“There’s never been such an important time as now to think of others before ourselves.”
These words were said with feeling by a parishioner reflecting on the very beginning of what might turn out to be a lengthy health and wealth crisis. This week the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote not once but twice to their brother and sister clergy across the land. They wrote with deep regret to say that public worship must stop but the Christian mission most certainly must continue. Public worship has been interrupted throughout Christian history but never to this extent. How can we be a family of faith without gathering together, without receiving Communion, without experiencing the other sacraments that the Church provides?
As we reflect upon this new reality brought about by COVID-19, we might perceive a way forward, a flickering light that demonstrates that God is very present in our suffering. I have witnessed an amazing upload in human kindness, especially towards the care of neighbours and concern for strangers and the vulnerable. Various networks of care have been created locally. The large corporations are seeking to provide rather than to profit; the government is seeking to serve the common good rather than itself; the media is promoting public health rather than celebrity angst. Plenty of goodness is coming out of this crisis.
As a parish church, what should our mission be? What are the practical and spiritual actions and gifts that we can give to this part of God’s world? We are opening the church – not for public worship – but to invite people to use the sacred space to pray, to light a candle, to listen. Silent and daily prayer continues. I will be recording the Eucharist on Saturday evenings and will ‘broadcast’ this through our website and social media. I will continue to send out the readings of the week with this blog post. I will also attempt to make available a homily, if not a commentary, relating to the Sunday readings.
I will encourage you to think about embracing faith at home with practical and fun activities which bring faith to life. As the Archbishops suggest, there is much we can learn here from our Jewish cousins in this respect. Watch out for faith at home updates as we continue to live through this crisis.
In order to serve the local community, the Traidcraft Store will be open at St Michaels on Saturday mornings between 10am and 12 noon. It will be selling important household products which may be running out of stock in other stores including toilet rolls, kitchen rolls, sanitizing hand wash, sanitizing multi-surface cleaner, organic toilet cleaner, organic soap, Easter cards & eggs and chocolate bars.
“There’s never been such an important time as now to think of others before ourselves.” This is a message which speaks to the whole of our society not just to a section. All of our previous prejudices and misgivings need to be relinquished. We need to think of others just as Jesus gave us the imperative to love our neighbours and much as we love ourselves.
What else can we do? In an attempt to show solidarity with those who suffer, light a candle in your front room at 7pm for an hour each evening. Let’s light up our homes to others (but make sure the flame is protected). The Christian story describes many episodes of oppression, persecution and restriction. I believe that the way that we experience the graciousness of God will change. Our inner lives will begin to flex some muscles. We will go deeper and become more resourceful and intuitive about the movements of God. But the most important catalyst for the growth of the life of faith is prayer. This is what I wrote for last Sunday’s sermon:
Those of you this Lent – and during this Covid-19 crisis – who are committed to prayer, are in a humble way, being prophetic – standing up for what is good and trusting God to provide. God needs us to pray, the world needs generous prayer, we all need praying for. Prayer is the centre of the church’s mission, it lies in the heart of God. It brings us into a communion with one another but ultimately with the one in whom we live and breathe and have our being. Through prayer we realise who we are and who God is. Prayer becomes the purpose of our lives. Without it we are empty and unfulfilled, tempted and shaken by whatever devil chooses to come alongside us.
This Lent and during this health and wealth crisis, pray to God for a deeper knowledge of his mystery. Don’t be afraid to journey into the wilderness of faith, for there you will meet the Christ. Don’t look for quick fixes or easy answers, but simply rest in God’s presence. If we commit ourselves to God, we will be challenged and changed as people, and through our prayer God will challenge and change the world. Prayer is the most important and urgent task of our age, or any age. Your prayer is asked at this time.
Fourth Sunday of Lent (Mothering Sunday) Old Testament – 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; New Testament – Ephesians 5:8-14; Gospel – John 9
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