Please scroll down to read the Rector Writes for June 2020
“Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits”
begins Psalm 103. It’s a wonderful psalm!
And if we have forgotten all his benefits (!) the Psalmist goes on to list them… God forgives us our sins and he heals our diseases (verse 3), he redeems our life from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion (verse 4), he satisfies our desires with good things so that our youth is renewed like the eagles (v5), he works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed (v6).
In a world where a new virus remains prevalent, where racism has still not gone away, and the environment still cries out for help, however, we might wonder what the Psalmist is talking about – God heals our diseases? – he redeems our life from the pit? – he works for righteousness and justice for the oppressed?
The Psalmist’s emphasis or the Christian worldview however is that God indeed does do all these good things and he continues to do so! In God’s world where humankind has got so much wrong, it’s a wonder – (genuinely no sarcasm here!) – It is a wonder! – an amazement! – a miracle! – That God continues to be the person who the Psalmist says he is – (verse 8) – gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.
When we look I believe that we can see that there is good news in our midst. We can see that God is working amongst us and in his world right now.
Firstly, the world is learning how to contain the virus and vaccines are being developed and trialled, such that the Lockdown restrictions now are able to be eased.
This month, with the First Minister’s announcement that churches can reopen for private prayer from 22nd June, once we have determined and established what safety measures we must have in place, we have good news to look forward to that for some of the week our churches will be able to be open.
The disease or virus is presently not going away but the world is finding ways to overcome it and ultimately we trust, be healed of it.
The death of George Floyd is a tragedy that words cannot express.
Yet the scale of the protests that have arisen across the UK – show us that in today’s culture – for the majority of us – racism is beyond all human comprehension. Tragically racism still happens, but for such protests to arise in such vast numbers in a time of Lockdown too – shows us the anger and the outrage there is at the injustice that racism is still prevalent in our world today. Where is God in this? It is good news that the majority know racism is a wrong.
If we ever think that Evil wins in this world, then I propose that the world’s events at this time are showing us again that in the end Good always wins. The Christian belief – that God who is Good always defeats the devil who is evil is a belief worth having and a belief worth living by.
The Fear of Coronavirus has made us reflect on what matters most: good health
The Anger at George Floyd’s death is making us reflect on what matters even more: humanity
In the book of Genesis, God makes all of humankind in his image. We are all brothers and sisters in this world together.
The Rest and Revival that Creation is experiencing at this moment under Lockdown too, is a wake-up call to us to change the way we live our lives in both the developed and developing world and to save our environment.
We can turn against God, we can live life in our own selfish ways and treat others unfairly, but ultimately God always comes back to rescue us, get us back onto the straight and narrow and win. The promise of God after all, is that when this world is done, there will still be the new and restored creation where:
“God himself will be with [his people] and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3b-4
As you play your part in the community, national and global effort to ‘Keep Wales safe’, combat racism and care for God’s creation, know that you are on God’s side and that ultimately with God, we will win.
In Christ, Adam
I wonder how itchy are your feet getting? Are you hoping to coming out of Lockdown? Or are you quite content to be staying at home?
At the time of writing (19 May), we now have two messages being put to us, by Westminster and the Welsh Assembly Government. In Wales we are being told to continue to “Stay At Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives”. Over the border however they’re now being told to “Stay Alert, Control the Virus and Save Lives”. Living in Wales near the English border it can be confusing to know how to live by the contrasting new rules. (I imagine many of us know someone who lives in Wales but works in England). I’m choosing however to be positive and optimistic about having two slogans to live by. Better to Stay at Home (where we can) AND Stay Alert (at all times), better to Protect the NHS BY Controlling the Virus, and lastly let’s celebrate that everyone is agreed on Saving Lives!
On 15th May, the Welsh Assembly Government issued its second report on how the corona virus pandemic is being tackled in Wales. The 20 page report, entitled Unlocking our Society and Economy: Continuing the Conversation, can be downloaded and read in full from gov.wales. It sets out a helpful FOUR-colour traffic light system, moving us from a black Lockdown to red, to amber, to a green new normal, where physical distancing is considered as standard.
The report goes on to categorise Welsh Life into nine areas of: Education and care of children, Seeing family and friends, Travel, Exercise and sport, Leisure, Work, Shopping, Public services and last on the list, Practising faith. For places of worship it looks like it’s going to be a very slow exit process out of lockdown for us.
Whilst some of the nine categories are now moving into the Red, churches remain very much under ‘Black Lockdown’. Our churches remain closed except for graveside funerals.
Under Red, places of worship will begin to open again, but only for private prayer. Under Amber, church services will begin again, but they will be limited in frequency and congregation size. Quite how we will do that when our services are meant to be made available to everyone I don’t know yet! Even under Green, where all places of worship will be open with our full ranges of services, this will have to be done whilst ensuring physical distancing.
I am sure many of us are looking forward to getting back to church – even trying church – but the current advice for churches across England and Wales is not just yet.
Fortunately however our online church services are thriving (and who’s to say they won’t be here for the long term too?) I’m very impressed at how many new people are now getting to grips online! This month I’m delighted to bring you more information in our magazine/ website too about our newest Local Church initiative for during Lockdown – in particular for those of you who are not online or who find it difficult to navigate around Facebook – we are now making our local church services, led by familiar voices, available by telephone too – Call Chester 01244 566311 for our Dial-A-Church-Service.
Our church buildings may be closed (we’re staying safe), but the church continues to be open (we’re keeping well).
In Christ, Adam
Rev Adam Pawley