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Reflection for Thursday 30 April 2020 – Richard Austen | Barn Church Kew

I have always been a bit of a hoarder. I have been using some of the time in quarantine to go through boxes and boxes of old papers I have been meaning to “get round to sometime”.  My shredder has been working overtime. But I have also been having a lovely time reminiscing to myself over lots of adventures and happy memories, of places and of people.

I was very fortunate that my career took me to all sorts of different places in the World. I started thinking about all the church communities I have been part of over the years and where they met. I have praised God in grand Cathedrals, but also in churches held in school class rooms, a restaurant and on one occasion in a community centre built of old shipping containers, to name a few. Wherever I have been I have tried to find a church to call my spiritual home while I have been in that place.

And then I arrived in Mongolia! Now, despite the fact that Genghis Khan’s mother in law was a Christian (bet you didn’t know that!) Mongolian religious tradition is primarily Buddhist. There was simply no Anglican congregation there that I could find. I started going to the very occasional English-speaking services in the new Roman Catholic Cathedral. But I could not participate fully and then, sadly, the Cathedral closed for repairs due to construction faults. After that I went a few times to one of the several Pentecostal services held in Mongolian, but the language difficulties and the completely different worship structure were not for me.

Then my old University friends Sue and Eric came to visit. Sue is an Anglican Vicar in Hampshire and we managed to get permission in advance from the Diocese in Europe, which strangely covers Mongolia, for her to celebrate the Eucharist in my Residence. I advertised this to the British Community and was greatly encouraged by the turnout. This seemed to get Mongolia onto the radar of the Diocese in Europe and we subsequently had visits from the Bishop and then the Rural Dean of Moscow. Before long we had quite a good-sized group of Anglicans and American Episcopalians gathering weekly in my house for worship.

Why am I telling you all this? Well I suppose it is just to illustrate once again that, while a church building is a great asset, we don’t necessarily need one to be a church community. We can’t use our church buildings at present, though I hope this will not be for long. But Fr Peter and many others are doing magnificent work to make sure that services and worship material are on line for everyone who can access them.

Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we can worship God. Hymns are very important to me and some of you will have noticed that I like to quote from them in my sermons and reflections. So, for today:

Through all the changing scenes of life,

In trouble and in joy,

The praises of my God shall still

My heart and tongue employ