09 March 2021
Blessed are those who offer hope?
"I began to ask myself if Christians were being called to look outside the buildings in a new way and reach out in love to those in the community..."
The Revd Sue Pegg, a minister from the Huddersfield Circuit in the Yorkshire West District writes about how her church community have offered hope and blessings to people in need during the pandemic and the plans they have for Mothering Sunday this weekend.
Growing up in a large northern city I remember a new store opening called ‘The What Shop’. It was marketed as the shop that stocked everything anyone could want and sold a large variety of goods. I always admired the marketing logo and technique.
In the days, weeks and months of our recent pandemic and lockdowns, some of my own prayer time and the prayer time of those around me has been focused on wondering what was needed and wanted by people who have been cast into long periods of disruption and isolation, and what could the church offer?
With buildings closed, then open, and then closed again, I began to ask myself if Christians were being called to look outside the buildings in a new way and reach out in love to those in the community, helping to provide ‘what was needed’; to become, so to speak, a ‘What Shop’.
Before Christmas, the text that seemed to be speaking so clearly was from John 1 v 5: ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it’. I began to wonder if that was one text that was being highlighted by God at this particular time to offer hope to a hurting world? If so, how could we get the text out into the community?
The plan we agreed on was to give to each of our congregation two lace bags and inside we put the text and an electric t-light. They would keep one bag for themselves and were invited to light the candle each night and display it in the front window as a sign of hope. The other bag/light they were to give to someone who was particularly struggling in these difficult times, those isolated, those unable to visit relatives, and those under other strains.
Launch of the bags of hope and blessing. Sue Pegg is pictured second from left.
It was then realised that there were many, many more in our communities in need of a little bag of blessing and hope, and so we produced more. Eventually at one church there were some ‘spare’ bags, so we put them on our church wall with a note saying, ‘please take one’. Over the Christmas period all the bags were taken. It seemed our wall had truly become a wall of blessing.
More recently, we received a small grant which had to be used to combat isolation during the pandemic. With the Church building once more closed, Bags of Hope and Blessing came to mind. For Mothering Sunday and working with some Anglican friends, we have invested in some small flowers made from recycled plastic by a small business which was struggling financially. The flowers will fit in the bags along with a small heart and the plan is to distribute those to elderly ladies in our community who are still unable to visit, or be visited by, their children.
At Easter, our bags will contain 2 foil wrapped mini eggs, a chocolate heart, and the greeting “Happy Easter”, along with an invitation to ‘feel the love’ (Psalm 34: Taste and see that God is good). We intend to create walls of hope outside one of our church buildings, while other bags will be distributed in the community alongside Palm crosses made by people living in an isolated village in Africa. The hope is that the crosses from the village will form a blessing for others suffering similar isolation at the other side of the world.
Easter bags ready to be distributed
The most recent development is that the Bags of Hope have now been adopted by leaders in the nearby Inner City Church leaders and the plan is to give out some 5,000 bags for Easter. The belief is that God is really wanting to bless the city.
It’s the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 that give us the teaching about Blessings and those who are Blessed under the heading ‘True Happiness’ and it’s a little later in that same scripture, Matthew chapter 7, that Jesus assures that our Heavenly Father will give us not necessarily all we want, but rather what we need. This, of course, is a difficult concept to the many who are suffering during the pandemic, especially those who grieve the loss of love ones. But I suggest that, to quote John Wesley himself, all we can do is simply offer little signs of hope in a troublesome world and suggest that, as we offer blessings of hope to others, we will indeed feel blessed ourselves.
The Revd Sue Pegg, Yorkshire West District