Pastoral Letter

Dear Friends
At the time of writing I have absolutely no idea what will be happening by the time this is published, although with the potential announcements that are likely to be made it seems the shutdown will extend to the beginning of May. We may have had a very different Easter but I do pray that you have nevertheless had a peaceful and blessed one.

The story of Covid 19 seems to me to be a story of two halves. Clearly this has been an extraordinarily challenging and tragic time for our world; perhaps that is an understatement. It has been heart rending to see people being buried in mass graves in places like New York and the sheer number of deaths so far has been staggering despite the fact that percentages of the whole are quite small. You may not agree with me but I think the way in which some ministers have noted very carefully the tragedy of the loss of each individual and have given their sincere condolences, speaks volumes for the compassion that is being shown generally for those who have suffered and died and for those who are bereaved.

The scale of economic loss has yet to be calculated in terms of the human effect and this will undoubtedly manifest itself in more types of grief and loss. It will be some time before we get back to anything like normal, or at least a new normal. As much as politicians like to feel that they are in control and show that they have their hands on the reins I was heartened by the honesty of the Secretary of State for Health when he said that much of this is unknowable.

Of course, the other half of the story is of a nation rising to meet a challenge, almost as if it was something that it was longing for (the challenge that is, not the virus). Does that sound strange? There is, of course, much human kindness around all of the time but the burgeoning of this wonderful aspect of humanity has been quite amazing to observe. Of course, I am aware that this is not universal but where it does occur it demonstrates that such qualities appear to be innate and if nurtured they enrich society. I am reminded of a prayer that I often use in The Marriage Service. As I pray over the couple I say, “May the hospitality of their home bring refreshment and joy to all around them and may their love overflow to neighbours in need and embrace those in distress”. As you can imagine much is said about love at a wedding but the kind of love being expressed here is the sacrificial love of God. Whilst in our lifetime we are not capable of fully expressing the breadth, height and depth of God’s love we can nevertheless share it.

We have just celebrated Easter. Easter was not cancelled nor was it subject in any way, shape or form to the Coronavirus. The Easter story is a story of God’s great love for humanity and the way in which Jesus’ death and resurrection changed everything about our present and our future. I believe that any demonstration of human kindness, without the need for a reward, is a demonstration of the innate love which God has placed in us all because we are essentially in the image of God, who is love. In this way the Easter story is being lived out in our community. Of course that is much strengthened when we know it and choose to do it in Christ’s name. There is a prayer attributed to Teresa of Avila that goes like this:
“Christ has no body on earth now but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on the world; yours are the feet with which he walks to do good; yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.” May God bless all our efforts for good and healing throughout this time.

Stephen

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