The last two months of lockdown has been a difficult time for everyone, but which at last seems to be changing as restrictions are gradually being lifted and the news this week of being able to get out a bit more will be a huge relief to many. But it can also lead to being unsure about venturing out after two months of staying at home. There is uncertainty and apprehension, as well as an element of fear, as we move into the unknown and learn to live with COVID-19.
Sadly, during this time our churches have been locked and will continue to be locked for some time to come. The house of God as a sacred space is not open for anyone to go and sit and pray or have a few quiet moments and we look forward to the time when the doors of the church can be unlocked.
The Easter season comes to an end with Pentecost on May 31st and we move into the time of year in the church calendar called Ordinary Time. Well, I don’t think there will be much that is ordinary about the months ahead! Just as it was not an ordinary time for the disciples and friends of Jesus at Pentecost. In the fifty days since the resurrection, Jesus had appeared to the disciples a number of times and the last occasion was at his ascension where Jesus left them physically for the last time. He left them with instructions to go and wait in Jerusalem. Which they did. Scared of the authorities and what may happen to them if their association with Jesus was made known they stayed behind locked doors, praying together and waiting to be told what to do.
Behind closed doors, hiding themselves away, not sure what to do, waiting for more instructions? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? We may not be afraid of the authorities like the disciples but we may fearful of COVID-19 and whilst our doors haven’t been locked we have stayed in and kept away from others depending on personal circumstances.
On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gifted and filled with the Holy Spirit, which turned the unsure, scared, and fearful disciples into confident men and women who left the locked building to go out into the city of Jerusalem which was crowded with thousands of visitors, to tell those that would listen to the truth about Jesus. This prayer is used at Pentecost and asks for the gifting of the Holy Spirit on us today, recognising that through the Holy Spirit, the fire of God’s love is kindled in us:
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And you will renew the face of the earth.
That kindling of love has been so evident in this pandemic through the self-giving of nurse and doctors, of care and support workers, of scientists working for a vaccine, of all who work in the many frontline services including the postal workers, the council workers. And locally the volunteers who help friend, neighbour and stranger in so many different ways: the community support has been wonderful. We give thanks to all these people in whose hearts love is kindled so richly.
As we move out of lockdown let the fire of love burn in our hearts as we continue to look out for one another, care for one another and support one another in the days and weeks ahead.
Because we are unable to gather together in our churches for services we have been producing a Worship From Home service which includes prayers, a reading and a short reflection or Thought for the Day. You can use this on your own or with members of your household or with friends on the phone. So, whilst the church building may be locked, the Church as the body of Christ includes all who are baptised into the faith of the church, and as that body of Christ, we can offer worship, praise and prayer. I know it’s not the same as meeting and sharing worship together but it is where we are at the moment and it’s surprising how there is a sense of togetherness, even though we are physically apart. If you have not been receiving these services but would like to please contact me with an email address and I will add you to the list.
We are finding different ways of being church and in our small communities that is a real challenge. Not all of us are on the internet, not all of us are technologically savvy but until we can meet again in bigger groups and in our church buildings, then we have to find new ways. If you have any ideas or are a wizard with technology please do get in touch.
May God bless you all.