In these very difficult times, for everyone here in the
UK and across the world it has never been more important to hear and respond to
the simple straight forward words in John 13:34. These words cannot be
misunderstood. As I write this blog it is the beginning of Holy Week. Confused
and difficult emotions compete in my thoughts and prayers and take me from the
lowest depths to the highest of elations in a matter of days.
This year, as we approach Easter, the whole world is
fighting the coronavirus pandemic with many thousands of people suffering and
dying because of its deadly effects. We are worried, confused, anxious,
bewildered and feel so vulnerable because suddenly our well-ordered lives and
routines, that we have taken for granted, have been thrown into confusion as we
comply with the requirements of social distancing. This really is a time of
crisis. The Queen underlined this when she addressed the nation, only done on
rare occasions, and commonwealth to bring us calm words of reassurance, comfort,
and focus to our minds on the better days that will return.
No doubt you will have experienced wonderful acts of
kindness and consideration from friends and neighbours, perhaps some of whom
you may not have previously met or spoken to. We give thanks for this selfless
love that is being shown to others and to all those working in the NHS, social
care, and the other caring professions, irrespective of the risk to themselves
of catching the virus. It really is wonderful.
From Derek Estill
and Nigel Uden, Moderators of the General Assembly
Amid this Covid-19 shaped world, we greet you in the name of God –
by whose grace we were created,
by whose mercy and love we are sustained,
by whose love we will be held forever.
Even as we are moderators of the
General Assembly, so we are immersed in local churches, and it is as your
companions on the way that we wished to write to you this weekend. Our
experiences mirror yours – we, too, are distancing ourselves physically from
others, we too are feeling uncertain, sometimes even fearful.
Coronavirus Covid-19 has been creeping
up on us. We watched its effect upon other countries and washed our hands as we
sang ‘Happy birthday’. Now it is affecting us, and last Sunday Nicola Sturgeon,
Scotland’s First Minister, punctured any complacency there may have been,
should not feel normal”, and if it does, you should ask “if you are
doing the right things”. It’s a new world, and we don’t always feel so
How should we react? There have been
essential things to do. Far from having less on our agenda, many of us have
been burning the candle at both ends. And there was no alternative; stuff was
happening, and we needed to deal with it. But it seems Covid-19 will shape our
lives for some time to come.
Inspired by Young people, Derek Estill, Moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly, encourages care for God’s environment, and finds optimism amid the challenges of this spring
As we work our way through Lent, building up to Easter and then Pentecost, our hearts and minds can begin to feel release from the dark, very wet days of winter. This year, it is also particularly difficult to see beyond the devastation caused by floods in so many parts of our country, with houses and businesses destroyed. It is difficult also to see beyond our concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. However, we must not forget that spring is coming, and the official first day of Spring, 21 March, will soon be here. Having said that, climate change continues to make itself felt and we are reminded of the mess we are making of God’s wonderful planet, earth. It is therefore most important to make sure our hearts and minds are focused on embracing, valuing and nurturing all that God has given us.
Lots of our churches are doing their best to work out
what they need to do to become an Eco
Church. This is not just to do with the buildings. Church is us – the
people of the congregation, as well as others that use our buildings and those
we reach out to. The church I am a member of has recently done an audit using the
A Rocha charity’s questionnaire
(download link), to find out how we measure up for the various awards that
can be achieved (bronze, silver and gold). The process of doing the
questionnaire has meant looking at the whole situation within ourselves, as
well as out and about in
the community in which our churches are set, and thinking about our relationships
with the local neighbourhood and the world.