If you have the BBC iPlayer, you might want to check out the film ‘Amazing Grace’. It’s a documentary about the making of Aretha Franklin’s album of the same name.
‘Amazing Grace’ stands out in a remarkable career for two particular reasons. The first is that it is the only album of gospel music Franklin ever recorded. The second is that it is the highest selling album she herself ever released, as well as being the most successful gospel album in history.
I was prompted to pay attention to it by one of those moments when your car radio surprises you. A track from the album was played, a sort of ‘mash up’ of the gospel hymn ‘Precious Lord, Take my Hand’ and the Carole King song ‘You’ve Got a Friend’. (King also wrote one of Franklin’s biggest secular hits – ‘You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman’.)
Emotions are never far from the surface in the current circumstances, but even allowing for that the impact of this track on me was dramatic. I had to pull over.
I was moved in a very different way on Wednesday evening when our PCC met online to discuss whether and how to remain open for public worship. You all know the outcome of that discussion. What only those who were there will know is that it was conducted with remarkable honesty, humility, respect and love.
It made me reflect that sometimes, when there really is no good outcome, a good process is all you can achieve. We achieved a good process on Wednesday, even in the midst of our shared recognition that no really good outcome was available to us.
In the spiritual life, too, we must sometimes attend to the process rather than the outcome. Perhaps most of the time, the day to day task of being a Christian is not about achieving goals or making progress so much as remaining faithful to the simple disciplines of prayer and obedience to Christ’s great commandment of love.
That’s perhaps why I found hearing Aretha Franklin sing about Jesus holding her hand, Jesus the friend who would never leave her or forsake her, so very moving. We don’t always know the path ahead, but we know that Our Lord is with us every step of the way.
May you know the presence of Jesus in your hearts and lives in the coming days, and may God bless you all,