• mikeawestbrook

From Our Minister - April & Easter 2021

Dear Friends,

The Vicar of Dibley was asked to (lip sync) sing her favourite song of 2020 during Comic Relief.

Somewhere, reflecting & thinking through these weeks of Lent, approaching Easter with the help of our weekly studies, Sunday worship, private prayer at church & on walks in Nonsuch Park or along the Hogsmill river, I heard the sad news story of the Australian Regent Honeyeaters. This now endangered species of songbird is failing to learn the tunes it needs for courtship. Lip, or beak, syncing will not do!

At a karaoke evening we may attempt 'Ooo we, chirpy chirpy cheap cheap' by Middle of the Road, a song from 1971, but there are no ready lines or tunes prepared for the Regent Honeyeater. Apparently, some young birds can no longer find the older ones to teach them to sing, so they try mimicking songs from other types of birds. We may be happy to forget the Chirpy chirpy cheap cheap song, but for this songbird losing their song is a big problem.

Bird song can & does change. Many bird species are known to change their songs over time within local populations. In Canada, scientists noticed that young sparrows’ traditional three noted descending whistle has become a unique two note ending & has spread two thousand miles across from Western Canada to Central Ontario. How did that happen?

I am not sure why these bird stories caught my imagination during the season of Lent with Easter approaching. Somewhere I guess it must be resonating with my inner story of Jesus’ passion, death & resurrection. Somewhere it is touching my inner sense of the meaning at Easter.

For me, it is the blackbird that comes to mind when I think about the avian world & birdsong. Partly because of their varied song. I have often heard the blackbird from my

Various past homes, mostly in suburban or build up areas. From here in the early evening or bright mornings, from trees, ariels or on telephone wires the blackbird sings.

And, of course, then there is the Beatles: Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. Who says Paul McCartney was not the lyric writer. “Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly”, or “take these sunken eyes and learn to see”. Written about the 1960s racial struggles in USA.

I found another story about the blackbird. St Kevin a first century Bishop & saint from Kilnarmarnach, Ireland, became a hermit & it is said “the branches and the leaves of the trees sang him sweet songs”. Like many hermits, he loved animals & birds. His legends include one about a blackbird laying an egg in Kevin’s hand when his arms were out-stretched in prayer. The saint remained in that position until the baby bird hatched. Seamus Heaney wrote a poem about this event. “To labour & not seek reward he prays”. This is his sacrifice, his link to eternity & his salvation.

Somewhere, whilst reflecting on the above, I heard the good news of a man who seeks to change the song - to a song that sings that death is not an end. A justice song for the poor & downtrodden. A song that sings out how that we can all be reunited with creation & our creator. A song of life. The sad news about this man is that for us to sing these songs he was to die so that we might have life.

“But in the mud and scum of things,

There always, always, somethings sings” … (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

These bird songs & stories touched me & reminded of the Easter message. What is bringing the message of Easter closer to you?

As for the Australian Regent Honeyeaters, some of us may be resigned to the inevitable. Others will seek change, perhaps agitate for their future, work or to find a solution or simply offer prayer. Perhaps there can be a new song for them…& us…a resurrection after all.

God bless,


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