A message for worshippers at all our churches
As many of you will already be aware, the Archbishops wrote to us yesterday (Tuesday) followed by instructions from the Bishop of Oxford that we are to suspend all public, gathered worship and midweek groups with immediate effect until further notice.
At times such as this, it is all of our responsibility to act in the interest of public health. It is also our privilege as Christians to witness to the peace, hope and love made known to us in Jesus Christ. Many of you, we know, are anxious or uncertain, or facing health challenges. In his first letter to the Corinthian church, St Paul describes the church as a body of which we are all members. He remarks that when one part suffers we all do, just as we rejoice when another part rejoices. As we move into a season where we are more dispersed as a worshipping community, let us remember that we are all part of that one body and to hold each other up in prayer.
Over the coming days, we will be directing you to and making available various devotional resources which you may find helpful at home. Some of these will be digital, others will be paper copies, and will be available in church for you to collect for yourself or to deliver to those of us unable to leave our homes. We will also be keeping the church open during the day for personal prayer. The clergy will be available there as much as we possibly can.
As we are uncertain as to how long these measures will last, may we also suggest some practical measures you could take now.
Pray. Pray for the sick, those who care of them, those who are anxious, the vulnerable and those who are making policy decisions globally. Pray for the scientists and researchers working on vaccines and treatments. Pray for those who are fearful for their livelihoods and businesses.
Pray also for our church community. That we will learn how to support each other even when we cannot gather together on Sunday nor midweek. Pray for our common faithfulness to Christ, and that many others will come to know his saving grace and life even while passing through such a time of difficulty. Finally, as long as you are well and able to do so safely, come and pray in our church building.
The Archbishops have called for a day of prayer and action this coming Sunday - Mothering Sunday (22nd March). Mothering Sunday has always been both a day of celebration for many and a sensitive and emotional day for some. Wherever you are this Sunday please do join in this day of prayer and remember especially those who are sick or anxious, and all involved in our Health Service.
Care. Reach out to those around us both in our church community and outside it to maintain those social connections even in social distance. It’s amazing the difference a ‘hello’ text, phone chat or email can have. Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to add church friends to your social media networks. Ask how people are, and listen. Especially make an effort to reach out to those who are not digitally connected and who could easily be left behind in our social media dependent world.
Share. And not just your own material resources. Share encouragement and hope with those around you. Join in with efforts on your street and in the wider community to help those who are self-isolating or in other need. And share how you are feeling and what you need. Some of the strongest among us will need to ask others for help in the weeks ahead. Don’t be afraid to ask for that help and express your need.
Since the time of Jesus, Christians have lived through times of epidemic and fear, and for centuries without the blessing of our modern medical intervention. We may feel that we are in uncharted waters, yet those who have gone before us in the fellowship of faith have trodden these paths well. May we know the encouragement of such a great cloud of witnesses and walk with them the path of faithfulness to Christ for His glory.
Clare, Kate and Jo
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