Church of England Diocese of Blackburn Ashton-on-Ribble, St. Michael and All Angels with Preston St. Mark

A Pastoral Letter for Pentecost from our Vicar

26 May 2020, 4 p.m.

The Feast of Pentecost.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The fifty days of the season of Easter have passed since I last wrote to you. Life is still far from normal, our nation mourns many thousands dead and the social and economic future remains uncertain. Yet we remain steadfast in the Lord who hears our prayers and shares our trials and tribulations.

The disciples were a small, confused and frightened group who were startled at first to see the Risen Lord. They rejoiced at his presence amongst them and waited after his Ascension for the fulfilling promise of his spirt. When it came they heard a sound like a ‘rushing wind’ and ‘divided tongues as of fire’ rested upon them. Now blessed with the Holy Spirit they proclaimed the Good News in ways all could understand. They were filled with new hope, new vision, new confidence and new energy. Can we pray for any more than that?

As I write some of the conditions of the lockdown are easing. At the moment our building remains closed and sadly will remain so for the time being. We do, however, continue as the ‘church- inside-out’. I hope if you can you are keeping in touch via our websites, Facebook and a Church near you. If not, then I hope you find solace in your own prayers, the prayers of the wider Church and through the mediums of radio and television as well as print.

The standing committee and PCC continue to examine the issues surrounding our eventual re-opening for worship. To what degree we will have to change the physical layout of the building will be determined by following closely the diocesan advice on social distancing and other measures to ensure we are ‘Covid secure’.

How we worship, at least initially, will also be determined by our needs to ensure that risks of transmission are reduced to a minimum. We will not be able to offer a guaranteed virus free environment but be assured we will follow what guidelines that emerge assiduously to reduce risk to a minimum. You will need to play your part in that by co-operating with the necessary measures and not attending if you or members of your family develop symptoms.

I would like to thank those of you who continue to give either by standing order or by sending cheques to me. Our income has taken a massive hit and be under no doubt we are facing extremely challenging times financially. Some very tough decisions are going to have to be made. Income is down in excess of two thousand three hundred pounds a month while fixed costs have remained the same. With very careful management and good housekeeping we may just weather the financial hurricane this year.

Are we to be like the disciples first swamped by grief, doubts and anxiety? Or be more like post Pentecost people filled with new hope, new vision, new confidence and new energy? Can our future be Spirit filled, biblically based and family centred; celebrating the sacraments and welcoming people of every experience? Through this storm just what is the ‘still, small voice of God’ calling us to in terms of renewal and restoration? It will be our job together to discern this in the weeks and months ahead.

As we then celebrate the birth of the Church, let us do so with real joy and rejoicing. The people of God, filled with the love and power of Jesus Christ, blessed by the Spirit and ready always to praise, worship and work for the fulfilment of His kingdom!

With every blessing.