Always with us

On 20th July 1969 the world watched something extraordinary. This was when the Eagle lunar module landed on the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility. This was the very first time that anyone had been to the moon. But astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had to do something hard. After years of preparation and their long and hazardous flight they had to wait. They were about to open the door of their lunar lander and step onto the unknown surface of a completely different world. But for now, their mission ordered them to take a pause, to wait and prepare for that ‘First step’. That hour-long downtime period was designed to let the astronauts recover from their space flight and prepare for their moon walk.

It is now well known that Buzz Aldrin spent his time praying, reading the Bible and taking Holy Communion. Aldrin was an elder at Webster Presbyterian Church, and before he headed into space in 1969, he got special permission to take bread and wine with him into space and to give himself communion. As the men prepared for the next phase of their mission, Aldrin spoke to the ground crew back on Earth. “I would like to request a few moments of silence,” he said. “I would like to invite each person listening in, wherever and whomever they may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in their own individual way.”

He then reached for the wine and bread he’d brought to space—the first foods ever poured or eaten on the moon. “I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup,” he later wrote. The words he read were those of Jesus: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in you, will bear much fruit, for you can do nothing without me.’

After the resurrection, as Jesus ascended back to heaven, he gave a promise to his disciples that he would be with them always, wherever they were and wherever they went. As Buzz Aldrin took communion on the Moon he too was aware of that promise. It is a promise that is also true for us today and so whatever each day may bring let us remember to ‘wait’ before we step out into the day and ask that Jesus may indeed be with us. As we say in Communion:
‘The Lord is here.’ ‘His Spirit is with us.’

With warm greetings,
The Right Revd Peter Hancock
Bishop of Bath and Wells

Preb Alison writes…

I thought this was going to be a really difficult letter to write, and then as I sorted through my boxes of memories, I came across a prayer written by Bishop George Appleton; it was the prayer I felt moved to use on the eve of my ordination as deaconess on 4th July 1982. After the most wonderful, exciting, fulfilling and yes, at times frustrating 37 years, this prayer which was at the beginning is what I want to share at the end of ministry.

So, thank you for the privilege of sharing your lives and thank you for
sharing mine – to God be the glory!

Lord, as I look back on the journey so far,
I see how thy love and goodness have been with me,
through many failings and dangers,
in many joys and adventures.
I have received much love from friends,
enjoyed so many good and lovely things,
been guided and inspired
by the wisdom and encouragement of many teachers and writers.
Often I have felt thy presence near,
and often I have had to walk by faith.
Forgive my slowness,
my failures in faith,
the smallness of my love,
my poor use of thy grace.
Accept my heart’s thanks
for growing knowledge of thee,
for increasing assurance of thy purposes of love
and deepening knowledge of the things that are eternal.
As I turn again to the journey ahead,
it is bright with thy mercies of the past,
dear God and Saviour.