1 April 2020
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are now journeying through the second week of the extraordinary and unprecedented social restrictions that have been imposed upon us as our nation joins with the rest of the world and struggles to reverse the effects of the Covid 19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
For some this has been a positive time: a time of re-evaluation and a time for re-aligning priorities. Others have taken advantage of their enforced social isolation to get some ‘jobs done’. For those who are housebound through age or infirmity, there may not seem to be much of a difference at all. And for some, these days are already dragging and feeling like some sort of imprisonment. However you are coping with the government’s restrictions on our lives you need to be reassured that you are not alone; there are many, many others who feel exactly the same as you are feeling right now.
Unusually for a time of crisis, the decision was taken to close down not only public worship, but our churches and churchyards as well. This has been a cause of upset and confusion for some, while others have realized the act of social responsibility involved in this difficult decision. The Church is leading from the front. Instead of encouraging us to claim some sort of exception we are being encouraged to deepen our Lenten observances by rethinking just what it means to be a Christian.
To be a Christian is to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ. To be a member of a Church is to express our Christian faith by joining together in fellowship and community. At the moment, that fellowship and community has been taken away from us and we are having to rethink how we can be nourished and supported in our faith.
On Sunday the Church begins its journey through Holy Week. In years past we would have been gathering to recall the moment when the crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with shouts of ‘Hosanna!’’ From that triumphant moment we would have quickly turned towards Maundy Thursday and the events in the Upper Room during, what we know as, The Last Supper. At that momentous event we witness Judas leaving the company of the disciples to betray Jesus; we see Jesus get down on his knees and model love and service by washing the feet of his disciples; we join in Jesus’ institution of Holy Communion and we hear him telling us all to ‘do this in remembrance of me.’ From the Upper Room we journey with Jesus to his time of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. When I went on my Holy Land pilgrimage at the end of 2018, I recall the moment when one of our guides pointed to two olive trees and told us that the root stock of those trees is over two thousand years old – they were there when Jesus knelt in prayer on that night!
After the events of Maundy Thursday we travel the road to the cross. We come to know the desolation of Jesus hanging and dying an ignominious and excruciating death – for us! Then we are in the limbo of Holy Saturday. We sit with his disciples, and we wait for the moment of Resurrection.
All of this journey begins on Sunday. But … for the first time in any of our lifetimes we will not have the opportunity to physically gather and experience the journey in a spirit of fellowship and community.
Of course, there is no way round the restrictions that have been imposed upon us, but that does not mean that we cannot support each other in prayer and Christian love.
We can still read our bibles. This is a great time to quietly and slowly read through one of the Gospels. Why not start with Luke?
We can still pray. Even doing no more than reciting the Lord’s Prayer is something that will bring us into fellowship with every other Christian in the world.
We can still spend time reflecting on just what Christ’s journey to the Cross and beyond means for each and every one of us.
To help you in your journey of faith through this most holy of liturgical seasons, we have created a new website – https://corbyglenchurches.uk
On that website there is a simple service of Daily Prayer. There are also sermons and other reflections and messages. There is also a growing library of audio recordings to help you in your devotions, and to provide you with the certainty that your Church community is still there, and that it is still there for you.
However you are using this time of distancing and isolation, I would urge to remember that we are all in God’s loving embrace. This is a challenging time, but it is also a God-given time. It is a time when we can look forward in optimism, or it is a time when we can choose the pessimistic route of just counting down the days until the moment when we can go back to exactly the same patterns of behaviour, exactly the same attitudes, exactly the same feelings of self-interest that represent our isolation from the God who gave everything for us.
Over the coming days and weeks we are going to continue to be tested. Our isolation, even from those nearest and dearest to us will go on. Let us join with our Church leaders in showing that we take our responsibility to lead, and to care, and to love in Christ’s name seriously. Let us pray that through the way we live out the coming days the light of Christ may shine into the darkness that can, at times, seem all-enveloping.
So, let us pray in union with Christ that those amongst whom we live might come to feel the warmth of God’s touch. And, let us pray for one another and for ourselves, that we might stand firm in our calling and our resolution to bring the fellowship, the community and the spirit of Christ to life today and every day.
Wishing you all every blessing,