England at the age of 43.  Donne later became Dean of St. Paul’s, where he is buried.  

John Donne’s love poems, religious poetry and sermons seem to reflect the different stages of his own life’s journey, with its various joys, mistakes, passions and sorrows.  Yet, unlike other poets of his time, who sharply divided their secular and religious writing and experiences, Donne seems to entwine them deeply. 

In his Holy Sonnet 14, for example, where Donne cries to God, voicing the paradox of faith that we can only be truly free if we allow God to overpower us, he does so in accents of physical love: 

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me’.

And Donne recognises how it is his experiences of human love that have drawn him to God.  He writes in The Good Morrow:

If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desir’d and got, ‘twas but a dreame of thee’.

John Donne understood, I think, something very simple: that life isn’t compartmentalised between the secular and religious; that it is in all parts of our lives and in all our experiences that God is with us.  

As Christopher and I prayed this morning:

This I call to mind,
And therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
Great is your faithfulness.
Lamentations 1:5b-7


Looking Ahead, 30th March 2020

Looking Ahead

We are having an unusual Lent this year, probably unlike any of us have previously experienced.  I do hope you are finding some support through our online services and through regular contact from members of the congregation.  Please let us know if no one has been in touch with you. As well as being unusual Lent is going to be a week longer too! Let me explain.  

As government restrictions on travel outside the home and on church services are certainly in place until Monday 13 April, Archbishop Michael has suggested that the Anglican churches in Cyprus join with the other main churches on the island in celebrating Holy Week and Easter according to the eastern calendar – this year that is one week later than the western calendar.  This gives us the possibility that we may be able to celebrate Easter together in St Helena’s.

So this is the plan:

  • Sunday 5 April Lent 6 using the readings for Lent 4 when we kept Mothering Sunday
  • Sunday 12 April Palm Sunday
  • Thursday 16 April Maundy Thursday
  • Friday 17 April Good Friday
  • Sunday 19 April Easter Day

If the restrictions are extended beyond 13 April we will continue to offer online services from the vicarage for each of these days.

Let us continue in prayer with and for each other, in company with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.


Thought for the Week, 24th March 2020

I have been delighted by how much it already means to me to stop and pray for our congregation and the people of the district of Larnaca every day at 6.00pm.

I am used to attending services on time so I set an alarm on my watch for 5.58pm, and I also set an alarm for 6.10pm to finish my time of silent prayer. I remember being shocked years ago by a writer on prayer saying that he set an alarm for the end of a prayer time, but now it is proving a useful and habit-forming part of my pattern.

There is a chair I always sit in for my devotional reading, for Morning Prayer, and now for silent prayer at 6.00. Sitting in the same place, like praying at a fixed time, helps me to focus on what I am there to do and I have a list of all your names in my lap. I sit down, I sit still, and I can attend in peace and quiet to what I am doing, the one thing necessary.

So the repetition and rhythm of this 10 minutes has become for me an enlivening time – being still with God, in my chair, with your name in my lap and on my heart.


Looking Forward

These are strange times as we listen daily to the latest news, advice and measures being taken here and elsewhere.  Our thoughts and prayers are for all those who are ill with the virus and those who are caring for them. 

On Monday it was announced that we won’t be gathering together for public worship at St. Helena’s at least until 10 April as we join in efforts to reduce the threat of this virus and keep our neighbours and friends safe.

Being unable to worship together in our church is difficult at any time.  But this has come at a key time in the church’s year; a time when we mark Lent, Mothering Sunday and Holy Week.  Times when we don’t want to stay away from one other and ‘self-isolate’…

(to read the rest, see ‘Looking Forward: Mothering Sunday)


Pastoral letter from Archbishop Michael


The present moment feels unprecedented. Levels of anxiety and disorientation are high in many places and we who are Christians are finding that we are not exempt.

For many of the congregations of our diocese, public worship has been discontinued for the time being and until further notice, because the civil authorities, whose guests most of us are, have decreed that it should be. Situations vary, but everywhere at the moment is experiencing greater or lesser amounts of disruption and discontinuity….

(to read the rest, see: Archbishop’s pastoral letter)