Letter to parishioners, 8 July 2021

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Dear Friends in Christ,

On Monday the Prime Minister announced his hope that we would soon be returning to ‘normal’ with the lifting of the Covid restrictions. Of course, this cannot possibly be the case. We cannot airbrush the months of lockdown, isolation, social distancing, mask wearing and fear out of history. The majority will be able to enjoy a greater sense of freedom, but for some the restrictions will not only go on, but may have to be tightened. For many the Covid regulations have already been consigned to the dustbin and, so called, ‘common sense’ has already led to inappropriate and irresponsible behaviour. Such an attitude ignores the fact that many are still in a very vulnerable position. Such an attitude, which places ‘self’ before all else, ignores the needs of many. Such an attitude of ‘pretending nothing has happened’ flies in the face of our Christian duty to love and serve others.

Over the last year, I have tried to keep the focus of these weekly letters rooted in the gospel message of the Good News that is Jesus Christ. This week I have to take a diversion for a moment. Last year, as most of you know, I was seriously ill. I was diagnosed with an uncommon cancer which caused me to have to undergo a course of aggressive chemotherapy. The result of that diagnosis and treatment is that my immune system remains severely compromised. The instantaneous abandoning of all Coronavirus restrictions means that I am now going to have to be extremely cautious about how all services are conducted in our churches. The Church of England has not yet been able to issue revised guidelines and advice, and will not be able to do so until after the final position has been made clear by the government in the coming days. However, I do know that I will have to be particularly careful about how I allow certain things to ‘unlock’ over the coming weeks and months, particularly as the infection rate continues to grow at such an alarming rate. I am sorry to focus on myself so much but, after appropriate consultation, I felt it important to temper some of the expectations that I am not going to be able to fulfil in the immediate future.

In this week’s gospel reading we will hear of the death of John the Baptist. Not a particularly cheery or glamorous moment in the gospel narrative, but an important one nonetheless. John, was born to be a forerunner of Jesus. John was born to bring a message of repentance and renewal as the world awaited the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. John fulfilled his calling by sacrificing all that was focused on self in order that he might dedicate his life entirely to serving God. In the coming days and weeks we will be called to emulate the ministry modelled by John the Baptist. We will be called to show others the Christian way, even if we are tempted to wallow in self-indulgence. We will be called to share the love of Christ by protecting those for whom the end of Covid regulations is a threat. We will be called to continue calling others into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ.

In the days that lie ahead, let us pray that our Loving God might open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, in order that our lives might be filled with the peace, joy and righteousness that comes from God alone.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen