Ray's Pastoral Letter May 2020
To God’s Church in Cleckheaton and Liversedge, redeemed by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and called to be God’s people in the Spen Valley, the Grace and peace of God our Father are yours.
This week marks the 5th week that the Methodist Church announced that churches across the country were to close. We had already started to change the way we worship as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic but the sudden closure took all of us by surprise and there was a lot of grief at the loss of our corporate worship as well as many of our friendship and social links. But we have had to make do as they say. We have arranged worship sheets, organised services that can be shared and I’ve filmed some services that are available via our Facebook pages and YouTube. It’s not the same as meeting together, however, and sharing our stories and our worship.
But this time has a purpose. We are staying home to protect the NHS and save lives. I realise this may sound like a government advert but the disease has affected our communities in a number of ways with church folk being tested positive for COVID-19 and one member possibly being taken from us as a result of the virus and its associated symptoms. Fortunately for us as followers and disciples of the Risen Jesus, death no longer holds the threat it once did. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians ‘Death, where is your victory? Death where is your sting?’ The promise is that we do not need to fear the future. So we stay in not to protect ourselves but to protect others.
While the media and business start to make noises about coming out of lockdown, I think it’s important for us to understand that as a worshipping community the likelihood of meeting again in the near future ranges from unlikely to highly unlikely. While the Connexion is not saying as much, the general feeling is that churches won’t probably be able to meet until the new Connexional year in September. As a circuit there are discussion as to how to formalise worship across the Circuit, recognising that we are in this for the long haul. This brings me back to my comment about this time having a purpose.
This can be a fruitful time as we consider what the purposes of our churches are. Someone sent me a cartoon about Churches being closed because of the COVID-19. I won’t try to describe it as it’s down below and we may even disagree about its theology, but it makes a good point. Church is not about the buildings, committees and activities, it’s about people and while we have no one church building for the current future, what we have is over 120 small churches spread throughout the Spen Valley. Think about that for a second.
But while worship may not be happening in the same way, the work of the church carries on and together we are supporting each other and those around us in various ways, whether it be picking up medication (I seem to be doing a lot of that), doing shopping for people, or organising foodbanks for those who desperately need it. We are being church even if we can’t worship as church and my thanks and prayers go out to all those involved in making sure that people feel connected and supported.
There are a few people that need special mention. I want to thank Sara Lewis and Judith Santry for making sure that we are connected and for the time they put in to making sure resources are sent out and circulated. I want to thank Alan and the ACTS435 team for the ongoing work they are doing in difficult times and I want to thank Caroline for running the food bank operating out of St Andrew’s.
In terms of prayer, can we remember the family of Enid Bisby who passed away recently. Can we also remember Nolene and Arthur, Lee and Ruth Bentley and those of us who are feeling particularly isolated and alone.
The future is far from certain. There are a number of major challenges to the churches but to quote Paul again ‘What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us?
Rev Ray Borrett