Letter to parishioners, 10 September 2020

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

This Sunday is going to present us with Jesus’ instruction to forgive.  This seems particularly relevant in our current climate of uncertainty and fear.  Yesterday afternoon our Prime Minister announced new procedures designed to curb the resurgence of the coronavirus.  As soon as he and his scientific advisers stopped speaking commentators began talking about who was to ‘blame’ for the rise in infections that we are seeing at the moment.   Various sections of society were accused of being irresponsible and selfish, and no one addressed the real need for us to plan for a safe and secure future; all the talk was about personal inconvenience and intolerance.  That, of course, is the problem with apportioning blame and with failing to forgive.  In any situation, harbouring resentment and anger, keeps us firmly rooted in the past – the dark, unalterable past.  Blaming and failing to forgive stops us from looking into the future with hope and enthusiasm.  In this week’s reading from Matthew’s gospel, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone.  Peter tenders ‘seven times’ as a reasonable and Christian approach to forgiveness.  Jesus, however, has a very different take on the situation.  Jesus says: Not seven times but seventy seven times.  To fully understand Jesus’ answer we have to acquaint ourselves with the linguistic practices of his time.  The use of the number seventy-seven was deliberate on Jesus’ part because it actually meant ‘time without number’.  Jesus is telling us to stop distancing ourselves from God by focusing on blame, anger and resentment.  Jesus is telling us to truly love our neighbours by forgiving them for their human failings, just as Jesus has forgiven us.

This all seems very relevant at the moment, because within a couple of hours of the announcement of the Prime Minister’s ‘Rule of Six’ I was hearing of people’s anger towards whole groups of society.  There was no looking into the future, just anger that young people, or worshippers and workers from different ethnic backgrounds to our own were to blame and should be held to account for doing this to us!  I have even had people expressing their anger that our churches would have to be closed again.  Actually, this last point illustrates my point very well.  Our churches are not being closed.  Private Prayer and Public Worship are what we do, and the government is not reversing the decision to re-open our places of worship.  We will still be gathering, and not just in sixes, to pray and to worship God together.

This Sunday our worship in the morning will be at 9am and 10.30am in Corby Glen.  Please contact me if you would like to ‘book’ a place.  And there is another source of blame, anger and resentment.  I have received many aggressive emails and phone calls about ‘booking’ to go to church.  But … by creating a list ahead of the service I am simply making sure that everyone will be seated safely and with the minimum of fuss.  I am also circumventing the need to give you a compulsory Track & Trace form to fill in when I am sure you would rather be in prayer. 

This Sunday will also see us celebrating Harvest.  The weather forecast is good which means we will be holding the first of our two Harvest Services in the churchyard at Irnham.  The service will be at 4pm.  Please bring a garden chair for yourself, thus preventing the need for people to spend a long time deep cleaning the church’s chairs.  Of course, you may prefer to bring a blanket to sit on – that is absolutely fine.  Just come and celebrate the wonders of God’s creation.  There will be a similar Harvest Service in Corby Glen churchyard at 4pm next week.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen