From the Vicarage, April 2020
I’ve never had to write a magazine letter in such circumstances and one which will never be printed, but circulated through email and put on our website.
The present Covid-19 pandemic is rewriting our society and its repercussions will, I’m sure, be felt for many years to come. What will our country and our world be like at the end of it? We must pray that love and loving kindness will have grown even in the face of sickness, fear and death. ‘Where love and loving kindness dwell, God himself is there.’ Those words are often sung on Maundy Thursday when we remember Christ washing the feet of his disciples. How can we ‘wash the feet’ of those around in these troubled days?
We have been setting up phone networks for our two churches over the past week, as it became apparent that society might be going into significant shutdown for weeks or months with many isolated in their homes. We hope and pray that these networks will help us to keep in touch with each other and offer whatever support we can. If you have not been contacted by anyone, and would like to be, please let be know by phone or email.
Our ministry team will be trying to offer helpful teaching and reflections as this time continues. These will be sent out weekly in emails to regular worshippers and hopefully also included on our websites. I also hope to stream prayers several days a week. This will be mainly through our two Facebook pages ‘St David’s Church Exeter’ and ‘Friends of St Michael’s’ . Please be patient with any glitches and let us have some feedback.
There will also be services published and posted online by the Church of England and by Exeter Diocese.
Some people will ask ‘why has this happened?’, ‘why are innocent people suffering and dying?’ There seems to be no justice in it. I don’t believe that God ‘allowed’ or willed this pandemic any more than he allows any disasters. They happen as part of a universe which includes death and destruction in its very fabric. But the Christian faith does have distinctive answers to such disasters.
Firstly it says that God never forsakes us even when bad things happen. Even Jesus felt forsaken on the cross. ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me’ he cried in anguish. But God had not forsaken him and three days later he brought him life again. Whatever we face in life we should know that God loves us from before we are born, throughout our lives here and into eternity. He is a rock and an unchanging friend in the storms of life.
Secondly we believe that such disasters call us to love and support each other more strongly and to do whatever we can to bring some good from a fearful situation. That this should happen in Lent and over Easter reminds us of the reality that Christ faced suffering and death out of love for the human family. He suffered even though he was innocent and died in agony to take away the sin which clings so closely, keeping us from God.
But we can never forget that God showed his power over death and destruction when he brought Jesus to a new and glorious life on the first Easter morning. His victory brings us the promise of new life in his presence and reassures us that nothing can separate us form the love of God in Christ Jesus. Our celebrations will be muted this year. There will be no public church services during Holy Week or on Easter Day. Yet we can still follow the pattern of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection as we read the gospel accounts and pray through these special days.
Thank you to all of you who have been so supportive in helping us to be the Church differently in these strange days. Please be assured of my prayers and do ask for prayers by phone or email. I am happy to pray over the phone with you if you would appreciate that and will continue to offer the daily prayers of the Church at the vicarage.
May God protect you and those you love and nourish the growth of his loving kindness amongst us.
With every good wish and blessing,