Desert Island Worship Vol. 9: Sera's Furlough Special!
Published on Thursday, 4 June 2020 10:00
This week our curate Sera has returned from furlough. In her entry to Desert Island Worship, she's sharing some songs that have been significant to her in her time away over the last few weeks.
Read what Sera has to say about these songs and her time on furlough
Hi, I’m Sera, a curate at St Denys Church, and I’ve just returned to work after three weeks of furlough. And this Desert Island Worship is a snapshot of the songs that have been significant in this time. They’re not my all-time favourites. They’re not ones that are necessarily great for congregational singing. And I’m very conscious the music styles might not be to everyone taste. But that’s okay I reckon! They are songs that have helped me in my journey with God through furlough and onwards from it.
As many of you will know, and might have experienced for yourself, to be on furlough means you’re not allowed to work during the time, and it’s a bit strange. There’s been some really good aspects of this for me: seeing the awesome team of people able to take some the stuff I was doing and develop it in their own ways, and then the chance to slow down & rest after a very full-on time of work & the chance enjoy some hobbies like photography and jigsaws, and a chance to spend more intentional time with God.
But there have also been some significant challenges and struggles. Stopping work as a curate has meant for me laying down my daily work tasks & my contact with colleagues, but also stepping away for a while, from my worshipping community, our regular times together of prayer and worship, and from contact with precious friends. So much stripped away at a time when life is strange and demanding for all of us in different ways. And also, I was very aware that furlough marked an accelerated end to my working partnership with my fellow curate David who would be moving on, and so it marked a significance change in my role at church. And all that meant I found my first few days of furlough particularly tough, with a pretty overwhelming sense of self-doubt.
Song choice 1:
The song that is my first choice opens with words from Psalm 139, and it was this Psalm that really helped me in those dark days. The psalmist writes of being known & understood by God, hemmed in by God & being wonderfully made. I’ve always loved the psalm but it had a new deeper resonance as God’s personal love for me challenged the darkness of my self-doubt. This song then goes on to acknowledge that God can work in situations to lovingly transform me, and this gave me hope that I was in safe hands - ‘When I doubt it Lord, remind me I’m wonderfully made, you’re an artist and a potter, I’m the canvas and the clay.’ And that gives the song its name ‘Canvas and Clay’ by Pat Barrett.
Song Choice 2:
A number of moments during furlough brought home to me the recognition that acts of kindness and love make an immense difference to me and how I was coping. It might sound obvious but sometimes you need to notice the obvious stuff. My brain did a few leaps of thinking that went something like this: 1) wow, love really matters but I do I really get it? 2) I believe that love starts with God 3) I know Jesus is the best expression of what God’s love is like, 4) I wonder what will I find if you I explore the rest of the Bible looking for the love of God (especially in the parts that don’t actually have the phrase Love of God in it? And so, I started an unplanned and unstructured adventure across different bits of the Old & New Testament. I was particularly drawn to the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3 & asked myself what these showed about the character of God’s love. The second song evokes something of this exploration, it begins in talking about creation, and flows through to the life of Jesus, and beyond. There are echoes of phrases from the letters in the New Testament ‘what can separate us?’. It’s called ‘What A Beautiful Name’, and the version I have chosen also reminds me of the first time I heard it, a lone female voice singing it out across Winchester Cathedral at my ordination last year.
Song choices 3 & 4:
You might have spotted a theme that was beginning to emerge through furlough. I was rediscovering the significance of the love of God. I think sometimes we need to revisit things from earlier parts of our journey of faith and dig deeper. For me, it’s been God’s love. I was seeing through my adventure through the Bible that God’s love involved his provision, his might and his valuing of both people and the natural world, and his relationships involved communication, boundaries and space for people to make their own choices. I realised that God’s love was a bit like soil - we take it for granted and yet it is so fundamental and life giving. Placing my feet firmly on this solid foundation meant I could approach the turmoil in the world, the challenges faced by people I cared for, my engagement with social media, my prayer life, my changing work, my emotional ups and downs on something solid and good. So here are two contrasting songs that celebrate the love of God. A new rendition of the hymn ‘Love Divine, all love excelling’ by Rend Collective, and a song that Mim encouraged us to sing at St Denys ‘One Thing Remains.’
Song Choice 5:
My final song is dedicated to the folks of St Denys, so many of whom love God and also love music. In my final few days of furlough, in response to some friends who said ‘maybe you need a break from doing too much analysis’, I spent time doing a jigsaw and exploring the world of recent Christian music. I wanted to build a play list that I could regularly use and that would embed some of the truths I’d been reminded of in furlough into my brain. Aware that there is an immense array of tastes, styles, theologies, I sought out music that made my heart sore, lyrics that were grounded in the Bible’s big story and that I could close my eyes and picture myself dancing to. That’s what helps me worship in private. I ended up with a playlist of about 20 songs that are pretty new to me. And ‘Ain’t no grave’ by Cageless Birds got on the list because I love its instrumentation and its defiance, all rooted in Christ’s resurrection. ‘Love is a resurrection and love is trumpet sound. Aint no grave could hold his body down.’