Still here

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The Church of England is finding new ways of loving God and our neighbours in these difficult times, meeting the challenge of COVID-19, writes The Rt Rev Dr John Thomson, Bishop of Selby.

We can’t hold public worship, baptisms or weddings although funerals can still happen with tight restrictions.

31-01-19  Selby Abbey

31-01-19 Selby Abbey

However, virtual services are being streamed, pastoral care for the isolated and vulnerable goes on through phone calls and social media, foodbanks continue to be supported and partnership with other community groups and local authorities is happening.

I was moved by the story a vicar told me of a young boy in his congregation who asked if he ‘could write some little letters to people that may be lonely or scared and could do them some nice cheerful drawings with nice colours and maybe… write them a prayer.’

We live in extraordinary times when everything is being shaken and we don’t know what the final outcome will be.

Already fear is gripping many as we see in panic buying. The prospect of being at home for at least three months fills people with anxiety.

We are worried about vulnerable friends and members of our family. Work concerns are very pressing.

About 18 months ago I found myself confined to home for nearly six months as a result of unexpected illness.

At first I was frustrated, frightened and angry. I wanted to get back to normal.

Yet gradually I began to see this experience as a Sabbath or a period of rest through which I could meet God in a deeper way.

Instead of being a waste of time it became one of the most fruitful periods of my life.

I reassessed my faith, priorities and dependence on others and realised again how thank-full I am to live in a society with such a remarkable NHS.

Each of us will need to find our way on this new journey in the shadow of Covid-19.

Yet on the way we have the opportunity to rediscover our common life, a sense of who and what really matters to us, time to re-assess our lives and to re-discover what it means to love God and our neighbour better as Jesus taught us.

To help us do this the Archbishop of York asks us to say the Lord’s Prayer each time we wash our hands for the required 20 seconds.

That prayer has stood the test of time and it is a prayer which will sustain us as we go into this uncertain future.

For further information on the Church of England’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak see www.churchofengland.org/coronavirus.