So, here we are. Trinity Sunday in lock-down. The Holy Trinity, the faith of the Church. We believe in one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
A difficult doctrine – or is it?
What a privilege
A long time ago when I was a Reader, I was “gifted” the privilege of speaking on Trinity Sunday to our Parade Service, which meant lots of children of all ages – including the adult children of our Church. Ian Stamp was Vicar at the time and I can’t tell you how grateful I was for that particular privilege…
What to say? How to demonstrate our wonderful God whom we know in 3 persons? I looked for inspiration and came up with the tried and tested ideas: water that can also be ice and steam; a cloverleaf; a triangle and intertwined rings or fish, to explain to children the meaning of 3 in 1.
I had an idea of making a 3-sided pyramid, with a triangular base and 3 triangular sides which would have the names of God on the 4 sides. God on the base and a side each for Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then giving the children other names by which we know our God – for instance: Creator; Love; Judge; Redeemer; Saviour; Friend; Word; Enabler; Comforter; Helper – and to ask the children to stick their word on a side of the pyramid. Again, for instance, Father would be Creator; Son would be Redeemer and Holy Spirit would be Comforter. Simple.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Stickler for accuracy
At that time I was blessed with the friendship of Dorothy Courtley, widow of our previous vicar, ex teacher and absolute stickler for accuracy. So, when I ran my idea past her she informed me that the shape was a tetrahedron and must be made to exact proportions – and that she would make it. I had intended cutting out 4 triangles and cobbling them together with selotape. Not good enough! Dorothy made me a work of art and beauty. From one large piece of card she carefully measured and cut and fixed together a lovely pyramid on to which she had written in beautiful calligraphy the names of the Holy Trinity. The labels of the descriptions of God were also beautifully written and I was suitably grateful.
So, I was all set and looked forward to the Sermon the following Sunday.
Well, my friends, it was chaos. Naively, I thought the children, after some words of explanation, would do as requested. They would think carefully before coming forward to stick their word on the pyramid. What really happened was that they all came out and stuck their words wherever they could find a space. Some were sticking out at the sides, some were upside down and very few were in the places that I had planned for.
At the end of the scrum, the children returned to their places – leaving me with the wreck of a pyramid that once had been a thing of beauty. I could have cried.
I learned many things that day, not least how not to do a Parade Service.
Other ways of understanding
Fortunately the Holy Spirit was with us and in us in our worship. My eyes were opened to other ways of understanding our Mighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, we do know our God in many ways and usually we would attribute particular words to one or the other of the Trinity – but God is God. God is one God and He has all the attributes of all the titles. Why not put Love under Holy Spirit; why not put Creator under Son; and why not put Comforter under Father – and why not allow the words to go round corners or even be upside down? Our God is one God and we are truly blessed to know Him in so many ways. I shared my thoughts.
We may know God imperfectly; we may express our faith and our understanding imperfectly. But in the end, my chaotic pyramid reflected a truth about God whom we are blessed to know in so many wonderful ways.
And I rather think that we are going to need our Mighty God in all His myriad ways if we are to go forward as His people into a different future. Our churches have been closed for many weeks but we have found other ways of worshipping and serving our God.
We have learned that a building, though precious, is not the only place to be the people of God. We have been blessed with a Zoom church where we have met and worshipped with people from many church families. Church leaders, whom we would see rarely, have been available to us in many interesting ways. We could join in Services at our Cathedral, or from Canterbury; we could listen to sermons from Archbishops as well as Bishops. Many churches are reporting that participants, from all faiths and none, are logging-on to listen to words of hope. Ways have been found to serve communities with love and to take the Christian message of hope out into those communities by actions rather than words.
Hope for the future
So, I hope that we will learn the lessons of these weeks of isolation and know that we are not isolated either from one another or from our Mighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Who knows what the church will look like in the immediate future? What we can know is that God is God, the same yesterday, today and forever and we will find new ways to be His people in a changed and sometimes chaotic world. We just have to be open to new ways of knowing and serving Him and His people.
We in Heywood look forward to a new ministry as Reverend Sally Robinson is licensed this afternoon, Trinity Sunday. So, I pray for her and for all of us. May our Mighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – bless us and may we know Him in all the ways that give us hope and guidance for the future. Amen
‘The Trinity and other ways of understanding’ was delivered on Sunday 7th June 2020, by the Reverend Maureen Thorp to St Zoom’s, which comprises of congregation members from Bury, Heywood and Rochdale. Please follow this link to see the Gospel reading of the day which is: Matthew 28:16-20. For Ian’s homily on Ascension please follow this link.