Dear brothers and sisters,
Due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic Coronavirus, for the first time in living memory, the Church of England decided that all church buildings must close until further notice. As a result our last service of Holy Communion was held in church on Sunday 15th March 2020, and in last months Parish Magazine we published what steps we have taken to implement the advice we have been given by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Lichfield, and what steps we all need to follow to try and prevent the spread of this horrible virus that has already caused the deaths of many thousands of people throughout the world.
The United Kingdom, and other countries, have been in “lockdown” since at least mid-March and we know that this situation will continue until at least the middle of May, and probably even longer than that. I urge you all to follow our Government’s advice, and stay at home, only leaving your home if and when it is essential. I won’t go into further details here as we are bombarded with advice about what we can and can’t do in the media several times each day. You will also have received a letter from our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and leaflet urging you to “Stay at home, to protect the NHS, and save lives”.
In spite of the prevailing mood of gloom and doom pervading our lives at the moment I hope that you all were able to enjoy a peaceful and restful celebration of Holy Week and Easter, and celebrated wholeheartedly the fact that in spite of everything “Christ is risen, he is risen indeed”. We must remember, and constantly remind ourselves and others, in these dark days, “Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death. No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us. For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love, neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord”. (Romans 8:37-39)
I know that due to our churches being closed we have missed each others friendship and fellowship, and for some of us Easter may not have been as spiritually uplifting as usual, but as St Paul reminds us we may be separated from each other, but we are not separated from God. God is everywhere, not confined to church buildings, and so we can worship him anywhere, in any circumstances, through reading our Bibles, God’s holy word; singing hymns and other songs of praise; and spending time in prayer, offering ourselves afresh to God, and praying for the church and for the world, and giving thanks to God for keeping us safe.
The Church of England have provided us with plenty of resources and guidance to help us in our Christian journeys throughout Lent, Holy Week and Easter, but unfortunately this was only accessible by those of us with computers. By going on-line we were able to remotely take part in acts of worship on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, and indeed every day of the week. I have conducted all these services for the benefit of our church members who use the social media, and I will continue to conduct a short Sunday morning act of worship on Facebook, and in future on Zoom, which allows more people to connect with online services. Please join me if you are able to.
I have thought of you all constantly, ever since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, and I have asked myself, “Has Covid-19 weakened our relationship with God?” I would say the answer is definitely NO, we should have all felt closer to God than before, as he helps us cope with life during these difficult times. God has not promised us an easy and illness free ride through life, but, as St Paul reminds us, nothing will separate us from the love of God. The veil between this world and the next can be very thin indeed, and sadly some in the United Kingdom, maybe a great many, with over 10,000 people having died already, will succumb to this virus.
In the face of this Christians, and perhaps even more importantly, non-Christians, need to hear again what God has actually promised to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, the gift of eternal life. It is the central message of this Easter season. We are each called to truly repent of our sins, to turn to the risen Christ, and to submit our lives to him. If we don’t live our lives as a preparation for eternal life, we will have missed entirely the wonderful message of hope that Easter brings to a broken world. Whatever happens to our earthly bodies after we die, the empty tomb on that first Easter Sunday proclaims loudly that death need not be the end, but the start of a more wonderful life in eternity with Jesus.
So in these uncertain times there is no need for us to panic, just keep calm, carry on, and stay focused on what really, ultimately matters, the state of our spiritual health. Happy Easter. Christ is risen, alleluia.
Yours in Christ – Gilbert David