Right now we are in a time when everything does indeed seem to be different. Our churches have been closed for nearly three months now*, we have been unable to travel, or meet each other in person, ‘social distancing’ has entered everyone’s vocabulary and the challenge of wrestling with unfamiliar technology has caused us much exasperation as we ‘Zoom’, ‘Facetime’ and conference call each other.
However, despite these challenges, I have been inspired by the way in which our communities have rallied round each other. Neighbours are being helped, the vulnerable are being shielded, medication, shopping and food parcels are being delivered. The Foodbank has seen a 700% increase in demand but we have not had to worry about meeting the needs of folk thanks to the generosity of our communities.
Something that is calling our society to re-examine itself are the protests triggered by the death of George Floyd in the USA. The issues raised are challenging for all of us and perhaps this is a good time for each of us to seek to understand the issues better and perhaps to look within our own lives and see what needs to change. The Church of England released a joint statement by Archbishops Welby and Sentamu and I include an extract from it below:
Recent events in the United States of America have once again drawn public attention to the ongoing evil of white supremacy. Systemic racism continues to cause incalculable harm across the world. Our hearts weep for the suffering caused – for those who have lost their lives, those who have experienced persecution, those who live in fear. God’s justice and love for all creation demands that this evil is properly confronted and tackled. Let us be clear: racism is an affront to God. It is born out of ignorance, and must be eradicated. We all bear the responsibility and must play our part to eliminate this scourge on humanity.
“We pray that God’s abounding wisdom, compassion and love will guide leaders across the world to forge a better society.”
In reading the Bible I am often surprised by the way in which human nature actually doesn’t seem to have changed much over time. Scandal, tragedy, squabbling, power plays are all in there, as are joy, compassion, heroism and selflessness. That is why the Bible and Christian faith is just as relevant today as it always has been. We may have the internet and iPads, but we still have the same need to be living in love with our neighbours and with God that we have always had.
* Since Tom wrote this letter the churches have started opening for private prayer and for public worship, though with strictly limited numbers of people attending to allow for social distancing.