A Reflection by Rt Revd Peter Hill

 22 MARCH 2021 – EDITION 42
It is time to let our souls catch up
A reflection by the Rt Revd Peter Hill

Tomorrow, 23rd March, we reach the anniversary of the first pandemic lockdown: a time for national lament. I hope many of us will be able to join in the 12 noon remembrance for those who have died from whatever cause during the time of this pandemic. Also if possible contact someone on that day or later in the week, who needs a friendly voice on the phone or a strengthening word in a card, especially if they have been bereaved.
 
Soon after, on 29 March, we reach the next milestone in our hopeful emergence from this long third lockdown. For us who are disciples of Christ it is also the beginning of Holy Week: a week where the world goes its own way, but we go the way of the cross.
 
More than any other year, this Holy Week will be a time of poignant remembrance and lament as we follow our Saviour on his last determined walk towards the deep suffering and death of Calvary. His love for our loves; his life for our lives; his suffering with our suffering; and the more so with those who have suffered, died and grieved in this last cruel year. The virus has brought many of us face to face with death and our own mortality more than ever before. With all that in mind, it is a time to slow down, to walk the Way of the Cross behind our crucified Lord and let our souls catch us up. I believe it is also a time to remind ourselves that we must not rush to emergence from this pandemic: not just because we need to take care to avoid another upsurge in infections, important as that is. But also because as the Church of God, to rush out of this liminal time without a careful and prayerful holy discernment would be disabling.
 
It is also a week when we dare to hope, as we await Easter Day. While through the cross of Jesus we see our own mortality, in his resurrection we see the amazing gift of life and possibility that lies ahead. We look to the future with an enhanced challenge to care for one another and our world and a hope that comes from the awesome mystery of the gift of life and love.
 
It would be far too easy for us to begin to rapidly open all our churches and rush a return to the way church was before, with some on line add-ons. If this pandemic has taught the people of God anything, and especially us in the Church of England, it is that we can’t go back to the same old, same old, with a few extra bells and whistles. Yes there are many urgent tasks to be addressed in church and society: inequality, racism, poverty, disadvantage, community safety, lack of affordable housing, decline in church membership and resourcing, and so it goes on. But we can’t fix everything! We need Godly discernment, or in the words of Sam Wells we need to be ‘a humbler church apprehending a bigger God’. Haven’t we seen in this liminal year that our loving God is much bigger than the church: open, closed or on line?  He is at work whatever.
  
As we reach the challenge of Holy Week, with the joy and resurrection hope of Easter beyond.  And as we quietly emerge from lockdown, let us commit simply but strongly to discern our best futures by:
• being with our loving God along the Way;
• being with the others who God puts in our path: at home, at work and in the world, especially those who feel excluded and marginalised;
• being with our most disadvantaged parishes, resourcing ministry they genuinely cannot support themselves;
• being with one another in a diocese which desperately needs unity in its immense complexity and diversity;
• being with our new Bishop Guli as she comes to be with us, enabling her to be the Bishop God is calling her to be;
• and above all to be with our Saviour as he walks the Way of the Cross before us.
 
For he promised, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’  Matthew 28:20.