Back in January, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell invited us all - everyone across England – whether they had faith or not – to pause, reflect on the “enormity of this pandemic” and to pray. And in his Easter service at Canterbury Cathedral. Archbishop Justin particularly remembered those who had been bereaved during the pandemic
Death, they insist, does not have “the last word”, and the Christian faith promises that one day “every tear will be wiped away”.
God, they write, knows grief and suffering and “shares in the weight of our sadness”.
Acknowledging the wider impact of the pandemic on the whole of society through loneliness, anxiety and economic hardship, they invite people to “cast their fears on God”.
The letter also speaks of the particular impact of the pandemic on poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities.
It acknowledges many who have lost their livelihoods as a result of the economic impact of the pandemic and it speaks about those unable to be with loved ones as they died or even at their graveside because of the restrictions.
The archbishops give thanks for NHS and social care staff, who they describe as “a blessing and lifeline for our nation”; for clergy, other frontline workers and “so many good neighbours”. They give thanks for the development of vaccines and reiterate a call to everyone to take the vaccine when it is offered.
They also urge people to support each other both by following the guidelines to limit the spread of the virus and in practical ways, reaching out in care and kindness.
The letter includes an invitation to everyone – whether they have faith or not – to join the archbishops in pausing and praying each day at 6pm from February 1.
The archbishops write: “100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God. “We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.”
They conclude: “Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter. “We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.
“Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.”A prayer for those who mourn
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.