Rev. Lena Ali
At a time when we are confronted with spiritual warfare, international conflict and growing economic pressure, we need each other like never before. God created us to live in fellowship with one another and I am sure that sometime in our lives, we have asked ourselves the question; "Why am I here? What is the purpose of this life?" Someone said that the purpose of life is to be happy, but this is so simplistic and superficial because happiness eludes many people like the people in Ukraine, those suffering from homelessness, abuse, natural disasters, wars, refugees and economic pressures to name but a few.
The Philosopher Ralph waldo Emerson disagreed and wrote: "The purpose in life is to be useful, to be honourable, compassionate and make a difference not only that you lived but that you lived your life well. John Wesley said. "Let me not live to be useless!"
Over the Lenten Season, Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we have had so many opportunities to look to Jesus in amazement as the One who lived His life for others, in serving and saving mankind, the sufferings He endured, the betrayal He experienced when Peter denied Him and the other disciple turned their backs on Him and despite all that, He sacrificed His life for us. We remember how on Easter Sunday, Jesus resurrected from the dead to set us free from slavery of sin and to share in an eternity of joy.
This Easter was very special for us at Railton Road. For the first time in three years the Church was full, with some of the congregation sitting in the small hall. We had a Baptism on Easter Sunday and so many friends and family attended. It was a joyful and spiritually uplifting time for us all.
We are looking forward to the celebrations which follow Easter: The Feast of the Ascension, Trinity Sunday and Pentecost.
As Methodists, prayers are an essential part of our heritage and for Roman Catholics, they pray the Novena. The word novena is taken from “novem,” the Latin word for nine. A novena is made up of nine days of prayer and meditation usually to ask God for special prayer requests or petitions. Novenas are an ancient tradition that goes back to the days of the Apostles. Jesus told His disciples to pray together after His Ascension into heaven, so they went to an upper room along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, (Acts 1:14) and joined constantly in prayer for nine days. These nine days of constant prayer by the Apostles at the direction of Jesus led up to Pentecost. This is when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples as “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:1-4). This pattern of 9 days of prayer is the basis the novenas which are prayed today. Thus, the novena is an imitation of the Lord’s command to the Apostles when they prayed for 9 days in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus reminds us in the Gospel to be persistent in prayer and a novena is a great aid in doing just that!
Wishing you all God's blessings. Stay safe and well and make the most of the summer.
Life in the UK is a blessing as we look forward to each of the four seasons of the year. Spring is by far the most beautiful and promising season as we say 'good-bye' to winter and enjoy the buds, spring flowers, hear the birds singing sweetly in the mornings which are brighter and just a bit warmer. Then we have the new-born animals and chicks.
Spring reminds us of new life and heralds the start of the Lenten Season and Resurrection and Easter. Celebrations are different in each country. In Trinidad, Carnival is celebrated on the Monday and Tuesday
before Ash Wednesday. From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday is a time for walking with the Lord, for getting in procession to contemplate what Christ has suffered for us. There were numerous processions with some carved religious works which were meant to speak directly to the human heart. The one on Ash Wednesday would be a penitential procession featuring a statue of Christ carrying his cross, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a relic of the cross carried under a canopy. There would be figures representing the fall of Adam and the seven virtues of Lent which are: Humility, Charity, Kindness, Patience, Purity, Temperance and Diligence. The disciplines of fasting, praying and almsgiving were strictly observed.
A lot of these observances were basically Roman Catholic in origin but later became Ecumenical. In Trinidad, religion did not create any barriers. Christians and non-Christians all joined in each other's celebrations.
On Palm Sunday, palm branches would be strewn on the streets and the donkey with someone representing Jesus would lead the procession. Good Friday, there would be a witness walk and the climax was on Easter Sunday morning when everyone joined in the celebrations. Churches would be full and overflowing with worshippers. The churches were decorated with fresh brightly coloured flowers. Everyone, rich or poor would wear new clothes and there would be huge family gatherings. I pray for the day when our Churches will be full and overflowing with family and friends.
Hope that you and your families would have a very Happy and Blessed Easter.
Message from Rev. Lena Ali
Time certainly flies and even though we have been on lockdown on and off since March 2020, we are rapidly approaching August 2021 and on the 2nd marks the first anniversary of Kashaf's death. Looking back, I ask myself: "What have I done during this time?" To be honest, very little. I believe that in all our lives, we experience shade and sunshine, good times and bad, joys and sorrows. Glory be to God, that during these very difficult days, I have received so much support, love, encouragement and empathy from such wonderful friends, neighbours and family here and abroad. Without this, I would not have coped and I pray that God will shower His richest Blessings on everyone who has been walking with me on this journey.
The Lebanese Poet, Kahlil Gibran once compared the heart to a tree. He said that; "The heart's affections are divided, like the branches of a cedar tree. If the tree loses one strong branch, it will suffer, but it does not die. It will pour all its vitality into the next branch so that it will grow and fill the empty space." I have lost my soul mate, my very strong branch and some spaces will never be filled, but I hope and pray that my life will be one on unending praise as I continue my journey through life like a bird with one wing in this world and prepare myself for the world that is to come.
The quotation; "Comparison is the thief of joy," is a good quote but sometimes we need to compare and when I compare my life with others around me, I consider myself richly blessed. As I look at people suffering from devastating natural disasters, those who are displaced, the homeless, the housebound, the hungry, the unemployed, those who have lost loved ones and are left with young families or are facing a life of loneliness and neglect; I am grateful to God for his countless blessings and I pray that he will give me the strength, courage and good health to serve others in his holy name.
I also pray for each of you that God will continue to shower His Richest Blessings on you and your loved- ones.