Saying Yes to Life

April 11, 2020

When I was asked to write the Archbishop’s Lent book for 2020, little did I or any of us realise what a tumultuous Lent it was going to be or how particularly relevant the themes of the book would be – my goodness, there is even a section in there on pangolins and pangolin trafficking, now thought likely to be one of the things that allowed Covid-19 to jump species onto people. Justin Welby’s Foreword is uncannily prescient too and speaks right into the present situation – particularly the final paragraph (you’ll have to read it for yourself, it’s too long to quote here!).

Connection has been one of the key themes from the last few weeks. We recognise that we are connected to each other; that there is indeed something called society, and that we all need to work together to save lives. And we recognise that we are connected with the wider natural world; that terrible things happen when we don’t look after it and other creatures, but also that there is beauty out there in our gardens and parks and skies to notice again and appreciate. Connection is what Saying Yes to Life explores as we go through the creation story of Genesis 1 and consider the amazing world God has created and our role in it as people made in his image: created to look after our neighbours and the rest of creation.

The initial response to the book was hugely encouraging as the Church of England decided to give over its whole Lent focus (called #LiveLent) to the themes of the book around creation care and I began to hear of churches from all sorts of denominations and networks all over the UK (and around the world) deciding to use the book together over Lent. It became an Amazon bestseller and I’m led to believe it’s the best selling Lent book ever. It felt as if what I and others have been working towards for so many years was finally bearing fruit.

So can I be honest and tell you how gutting these last few weeks have been for me as, totally understandably, the focus suddenly shifted? It felt like all the momentum that had been building and the potential that was emerging was brought to a sudden halt. I’ve needed to grieve – as we all have, for the hopes and dreams and people that we have lost and will lose through this time.

Will we be able to regain that momentum at some point? The good news is that so many of us (at least in more economically developed contexts) have been rediscovering the absolute joy of hearing birdsong, seeing bumblebees and clear skies, breathing unpolluted air, and realising just how nurturing and good for our wellbeing it is to spend time outdoors.

Alongside this, I know many people have continued reading Saying Yes To Life and a good number of churches adapted their Lent study groups to read it together virtually. I’ve heard time and time again how much the book has sustained them through this time and the messages that I’ve been receiving have been helping sustain me through this time too.

All is not lost, and as we leave Lent and head into Easter I am reminded to hold onto hope in the God who raised Jesus from the dead. In his great passage on the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul tells us to ‘stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain’ (v. 58). That’s what I’m choosing to stand on. My work isn’t finished yet!

So can I just say THANK YOU. Thank you to all of you who walked with me and helped me bring the Lent book into being, and thank you to all of you who have read it and engaged with it and been inspired to act because of it. May we be resurrection people in resurrection churches, and may we look at all that God has made and say yes to life. And Happy Easter!

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  • Reply Mike Hill April 11, 2020 at 9:47 pm

    I’m behind schedule but throughly enjoying your book. Enjoying being made to squirm here and there with a dodgy conscience. It’s a brilliant book and well worthy of being the best Lent book ever. My schedule has got me to page 147 this evening and Yasha the pangolin, so it was a delight to read the start of your blog! May the Lord continue to bless you, and to bless the vision that you have been sharing with us.
    Mike Hill

    • Reply Ruth April 11, 2020 at 10:10 pm

      Thank you so much Mike – that’s lovely timing with Yasha the pangolin 🙂 May you too know God’s blessing through these times.

  • Reply Liz Ashby April 11, 2020 at 10:42 pm

    My friend Anne Scott has probably told you that our MSC GreenLight has been reading Saying Yes to Life during Lent. We have all been inspired by the mass of information you provided and your challenge to change our lives. I have read it twice so far! And having the interviews as well was such a wonderful resource to draw on. So many thanks for your wonderful book. Every bit as inspiring as I found L is for Lifestyle some years ago.

    • Reply Ruth April 12, 2020 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks so much Liz – that’s really great to know!

  • Reply Sue Jelfs April 11, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    Thank you Ruth for this book which has easily been the most inspiring challenging Lent book I’ve ever read … I’ve enjoyed being stretched theologically – challenged practically and through all these horrible grief filled weeks with the Covid 19 Pandemic – this book has grounded me in the truth of who God is and also faces us up as humanity as to root causes. Bless you Ruth – we are thrilled you are part of our ‘family’ here in Rochester diocese ( though I’m a slightly rebellious Anglican ) and look forward to your input in days to come thank you !

    • Reply Ruth April 12, 2020 at 3:44 pm

      That’s lovely – thank you Sue. Your words have given me encouragement. Bless you in being a slightly rebellious Anglican, ha!

  • Reply Gerry April 12, 2020 at 6:21 pm

    Hi Ruth. I want to thank you for all the effort you have put in to “Saying Yes to Life”. It has been a wonderful resource to reflect upon during Lent. Humanity will need to move forwards through and beyond coronavirus, and your thoughts in this book are so useful to me in thinking how I will do things differently in the future. So needed right now. Thank you.

    • Reply Ruth April 13, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Really appreciate that Gerry, thank you.

  • Reply Rita Banfield April 13, 2020 at 9:17 am

    I read your book through I could not put it down. Then took up the daily plan in Lent. Sometimes I struggled to meet the challenge because that meant finding more to react to. It was good to know that so many others were involved with it and that I was in a much bigger group than I thought possible. These days of isolation certainly bring more challenges of their own particularly recycling and composting. Especially as I now cannot do the heavy gardening myself. May God bless you in your work .Thank you for a challenging Lent

    • Reply Ruth April 13, 2020 at 11:17 am

      Thanks Rita – that’s great to hear! God bless you.

  • Reply Lynne Townend April 13, 2020 at 11:13 am

    Ruth, I have found this book so helpful. Not quite kept in step with the time of the readings in the last third of the book, but it has given me hope and challenged me along the way. (Some things I thought I “knew,” and I am now realising I need to embrace “walking the walk.” I have been very moved by the prayers from other countries. I am currently able to work from home but have some annual leave next week and intend to go back and re-read and listen. Thank you.

    • Reply Ruth April 13, 2020 at 11:16 am

      That’s so good to hear, Lynne, thank you. I hope you enjoy it as you get some time off and have space to read. Wishing you all the very best as you think through walking the talk!

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