THE RECTOR WRITES
1. On the evening of Monday 23 March the Prime Minister addressed the nation about the Coronavirus epidemic. He effectively put much of England and Wales into “lockdown”, though there is still (at the time of writing) a huge reliance on the public responding sensibly and responsibly.
One of his instructions was that all places of public worship should now be closed for the duration of the Emergency, even for private prayer. The next day the Bishop of Salisbury wrote to all his clergy, “with a heavy heart”, to reiterate that. As he said, “the principles behind this latest guidance are clear. As a Church, we are committed to acting together on the best advice available with messaging that will help us care for the whole community, including the most vulnerable.”
Bishop Nicholas went on to say that “we are now a Church that says our prayers at home”. We Anglicans are no strangers to that. During the dark days of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, with puritan ministers intruded into our parish churches and vicars and rectors expelled, faithful Anglicans did indeed say their prayers at home – or sometimes (and I don’t recommend this) in caves, or forest clearings. And so we joined with early Christians in the catacombs of Rome who stayed hidden deep underground from Roman persecution. And so it has gone on down the centuries – and still does in many countries today.
So we should not despair that we cannot access our wonderful churches. We now have the privilege of sharing just a little of the adversity which our Christian sisters and brothers in other parts of the world experience every day.
We are trying to keep our website up to date, and to find ways of staying in touch with you all. It is not simple! In their letter to clergy, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote this:
“These are unprecedented times. We are all having to get used to being the Church differently. It is not easy. However, our belonging to Christ has never been measured by the number of people in church on a Sunday morning (though we long for the day when this way of knowing Christ can return) but by the service we offer to others. Therefore, and despite these very harrowing restrictions, please do all that you can to minister to your people safely, especially to the sick, the vulnerable and the poor. With our thanks to you all for you are bearing at this extraordinary time. We know that God is with us and we pray with you that in the midst of all this pain and sorrow we can remain focussed on the One who gives us hope.”
Amen to that.
2. This Sunday, 29 March, is Passion Sunday. Lent changes gear. One thing we can all do at home is to enter as fully as we can, in heart and mind, into the Passion of Christ. The Gospel for Passion Sunday is John 11.1-45. From 30 March to 9 April, read a portion each day of John 12 – 17. From Maundy Thursday to Easter Day, John 18 – 20.
Meanwhile, this week’s Collect (special prayer) is on the home page.
With my blessing and love, as always