DAY 43: Thursday 30 April
Good morning everyone and Happy 100th birthday to Captain, now honorary Colonel Tom!
‘Furlough’ - a word that I can’t recall hearing for at least the past 40 years, that is until about 6 weeks ago. It’s a word used in military circles and some government departments. Many years ago in the last century, I was born into an army household – not a branch of the nation’s military services but the Salvation Army. Both my parents were Salvation Army officers and in my first 5 years we had moved home five times. I remember the hearing the word ‘furlough’ often in those days when my early life was so much within Salvation Army circles – several of my relations were SA officers so it was the world I knew in those formative years. Then following my father’s illness, we moved to Sutton and my parents started to attend Duke Street church and then Falcon Lodge. In those days we used to have missionaries visiting the Chapel who were described as ‘home on furlough’. I will always remember Mr Wilday leading the Sunday Schools back in the 1950’s and he would say to us kids ‘next week we will have a visit from a real live missionary!’
Now in 2020 the word ‘furlough’ has come into common usage relating to those who have been laid off from their place of work but are still employed by their organisation. There are many volunteers at the Chapel who are also ‘furloughed’ at this time although none of them ever receive monetary payment. A small army of folks who make teas & coffees on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and others who anonymously donate packets of biscuits; who open up the building before meetings and set the heating; who design and arrange beautiful flower displays; who clean and maintain the premises; who look after the gardening tasks; prepare meals and snacks; drive the minibus; organise trips and outings; record services; do printing; DIY tasks; look after the finances and legal matters; visit and pray for the sick and cheer up the lonely and isolated. Many of these tasks are currently ‘furloughed’ providing the many volunteers with a time of refreshment. ‘Furlough’ is not a time of holiday; the missionaries who came home on furlough were released from their regular duties but whilst on furlough would still be expected to visit groups and churches sharing what they did and encouraging prayer and practical support. Others who take sabbatical or furlough will use the time to develop a new skill or perhaps write a book or spend the time in study to better equip them when they return to the ‘front line’.
In other churches and organisations, the term ‘sabbatical’ is used to mean the same thing as ‘furlough’. ‘Sabbatical’ stems from the same root as Sabbath from the Hebrew ‘shavat’ meaning ‘to rest’.
Genesis 2;3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.
Does that infer that God was tired or weary after six days of creating? No, it means that he rested on the seventh day in order to enjoy all His handiwork, and in that gave mankind the example that we too should take regular times of rest. The Jews call it ‘Sabbath’ from the Hebrew ‘Shavat’ which is on Saturday whilst Christians have Sunday, the first day of the week as their day for rest, and Islam teaches to rest on ‘Jumma’ which is a Friday. The important principle is that we need to rest physically and mentally once every 7 days – that’s how we were designed for optimum performance.
And it’s not just humans that need a time of resting, our natural world was created by the same God who instructed through Moses that every seventh year the land should be allowed to rest (an agricultural Sabbath) then the soil would be richer and more productive for the following years. But in the second half of the 20th century, chemical fertilisers were developed that promised continuous agricultural productivity. We are now witnessing the disastrous effects of 50+ years of chemicals washing off the land into streams, rivers and oceans with catastrophic impact on fish and wildlife. Our world needs to acknowledge that the Creator did know what He was talking about millennia ago.
Back in 1986 there was a move to change the law in UK to permit 7-day trading, but that bill was defeated in Parliament. Promoters of the bill argued that that Britain was at economic disadvantage against our European neighbours by not allowing unrestricted retail trading. Most of my European business trips in those days were undertaken between Monday – Saturday, but on one occasion I had to attend a business conference near Lyon which finished on the Saturday afternoon. After the meeting, I then drove north and overnighted in Lille intending to catch a ferry home the following morning. Leaving my hotel after breakfast, I headed towards Calais and decided to stop by a large Auchan hypermarket to get a few things. I was astounded having turned off the autoroute to discover the hypermarket closed! I had always presumed from what we had been told in the UK that all European supermarkets were open on Sundays. Not so! A few days later I checked this out with one of my French colleagues who confirmed that most supermarkets did not open on Sunday mornings although a few might open for limited hours in the afternoon. In 1994 a revised UK Sunday trading bill was passed in Parliament with some restrictions on how many hours large stores could open but that marked the automatic Sunday off with family had gone.
One of the benefits of our current situation, as many of you have commented, is how life seems to have calmed down. Traffic is lighter, the skies are quieter, nature is recovering. The ‘furlough’ or ‘sabbatical’ is an important part of how we and our planet were designed to live. When we finally get back to the Chapel open and functioning again, all you volunteers (seen and unseen), will have been refreshed, rested and ready to go again. So enjoy and make the most of this time of ‘furlough’ and maybe return with a new skill or new understanding to bless the rest of us.
Update on Sylvia Gilmour is she has been discharged from hospital having somewhat recovered from serious pneumonia and is now staying with her son and his wife near Lutterworth. However, John remains at the Wheatmoor Farm on his own in order to protect both himself and Sylvia from the risk of infection. Please continue to remember them both.
Don’t forget to step outside your front door at 8pm this evening and join the ‘clap for carers’ with your neighbours
MAKE YOU SMILE: FUNNY WISDOM
Never look down on anyone unless you're helping them up
Never marry for money; you can borrow it cheaper
Always think twice before putting anything in writing. And then think again
It's better to give than it is to lend, and it costs about the same
Always remember that the person who says they're willing to meet you halfway is usually a poor judge of distance
Try to be the kind of person your dog thinks you are
A thought from Linda Lord - Christians may not see eye to eye but they can walk arm in arm.
Finally, a hymn we only learned last year, but appropriate for these days
Enjoy another day of ‘furlough’ and try to make good use of it