#Dear Sisters and Brothers,
We are running out of superlatives to describe the unprecedented times that we are in.
I find the passage from 2 Corinthians 12 keeps coming to mind. Paul has been writing about his sufferings as an Apostle, but then he turns to talk of his own spiritual experience and links it to a mysterious affliction, "a thorn .. in the flesh," with which he lived and which debilitated him. He recounts that three times he asked God to take it away from him, but God did not, instead he received the astonishing promise, "My grace is sufficient for you, power is made perfect in weakness." This current crisis makes us acutely aware of our frailty in all kinds of ways. In our present vulnerability we are being called to depend on God's grace in the confident hope that God will sustain, strengthen and guide us into the future that is prepared for us.
Our calling is in all circumstances to celebrate and make known the good news of God's love, which will mean that although nearly all of our normal activities are closed we will want to ensure that the fearful, the isolated and the vulnerable are cared for and supported in whatever way we can. If, for example, you can find a way of getting donations to your local foodbank please do this. Now is a good time to reach out to neighbours to check if they are all right and need any help.
Some have already lost their lives and there will be more. There are no easy words to comfort their loved ones. In this season of Holy Week, we bear witness to the God who journeys with us in the desert places and went before us through Good Friday and the waiting time of Saturday to the day of resurrection.
In our busy church lives we don't find it easy to stop. The hectic 24/7 world we live in has lost sense of a sabbath rest. All right-thinking Christians would reject any suggestion that this crisis has been sent by God for any reason, but that does not mean God will not speak to us through it. Enforced inactivity may be a means by which we are helped to rebalance our personal and church lives.
Our normal routine of worship is totally disrupted for the foreseeable future. Over the next few weeks, the circuit staff will be offering you resources to sustain your relationship with God and keep us connected as a Christian community in ways that do not focus on Sunday mornings. You will doubtless find plenty of others on the internet, television and radio. We also have reason to thank God for all the care and support that is being shown by Pastoral Visitors.
Within our tradition we have the resources and experience we need, by God's grace, to come through this crisis strengthened and renewed.
May you all know God's richest blessing and peace.
Revd John Hellyer, Superintendent