I’ve just got home after a weekend of emotion. My home Church at Consett was celebrating its 50th Anniversary this weekend, and had invited me to preach at its celebration service. Consequently I travelled up on Friday to stay at a B&B near Dads house so that I could continue to help my brother who is carrying out the last of the clearance.. Sadly his long standing (?) knee problem flared up and he was committed to bed, and so unable to be with me. Because I was committed to the weekend celebrations I was limited to how much I could help with the house, as I wanted to see Andrew as well.
As to the weekend itself, the Chapel celebrations yesterday were wonderful as they mounted an excellent exhibition of memorabilia and lots of folk turned out to view; I was able to meet with old friends, all the time elbow bumping rather than handshakin
g (the more adventurous tried heel bumping !); remind myself of great memories of my time in the Boys Brigade as an officer, my Sunday-school days, my Mum and Dad in many photos, and above all else my time in the Chapel drama group, as Judas Iscariot or as a dying miner lying on the front of the stage staring at the audience two feet away with the immortal line “I’m dying” and trying to keep a straight face.
I remembered the time in the youth fellowship where I came to faith and ultimately fell for Alison; the time the Chapel supported me as a young preacher and supported me in my Ministerial training and have done since. I looked at the congregation and in my heart I gave thanks for the faces I knew and owed so much to and I gave thanks for the empty spaces where I knew who had sat there in years gone by, including my Mum and Dads empty seats. As you can imagine it was quite emotional but I’m really grateful to have been there this weekend; I was extremely conscious that it may be my last time , as with Dad gone the pull will never be the same, but I really hope it isn’t.
At the same time I was receiving texts and emails from a variety of folk about what to do re Sunday worship and weekly meetings within Church and within my Rotary club where I’m tomorrows speaker. Real concern over the thoughts coming from Government level about folk over the age of 70 having to self-quarantine for a period of time; as most of my Rotary Club and many of our Churches are populated by that age group it is a real concern as to what to do. My telephone advice was if a Church chose to close today I would support them 100% but I’ve called an urgent staff meeting tomorrow to try and get a more structured response across the Circuit.
Covid-19 is a real concern across the world and I feel that Churches need to be at the forefront of the battle against it, but how ?
Firstly, by being aware of the ever-changing scene and by following the advice coming from Government, especially about regular hand washing, using tissues and then binning them or if you dont have a tissue using your sleeve.
Secondly, by our pastoral visitors using telephones, emails, skype, FaceTime to conduct visits rather than doorstepping.
Thirdly, by prayer. Its interesting that Donald Trump has called a national day of prayer in America (genuine or political, who knows, but does his motive matter ?) and this is something all members of our Churches can do; Not gathering fro prayer but praying in our own homes for an end to the pandemic, praying for those who’ve lost loved ones and for those who are ill, and praying for protection over everyone.
You may have other thoughts about all of this but it has dogged my weekend as I’m sure it has yours. Even in the midst of joy there is a sadness to be felt; for me its been the joy of friends at home and the sadness of people. being fearful and suffering the world over.
The national Methodist Church on its website offers advice and also worship resources for those who have self-isolated either by choice or by virtue of age. Amongst its words is the reminder that We should not be afraid “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7.
God of all hope we call on you today.
We pray for those who are living in fear:
Fear of illness, fear for loved ones, fear of other’s reactions to them.
May your Spirit give us a sense of calmness and peace.
We pray for your church in this time of uncertainty.
For those people who are worried about attending worship.
For those needing to make decisions in order to care for other
For those who will feel more isolated by not being able to attend.
Grant us your wisdom.
Holy God, we remember that you have promised that
Nothing will separate us from your love – demonstrated to us in Jesus Christ.
Help us turn our eyes, hearts and minds to you.