Letter to parishioners, 29 January 2021

Friday, 29 January 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

This week we received sombre news that should cause us to pause and reflect on the times we are currently living through. On Tuesday, 26 January it was announced that the Coronavirus death toll had passed 100,000. Let us be clear about that. In the midst of the many, many confused and confusing statistics that have been thrown at us for almost a year, let us be clear: 100,000 people have lost their lives. 100,000 great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbours and colleagues have died.

For many, and especially those who are not living in Coronavirus hotspots, the pandemic has degenerated into an inconvenience. But, for the families and friends of those 100,000 people that ‘inconvenience’ is a tragedy. We have complained about lockdown, isolation and sheltering. We have complained about closed shops, pubs and restaurants. We have complained about cancelled holidays, uncut hair and postponed parties and life events. We have even complained at having to ‘book’ a place in our public worship. But, all of these ‘inconveniences’ pale into insignificance when we pause to think about those 100,000+ lives that have been lost.

Last weekend, and just three days before the terrible milestone of 100,000 lost lives was announced, the media told us of a wedding party in London that was attended by 400 people. What was going through the minds of those people? Firstly, no weddings are supposed to be taking place at the moment, unless either the bride or groom is seriously ill and not expected to survive. Secondly, 400 people at a party!!! I wonder how the families and friends of the lost 100,000 feel about that illegal ‘celebration’?

I am sure we can all empathise with those who are mourning the loss of loved ones. We will not know the circumstances of the death of many, if any, of those who have died, but we can imagine the devastation of sudden loss. We can also, if we try, imagine the additional agony of knowing that many included in that 100,000+ died alone and without the comfort and consolation of a loving word, a gentle kiss or a warm embrace. This week’s announcement was truly sobering as we continue to travel through dark days.

In the coming days the Church marks the end of the Christmas season with the Festival of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas). In the services that will mark this moment when we turn our focus from the wood of the manger to the wood of the cross, we will hear of old, faithful Simeon recognizing the baby Jesus in the Temple. We will then hear Simeon say these words to Mary: … and a sword will pierce your own soul too. We know that Simeon was speaking of the tragic and cruel way in which Jesus would end his earthly life, we can also identify with those words as we reflect upon this week’s shattering ‘milestone’ announcement.

No one is in a position to see how our current situation is going to end or, for that matter, when it is going to end. The time will come, of course, but as Jesus tells us during his last days on earth: … about that day and hour no one knows … but only the Father. Such words do not seem to offer much comfort, but Jesus says them after giving us a much more positive way forward: Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive. Let us hold firm in our faith. Let us live carefully and responsibly. Let us show our love for our neighbours by accepting where we are. Let us mourn the loss of all those who have died. Let us pray that the day may soon come when the tragedy of these days turns into the joy and celebration we long for.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen