Dear Friends and Parishioners
As another month begins, the coronavirus has not gone away but, at least here in our island, the danger of transmission does seem to be reducing. Our government is looking at how best to gradually remove some of the restrictions we have been living with. This topic, along with many other questions, are hotly debated: what should we do next; what should we have done in the first place; and, inevitably, who is to blame for our predicament.
As we work our way through these questions we should, as Christians, keep some things in mind. As communities of Christians we are held together in the love of Christ. Our many differences are gifts that can build us up in trust and mutual affection or they can mar the image of Christ that we are called to reflect through our life together. These differences will be reflected in how we view, and have dealt with, the effects of the pandemic and its aftermath.
In April 2019 The Church of England Pastoral Advisory Group produced six Pastoral Principles which invite church communities to examine afresh their life together. Though written for a different reason, these same principles may help us as we look out upon a new world reshaped for many by Covid 19. Over the next few months’, I will look at each of them in this letter.
The first Pastoral Principle is about acknowledging prejudice. We are all conditioned by our experience of life, positively or negatively. We need to think about, and be aware of, our attitudes and behaviour. Jesus taught that all human beings are loved children of God. St Paul writing to the Galatians said ‘There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28) Elsewhere he refers to Christians as being one body made up of different parts (1 Cor 12:12 & 13). But we know from history that humanity has struggled to live up to the idea of equality; the journey from prejudice to hatred is a short one
that even the Church has not escaped. The scourge of prejudicial behaviour and attitudes has infected the faithful as well, despite Christ teaching.
Holding fast to the belief that every human being is valued and made equal will help guide us through the difficult decisions of how we live through the current viral situation and how we rebuild our communities locally and nationally into the future. Do we keep isolating when many face financial disaster, but offer economic aid? Do we follow the herd theory and allow for the survival of the fittest, or do our utmost to keep all people safe from the virus? How do we react to those people who put others at risk by not keeping social distance or similar restrictions? And what about poor countries? Do we give what aid we can, in whatever form is deemed most appropriate, or do we keep charity at home, look after number one first?
These are not easy questions and they have no easy answers. A Christ-like response will require a sacrificial answer. But we remember that we are still in the season of Easter, a time when love and hope triumph over despair and death. A time that most definitely reminds us that Jesus died once for all people, that we all share a common humanity. Our Easter greeting is ‘Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!’ In the weeks and months ahead, we need to add to the words ‘for all people’ if we are to truly live out our Christian faith and resist prejudice from marring our future together as a parish, a nation and a global community.