Blog by New Daylight subscriber Helen Harley
New Daylight subscriber Helen Harley wrote to us in August to say how much she appreciates these Bible reading notes. She told us: ‘My husband and I do them just before our evening prayers, and usually get a lot from them. The section featuring a variety of scientists was a particular highlight …
But she went on to say that she wanted our writers to take the opportunity to explore the ways in which worship and prayer evolved due to the restrictions imposed by the pandemic:
‘Technology such as Zoom is breaking down barriers of geography and disability, and this is creating wonderful opportunities to refresh our Faith.’
Helen told us that she is a disabled artist, and usually too sick to get to church (let alone negotiate a space that is not disabled-friendly). ‘Zoom has enabled me to lead prayers every Sunday from my recliner or bed, joining with a handful of friends who also can't get to a service.’ She wrote, ‘This is a small example of what is happening on a large scale.’ We asked her to tell us more, and here is her blog:
Breaking down barriers
I have lived with chronic pain, ME and other disabling conditions, for many years, which is as difficult as it sounds. Two things continue to bring light and joy into my life: my Christian Faith and my work as an artist and blogger.
I grew up allergic to the concept of organised religion, and did not think about faith until 'a dark night of the soul' coincided with a friend inviting me to an Anglican service when I was living in Italy. Being a member of a congregation introduced me to many experiences that were new to me: friendships with mature Christians, the meaning of a life in service to God, Bible Study and reading the Bible for the first time because I wanted to.
I was baptised age 40 and around the same time I resumed the art practice that had got lost when I got sick in my twenties. Since then my faith and creativity have continued to inform each other, and I habitually return to Christian subjects. There are two themes in every piece I make: colour and connectedness.
I returned to live in the U.K. and met my husband in The Pilsdon Community in Dorset. In 2013 we married, I was confirmed and developed chronic pain, all in the same year.
Lockdown has enabled me to do some things online that are completely impossible for me to do in the 'real' world: life drawing for example, and ‘visits’ to Yosemite, Pompeii, Barcelona, The Smithsonian Institute and the San Diego Zoo. I have been able to 'walk' in Kew Gardens, and around the British Museum and the Taj Mahal. I have attended a book launch on YouTube, and joined a group meditation session. All without leaving the bed.
Most surprisingly of all, I have found myself leading prayers on Zoom for a handful of friends on Sunday mornings. Our numbers range from three to four, to as many as ten. We are all folk who find access to church difficult.
I begin by reading the BRF prayer, followed by one or two lectionary readings, a short reflection, and prayers for the world and for loved ones. We end with a hymn played by my husband and sung by most. We also have a monthly meet-up online and in December we had an online Carol concert which we all really enjoyed, particularly as several of us were shielding.
My husband Rob is ordained so has an extensive knowledge of the Bible, and he is extremely patient and supportive with my many questions and gaps in my knowledge. We both see the BRF notes as a valuable part of our daily routine. We read New Daylight in the early evening. We sometimes disagree with the commentary and/or with one another's viewpoint, but it’s always engaging and we always learn something. I enjoy being pitched into parts of the Bible that I don't naturally turn to and seeing familiar passages through new eyes.