At the start of the year, we had never head of Coronavirus or social distancing, but now these things have changed our lives.
Some of you are self-isolating, others staying at home. Those of you who are essential workers are finding the work place a changed environment. Everything we do, be it queueing at the supermarket and not congregating together is all for our good health, to keep this virus from our bodies.
Of course Jesus tells us that the health of our soul is just as important as the health of our body, so how can we nourish our souls in isolation?
We can of course read the Bible and use the wonderful resources of the Book of Common Prayer. A good news story from the Sunday Times, 26th April 2020 is that sales of religious books are going up and up. The columnist Colin Coyle reports that people are turning to scripture for comfort in these challenging times. Since we cannot meet together as Christians, we can at least pray and read in our own homes.
I suspect churches may not re-open for public worship until late summer at the earliest. We may think we have our troubles, and we do, but previous generations have lived through much worse. The older editions of the Book of Common Prayer always contained a prayer for use in time of plague or common sickness. The word pestilence is used more than 40 times by the Old Testament prophets. In 1665, the year of the Great Plague in London, the Rector of St Bride’s church in Fleet Street buried 663 people, whole families, his church officers, children and strangers. Churches were never closed, they were the centres of pastoral care and social provision to the most vulnerable and clergy were in the thick of it.
Now we feel something of the fear and foreboding that was common in previous centuries. This pandemic gives Christians an opportunity to show compassion, hope and trust in God. We need faith to affirm with St Julian of Norwich that “All will be well, all will be well and all manner of things will be well.”
We are confronted with our mortality, that health is insecure, our bodies are fragile and humanity is humbled by the tiniest of God’s creatures. This is not a time to despair, instead it is a time to comfort, help and witness to things unseen. There is currently a petition before Government calling for a National Day of Prayer. The organiser, Susan Hawkes, said that 7 days of prayer in 1940, had astounding results during the worst of WW2. Nearly 60,000 people have signed this petition, maybe we should add our witness also.
O strong Father, make us strong in our love for each other and in our love for all whom we know, make us strong in our faith, so that we may find a good foundation for our lives. Amen.