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Post-Easter Pastoral letter, as lockdown restrictions ease, 20 April 2021
Appearances of Jesus after he had risen were the source of mixed emotions – from fear through puzzlement to joy! The disciples had already experienced so much in the few days of that first Easter. It was a turbulent transition time - between the wonderful life they’d had with Jesus as he travelled around preaching and healing – and the possibilities for their future that were still uncertain.
As we too have experienced over this last year, mixed emotions accompany any time of change. In some ways we have come to ‘live with’ the restrictions, making new habits and patterns to our lives. But now that we are being given steps to more freedoms, for some the joy and hope are tinged with anxiety and even fear.
I felt I wanted to write to you with some thoughts as I don’t want ‘being church’ to add to that anxiety for anyone, but rather to continue to be a joy.
Over the last year I have come to see that two elements making up ‘church’ are inextricable – faith and fellowship. You just can’t have one without the other. Despite not being able to meet in the church building, some have managed to find ways of keeping both elements strong, but some have found that a lack of fellowship has also weakened their faith. And the people who have managed to offer help to others, like volunteering or giving time to phone friends or neighbours, building maybe a new kind of ‘fellowship’, have experienced a boost to their faith in the power of Love/God, finding a strength despite the demands upon them.
Over the winter of 2019-20 I was privileged to have a sabbatical which was a time to be refreshed. As we come now to a summer of increased freedoms - to see family or friends, to travel and spend time away, perhaps church needs to enable a kind of sabbatical; to enable those who are ready, to worship together again in the building while giving space for ‘worship’ in other ways that are possible in summer weather? Maybe this next few months can be a time for us all to grow our fellowship (and our faith) through meeting in gardens or on walks, to call on each other to chat on the doorstep and hopefully after 17 May meet indoors again with one other household or up to 6 individuals.
And I don’t want anyone to be anxious about ‘returning to’ church because of expectations they feel are being put on them to do what they used to do, if its not still what they feel God is calling them to. Rather spend time this summer just ‘being’ refreshed while asking yourself what ‘sets you on fire’? What do you see as your part in the fellowship of faith that is church? What really inspires you? What makes us ‘church’ is when our faith and our fellowship are centred on Jesus; as for the first disciples, so for us too -
In the garden – Jesus is there!
On the road, and in the questioning– Jesus is there!
Eating together – Jesus is there!
Gathered with friends – Jesus is there!
On the shore of the lake and on the mountain – Jesus is there!
And for Peter and John reaching out to heal – through his Holy Spirit, Jesus is there too.
Let’s make this time of transition from the known to the unknown a time of renewing fellowship and faith, ready to continue to ‘be church’ as our risen Christ Jesus refreshes you by his Holy Spirit. I pray that you hear him call your name, answer your questions and know his presence with you – no doubt you will also hear his call on you to first receive and then to pass on his self-giving love.
Please let me know what you think/how you feel about this…
In the love of Christ