These summer months are a time when many people take some time off work or their usual activities to be with family, or to travel on holiday. These natural cycles are useful for us as human beings - busy times give way to slower periods when we have the opportunity to appreciate life at a different pace.
Holidays are incredibly important for our wellbeing and they are beneficial to our spiritual growth too. The fourth century Christian thinker, St Augustine, said ‘you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you’. This speaks to me of our rootedness in God and our basic longing to be known and loved by God. Rest times can be a time to explore spirituality more deeply. We can take time to be with those we love in a more focussed way. Nurturing our connection with other people can be a good way of nourishing our connection with God – as we recognize and receive God in and through those around us.
We are lucky to live in a truly beautiful part of the world and the natural world can be a great resource for our spirituality. Who can fail to be moved by the song of a skylark high above on a sunny day, as we move across the curves of a green landscape? Being free from our usual concerns, we can pay close attention, just as toddlers invariably do when out on a walk. Somehow, we become most truly alive when we are close to what is not human – the landscape, plants, animals – all that is created on the earth.
The poet Mary Oliver is known for her poignant observations of the natural world which often refuse to acknowledge the boundaries between nature, the observing self and God. Her poem The Summer Day is a good example and could be our manifesto for the summer.
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Revd Claire McClelland, Team Vicar, St Peter's Church.