Friends we will all now be aware of the challenge we are facing as a society due to the corona virus. This is going to limit our normal way of life however Bishop Peter and I want to remind you of three things.
The first is an encouragement. ‘Do not be afraid for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God.’ These are the words which the prophet Isaiah shares with the nation of Israel at a time of national crisis. Words we need to hold on to as we remember that God is Emmanuel, ‘God with us’. So whether you are self-isolating at home or feeling anxious about the future, please don’t feel alone.
The second thing is that the Church is in a position where we are now suspending all acts of public worship however the Church is still very much open for business in terms of keeping at the core and heart of our life prayer and care for all. So although we may not be able to gather in the ways in which we normally do this is an opportunity for us to be Church in new ways. We are going to be encouraging churches to remain open wherever possible and for clergy and people to use those spaces as places for private prayer and places of sanctuary. Clergy will continue to offer prayer at morning and evening and we want to signal that fact. However many of us may have to do so on our own, at home, or perhaps remotely through live streaming of service, of worship, or find new ways of being creative in how we come together. This is not about spiritual distancing even if we are in a place of physical distancing.
The third thing is that the current situation requires us all to respond with kindness, making sensible and sensitive decisions about our own actions, restricting personal freedoms for the sake of ourselves and others and to protect the vulnerable. We want to prevent infection but this is the time to think about how we can share other aspects of our lives. To really live out, and through our actions tell, the story of God’s love for all. So let’s think about those who may have much less than we do. Rather than buying extra to keep in our own store cupboards think about adding a donation to the foodbank or doing a shop for a neighbour.
Bishop Peter and I want to assure you of our love, prayer and care. We and the diocesan support staff will be following all advice offered by Public Health England, our Government and through our Archbishops. We shall adapt our ways of working in order to maintain safety; so non-essential travel and meetings will be postponed, staff will work from home where possible and in small teams to continue essential support services. There will be someone to respond to all your necessary enquiries and calls by phone or email.
‘Social distancing’ may be required of us but spiritual distancing is not. Through our prayer, as we care and share, may we discover new ways of being Church in God’s world!
Archbishops Justin and Sentamu are joining with Churches Together across the UK in calling us with others of faith to make this coming Sunday a national day of prayer. We would encourage you to join us from your homes or wherever you are, lighting a candle to place in your window as a symbol of hope at 7pm. Here is a prayer you might wish to use.
‘Keep us, good Lord,
Under the shadow of your mercy.
Sustain and support the anxious,
Be with those who care for the sick,
And lift up all who are brought low;
That we may find comfort
Knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
In Christ Jesus our Lord