Last month, on St Patrick’s Day, I met with colleagues from the Deanery to talk through lots of issues following the announcements by the Prime Minister, and then the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, concerning the Coronavirus outbreak. I began the meeting by reading Psalm 46 – “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble......” – and I offer those profoundly reassuring and comforting words to everyone now, as we continue to try to make sense of what is happening in our world, and to respond to this global calamity.
The following day I met with members of our own Ministry Team and we agreed on a number of actions, taking very much to heart the words of the Archbishops in their letter to all the clergy: “This does not mean that the Church of England has shut up shop. Far from it. We need to look at new ways of serving everybody.......” and “Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead”. The Archbishops concluded their letter by saying that this was a “defining moment for the Church of England” and I have no doubt that this is absolutely true.
The word “unprecedented” has been used many times over the last few weeks to describe the times we are living through now and, when this is all over, we will look back on these times with, I imagine, sheer incredulity and amazement. How could this happen to us in the 21st Century? Some of you may have seen the news piece a few weeks ago about the Derbyshire village of Eyam, which “self-isolated” itself in the 17th Century to better protect its villagers against the plague which was ravaging the whole country at the time. It made for salutory viewing and the interview with the local Vicar, whose 17th Century predecessor had spearheaded those quarantine efforts, was truly poignant, conducted as it was by the reporter with a microphone on a long pole because the Vicar was self-isolating as a result of his wife developing coronavirus like symptoms!
For me, and I’m sure I speak for all clergy and ministers of all denominations, the thought of not being able to celebrate with you all the events of Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter dispirits me greatly. This is truly an unprecedented situation in any of our lifetimes – but our shared faith and our love and care for one another is what truly counts and really matters in the midst of such uncertainty, fear and anxiety and upheaval. On Easter Day I shall be offering praise and thanks to God for the joy and hope of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, and prayers for every parishioner. We may even have something to live stream on YouTube and Facebook thanks to the technological knowledge and skills of members of the Ministry Team and others (not me I hasten to add!) We have travelled so far, in so many ways, since the plague of the 17th Century and the self-isolation of the village of Eyam – but in the most profound and fundamental ways we are the same as our ancestors, living our lives in faith, hope and love.
May God’s richest blessing be with you all.
Alleluia. Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed. Alleluia!
The Revd Alec Brown.