Letter to Parishioners, 7 May 2020

Dear Friends in Christ,

This weekend, in the midst of the uncertainty of a major world pandemic, we are called to celebrate and give thanks. Seventy-five years ago the continent of Europe saw the end of a tyrannous regime that ruthlessly killed millions of people.  On 8 May 1945 the German High Command finally surrendered and, as our Prime Minister announced that surrender, emotions bubbled over and there was great rejoicing.

Of course, whilst everyone was able to celebrate the end of six years of war, for many the feelings of uncertainty and fear went on. If you look at the film footage of the 1945 VE Day celebrations something may suddenly dawn on you. The majority of those films contain only women, children and the elderly or infirm. The husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, nephews and ‘mates’ had not yet returned. The long wait would still go on for so many as their vacant places were kept for the moment of true celebration whilst, for many, that moment would never come.

Following VE Day a new reality dawned on the world, the historians tell us that a new age had begun. In the UK the austerity and deprivation, the rationing and the rebuilding would go on for a long while. Certainly there was peace, but there was also the need to confront the fact that the world would never be the same again. It is that fact that makes it all the more important that we do still celebrate this landmark anniversary in the recent history of our country, despite the national lockdown. 

Over the last couple of weeks we have constantly been told of the moment when we will be forced to embrace the ‘new normal’. This week I heard something that I think we should take seriously: we should not be looking towards a new normal but rather a new reality, a new future. Following VE Day, and throughout the last seventy-five years, the world has changed beyond the wildest ramblings of our human imaginations. But, we still spend so much time trying to bury ourselves in the past; to maintain a self-imposed normal; to protect ourselves from all that confronts and challenges. When the churches were closed and throughout the divisive political campaigns of the last three years, time and time again people mentioned the war to me.  And therein lies the danger of looking forward to a new normal. Encapsulated in that phrase is a latent longing for everything to go back to where it was before Covid 19 was identified and its spread brought a trail of premature death to so many. That is not the way for us to go forward in Christ’s name.

Rather, we are called to be evangelists and missionaries. We are called to continue sharing God’s love in new and innovative ways. We are called to follow wherever God’s love for humanity may lead us. Of course, we long for our churches to open again and for the times when we can gather together in Christian community. But then, we need to be ready to use the strength that comes from those moments and go out (in whatever way is open to us) and share God’s light and love with all.

There are special prayers to mark this weekend’s anniversary of VE Day in the services for Friday, 8 May and Sunday, 10 May on our website.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen