Early yesterday morning, I looked out through the dawn mist. The church next to the Rectory was barely visible through the foggy air. A faint image, easily missed, unless you know it’s there, and what to look for.
Sometimes God can seem distant – as can the Church. Obscured by the mist, or darkness. Far off, and beyond our sight or call. But the reality is more like the photo on this post. God is always there. Solid, dependable, rock steady. Simply there. Like the ancient medieval church I was looking at, rooted in the foundation of the earth of our ancestors. Almost so familiar, that we don’t bother to notice, until we go looking for it.
And now, we find ourselves in lockdown once more. Not unexpected perhaps – it has been lurking and looming on our horizon for weeks now. But it is not entirely welcome. For many people, it is a disaster for mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And for yet more, it brings financial crisis, poverty, and despair at the darkest time of the year.
As we re-enter lockdown, the Archbishops of York and Canterbury have written a letter to the nation, which you can read here, reiterating the message of God’s measureless love for all, and encouraging us all to be calm, courageous and compassionate in the face of this renewed struggle and difficulty. The Archbishops, with the Bishop of London, have also written an All Saints pastoral letter to the clergy which you might like to read here. In it they call upon the Church of England to make this month of lockdown a month of prayer, especially on Thursdays.
Prayer – along with the Sacraments – is the lifeblood of the Church, and of people of faith. As the Revd. Marcus Walker wrote yesterday in The Spectator, if anything is essential, it is worship. So let us not be dismayed – and let us pray that the Archbishops and other faith leaders will prevail upon the Government to allow public worship to continue for those who feel safe and able to attend. The Church of England has long held the principle of “all may, some should, none must” regarding the sacrament, and perhaps this applies equally to public worship and livestreaming. To attempt to be present and to serve in both formats is crucial as the Church seeks to bring comfort and blessing to all.
So we will continue to livestream, and to offer worship together even when separated by physical distance for the good of the most most vulnerable in our communities and our society. For we are also called to love one another – and as St Paul comments in 1 Corinthians 13, love does no harm to another.
As we seek to love one another, let us also love ourselves. Be kind to yourself. For if you cannot be kind to yourself, it is surely harder to be kind and empathetic to other people. It is true that many of us here in this benefice may rightly say, “it’s so much harder for others”.
But let us be honest about how we feel too, about our own inner struggles, even as we count our blessings. For if we cannot be kind and compassionate to ourselves, how can we be kind and compassionate to others with integrity and truthfulness.
So, what is it that you need to help you cope with this new lockdown, with dark nights and short days? Whatever it is, may you be blessed in finding it, appreciating it, and sharing that blessing with others.
With peace and light,