PCN Newsletter 31st July 2020

When replanting our garden we put herbs near the kitchen door and one of the delights has been how well visited the marjoram is by bees and butterflies. - Sarah

PCN Newsletter 31st July 2020
Made of Stories – Let us have your views! All PCN members have been able to see our five commissioned films on the new website, where we have also housed a number of discussion questions and resources. If and when you have watched the films, it would be great to hear from you! If you are in a PCN group and have watched one of the films together on Zoom or discussed them in some other way, how did that go? You may have sent the website link to other people, possibly family or friends. I wonder what their reaction has been? If you attend a church you might have asked them to put the link to the films on the church’s website. If so what has been the reaction? It may be too soon to gather this feedback but please feel free to let us have these views in the weeks ahead. In the meantime I hope you will simply talk about the films and let as many people as possible know about them and give them the link: https://madeofstories.uk We are hoping, when possible to discuss the making of a sixth film with Shortform and would be interested in the kind of story you think would be suitable. Please let me have your suggestions. (Adrian.alker@pcnbritain.org.uk) The last five months ……have been such a very difficult and, for some people, a tragic time in their lives. Over 45,000 families, at least, in our country have suffered the loss of loved ones. So many deaths would be equal to a city like Winchester or a town like Yeovil losing all its population. We face an autumn and winter of rising unemployment and all the attendant miseries which the loss of a job brings. The pandemic has affected different sections of society in different ways and as ever, it is the poor and the marginalised who have suffered most, especially in BAME communities. We see this in my own city of Sheffield where, district by district, mortality and illness from Covid 19 is worse in the poorer areas of the city and far less so in the ‘white highlands ‘of the south and west of Sheffield. The Jesus, whose life and teachings we seek to follow, was all too familiar with societal injustice, with the plight of the poor, with unjust governance and the lives of those on the edge. Members of PCN in all our different ways seek, alongside people of different faiths and none, to work for a transformed world, where we can learn from the painful lessons of a pandemic. During these last few months we have shared our hopes and dreams for such a transformed society and I summarised such aspirations in the last newsletter. The trustees will, I am sure, take note of what PCN members have said, and seek to make PCN a movement for such change. In the meantime our work at PCN continues, albeit it in a rather more confined way. You will soon see a refreshed home page of our website. Many of our groups are determined to carry on meeting using Zoom or other online ways. It might well be that we organise some on-line talks as well as making plans in 2021 for a hopeful return to those occasions when we can come together safely. In the meantime enjoy what summer we have in whatever way is safe. We are seeing our grandsons for the first time since February this coming Saturday and that will be pleasure enough! Adrian Alker
Something Solid We like to see what we are up against. We feel unsettled and uneasy when dealing with concepts that are not visible and tangible. Just consider that the ‘solid’ table in front of you is comprised of atoms that are largely space but high in energy. The virus that has caused so much disturbance and unhappiness in our lives is invisible to the naked eye and that fact has caused a great deal of confusion as to how we deal with it. If only it were visible we would know what to do and there would be considerable support and enthusiasm for suggested solutions. Without hard, visual evidence some people will deny its existence and carry on as normal. I am reminded of events in the bible where people wanted ‘evidence’. Moses, returning from the mountain found the people had made their own gods, Thomas wanting to see for himself the wounds in Jesus’ body, “show us the Father” request by the disciples. We too feel happier when there is an icon or ‘image’ to look at when in church and feel uncomfortable when asked to be silent in prayer during a service. Perhaps this is why many services are full of activities – hymns, readings, sermon, with hardly a moment for the spiritual to be experienced. This is strange when we live in a ‘virtual’ world where much of our communication, especially at this time, is done through the internet. We use the technology without understanding the details of its workings or the implications of the effect it has on our lives as members of the community. I think Jesus found it frustrating when those close to him didn’t understand what he was doing or talking about. I think he would find the same problems if he were to be here, physically, now. What have we learnt? David Kemp July 2020
This is taken from the PCN website where one of our new members posted a comment in response to a poem. Welcome to PCN Britain Robert. A call to discover divine mystery On the blog for 19th May was this remarkable poem by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: You will perceive The divine mystery in things The whole of it and every grain of sand Love every leaf Every ray of God’s light Love the animals Love the plants Love everything If you love everything You will perceive The divine mystery in things And once you have perceived it You will begin to comprehend it ceaselessly More and more everyday And you will at last come to love the whole world With an abiding universal love These words are wonderful. They describe an event, a calling, that certainly brings God to mind. Like Moses and the burning bush. In these “mountain top” experiences we are unintentionally affected by otherness, particularity and difference that is excessive to what we expected. However I have a reservation about these events in that they can become an end in themselves that is basically about self-concern, even giving rise to competitive piety! Dostoyevsky describes a different event in his novel “The Brothers Karamazov” where a character says “everyone of us is responsible for everyone else in every way, and I most of all”. This is love that is more like other-obsession than self-concern. What interests me is how does this arise. What event or experience can lead us to feel that awesome sense of responsibility. When I recognise the particularity, the difference and the need of the person before me I am disturbed and unintentionally affected by the presence of the other. There is an incessant demand that I must respond to the ethical needs of the person before me (This is the face-to-face confrontation that Levinas mentions). I reckon this demand is from God, because it is an event that invariably brings God, my ultimate concern, to mind. And this is no still small voice! God bawls at me - take responsibility! So I am to be responsible for the stranger before me, for how I deal with close relationships, for the needs of my body, for my immune system, my emotions, my mind, my self, for the mistakes I make, for the environment, for other creatures, for the future and probably for the weather! As I see it the demand that we take responsibility for others (love our neighbour) is the motivation to work for justice and fairness in our world and move forward on a journey from mundane self-obsessed hedonism to other-obsessed altruism. I suggest this is following Christ and applies to every person, whether they verbalise it religiously or not. And not only that! I recognise this positive mental attitude of ethical concern in most of the people I meet and it makes life wonderful, amazing and meaningful. Of course in practice we have to compromise to some extent. This is not a failing on our part but our duty to work with the world as it is - we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. So, in the poem divinity seems to arise by contemplation of nature and the radical responsibility seems to arise by responding to the ethical needs of others. At one time I would have said both ways lead to God, but I am increasingly finding in my inner life that contemplation of nature is inadequate. Now. Here is the crunch question. Levinas made the audacious statement that God ONLY arises in the context of the ethical concern we have for others. Is this true? Robert Bridge
When these newsletters started back in March we had no idea what would happen, how long they would continue, or even whether they would be a success. I think we can say that they have been successful, I certainly know from the messages that I have received that they have been helpful to people who were feeling disconnected and isolated due to lockdown. Much has changed in those months and we are now hearing the phrase the 'new normal' without anyone being entirely sure what that entails. Hopefully the new normal will include much of what Adrian summarised last week with compassion and consideration uppermost in people's minds, inevitably the new normal will include some things returning that we would have preferred to leave behind, things like rush hour traffic which is once again beginning to build. For me, my new normal will be focussed much more around considering what is truly necessary. What I have learned over the past months is that much of my stress is from me saying to myself that 'I must', what I found out in lockdown was that there were relatively few things that 'must' be done. Many things that could be done, or even should be done, but few that must be done. As Adrian has said, there won't be a newsletter in August but they will return in September in a new monthly format with a mix of Chair's update, news from the office, events and also hopefully contributions from members. PCN Britain has a Management Committee, DVD librarian, website editors, social media editor and an administrator making sure that we keep things moving but this is your organisation and we welcome your comments and thoughts. If you feel that you would like to get even more involved we have three places on the Management Committee available for co-option, please contact either me or Adrian if you would like to discuss putting yourself forward for one of these. On a personal note I would like to thank people for the positive and encouraging responses to the things that I have written for the newsletter. Although I have written a few small pieces for publication in the past this is the first time that I have written regularly and it is nerve wracking so the encouragement has meant a lot to me. I would also encourage others who are unsure about submitting articles or thoughts for Progressive Voices, the newsletter or the website to take heart and give it a go. Stay well, Sarah

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