Take Care… and Go Gently - Reflection by Canon Mike


Read Canon Mike's reflection for Tuesday, 20 October, 2020.

Liverpool Cathedral · Take Care and Go Gently


I recently received an email which kindly recounted the effects our words can have on people, in so many different ways.  We have a very privileged position in that we have the opportunity to share our prayerful thoughts, reflections and our considerations of God’s Holy Word with you all, in public.  With that comes great responsibility – a responsibility which is revealed on the occasions we do get feedback on what we say.  Sometimes that feedback takes us by surprise, in ways which make our hearts glow and sadly sometimes in ways which don’t.  But God is good in all things, and the grace offered within the recent email was received gladly.  My heart glowed indeed – but just as much in humility that God has called me to be in such a position to serve others…..that is the greatest responsibility, the most wonderful of honours, for which I am truly humbled.

I got another response, from an individual I am not very familiar with, when I signed off a recent email with the phrase above – take care….and go gently.  It is not a phrase I use often; and I have to confess straight away that it isn’t of my own invention.  But it struck a chord with the recipient – one whose current life seemed just as hectic as mine, if not more so.  Such a chord that instead of trying to do everything, she did just that…go gently, and have some much-needed time to herself.  And just that response made me look again at the phrase; look into myself why I might have used it at this particular time.

Last week was in some ways the busiest of the last few for me – it included three consecutive afternoons of virtual, online conferences when I was either organising, introducing, chairing, speaking…..or actually doing all of those things!  As well as the current full online world of teaching and everything else.  It was busy for me, but given the current climate and shifting sands we continually have to navigate, I will admit in an instant, not nearly as busy, anxious or worrying as others are experiencing right now.  Although not as adept at the technique as I used to be, in the earlier part of my career, times like that when the pressure mounts, triggers a professional reaction within me which I learned in the first few weeks of my professional career. 

I may have shared this with you before, but soon after I started my first clinical post, I was called to an incident as the duty radiotherapy physicist.  I was unfamiliar with the background or even the detail of what was going on or, at that time, what had gone wrong.  But many had begun to let the stress of the situation get on top of them.  My response was to help establish a safe point, first and foremost, but then to try to bring calm to the pressured situation; a calm that would allow all of us to think more clearly and think through the problem.  The gentleness, the calm helped and all things worked well for the situation and, more importantly, for the patient.  Those moments live with you forever, and it’s something I’ve tried to exercise in the numerous extreme situations which have happened in my clinical career since then.

And perhaps I used it recently because that’s how I felt I needed to be, during that pressured week.  A constant gathering around just one computer screen with nobody else physically around, can feel very remote, detached, alone.  To go gently was what was needed, to bring calm and peace, to myself in order to continue through the week.  They are also perhaps attributes that we all need right now, I feel, when we are surrounded by the complexities of this pandemic and its effect on our lives.  Our prayers at our public services are often for wisdom in leadership – but they also acknowledge how incredibly difficult the decisions must be.  As a scientist, the first thing I know is that science is never as clear cut, decisive, or obvious as some may think.  Often there are a range of answers, a range of possibilities, understanding the uncertainty in our theories, measurements and conclusions, is the bedrock of good science.  Translating that into praxis which is multifactorial is immensely difficult, especially where lives and livelihoods lie so much in the balance.  Our prayers are therefore also for understanding, for the people whom all our leaders actually serve, for a calmness and gentleness to help to think more clearly, but with sensitivity too.  The equation which underlies the current situation has no definitive, single number as its result, so we too must apply that gentleness in reaction, and pass that on to others, through our faith, together with our care and outstretched hands.

So why the picture of the chapel of the holy spirit?  That answer is a simpler one – I like it!  It is a place where we conduct prayer, take the eucharist, reserve the sacrament, meditate, pray in silence, with music together or alone; a place where encounters have been had with individuals in really difficult situations – ones where gentleness in trying to understand how to serve and to help is much needed.  It perhaps gives an image of gentleness and peace that the Holy Spirit can bring, when it is needed most – like in these present times.  It personifies a calmness, a compassion, a love that I firmly believe Jesus brought through all his ministry – when he held out his hand to bring peace, to heal, to recognise, to love….to ultimately show in complete reality, that the Kingdom of God does indeed come near, when we are like that with others.  So may we, in these coming weeks, for the care and love of others, go gently….in Jesus’ name. 

With my love and prayers for you all, as always; take care….and go gently

Canon Mike 😊

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