Letter from the clergy - Sunday 14 June 2020

First published on: 11th June 2020

Dear Friends,

Some of you will have read in the media that the Government has said that places of worship can open for ‘private prayer’ from next week. We in the Church of England work under the authority of our diocesan bishop, and bishop Nick has been very good in providing regular updates to clergy, issuing advice that has our safety and wellbeing at heart. He acknowledges that many of our people are still vulnerable because of their age or health, the virus hasn’t gone away yet, and we can only open churches safely when we have done a risk assessment, and have cleaning schedules and sufficient hand-sanitiser in place. We still need to observe physical distancing, and he says just because Government says we ‘can’ open our churches, that doesn’t mean we ‘must.’ He also says that our online and dial-in worship will need to continue for some time, because we are nowhere near the time when public worship services might safely resume.

So at the moment, I will start coming in to church occasionally to film communion services, and we will see if we can get everything in place so that we can open church for prayer by July, perhaps twice a week, but for now, St John’s is still closed I’m afraid. In the meantime, you’ll be able to join me as I celebrate communion in church for the first time in three months in our online service for Sunday, and Helen has been putting some lovely photographs of the inside of St John’s on Facebook, for those who have access to that, to remind you of what a beautiful building we have.

This Sunday our reading from Romans 5.1-8 describes the peace and joy that comes through faith in Christ, and strikingly, St Paul says that we can rejoice in our suffering (not because of them), because we know what they lead to. Suffering leads to perseverance, character, and hope. The sort of hope he means is a truly joyful Christian hope and confidence, founded on the love of God poured into our hearts, not just positive thinking. And he is in effect saying ‘rejoice with me, let’s celebrate!’ By the power of the Spirit, our God is with us in our difficulties, and helps us to persevere. Some of you may be able to testify to the truth of this in recent times, that it is in the tough times that we discover that our Lord is very close, sustaining us, encouraging us, and ministering to us through the kindness of others. Let’s continue to pray for each other, and for those who are suffering in our world, and let’s continue to look out for each other.

Neil Short, Audrey’s son, has come up with his own version of the ‘Stay Alert’ slogan. I’d like to commend his version to you: ‘bless our neighbours, be community, be good news.’ Let’s do this!

How are we doing?

If you haven’t already done so, please help us by completing our online survey, if you can. If you’d like any technical help with accessing our dial-in communion services, or Friday coffee and prayers, or if the cost of phone calls is a worry, please get in touch. Thank you.

A prayer for this week: the Coronavirus Prayer

Keep us, good Lord, under the shadow of your mercy in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

With grace and peace,
Sue McWhinney         
07484 181699

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