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Letter from Rev’d Terry Clark, Rector of Deane
4.30pm, 17th March 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in the Deane and Lostock Church families
Forgive me if you have received this more than once but I wanted to make sure that it got to as many as possible in our two church families.
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
With all that is going on around us, and perhaps in our own lives just now with coronavirus and other concerns, it is particularly important that we hear that invitation from God’s word to ‘Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord’. We mustn’t let coronavirus rob us of our joy in the Lord.
Verses 1-2 and that invitation, actually rest on what we read in verses 3-7. True worship rests upon, and finds it’s life-giving roots, in a clear understanding of the person and character of God. He alone is God above all else. He alone is the creator. He alone is the great shepherd of the flock. We hardly need be reminded that we live in a broken world, a world under judgment because of sin, but God hasn’t left us to it. In verse 1 we were reminded that he is the Saviour. And verse 7 reminds of the care the Good Shepherd gives to his people.
Important truths to remember, and especially so when testing times come.
In line with the directive from the Archbishops this afternoon, our Sunday and midweek services are now put on hold until further notice. www.churchofengland.org
Midweek groups and courses, including youth groups, are also now on hold.
From this weekend, Ben Wilkinson and I will be making available Bible teaching and other resources to help us to keep walking closely with Jesus. We are exploring the practicalities of live streaming a service on this or future Sundays. Details of these will be made available on the Deane Church (www.deanechurch.org) and Lostock Church (www.lostockchurch.org) websites by this weekend. The church office will be closed to the public from 5pm today but telephone and email contact with office staff will still be possible. I will write to you again each week (or Ben will if I go down with the virus!) but any crucial news will be posted on the church websites.
Church services and other gatherings may be on hold, but God’s Church and the building of God’s Kingdom are not on hold. We may not be meeting together, but our fellowship is not on hold. We need to focus on other ways of keeping in contact with each other, caring for each other and serving neighbours.
As it happens, we had already done a fair bit of contingency planning ahead of this afternoon’s announcement. I have asked Ben (01204 841392 / firstname.lastname@example.org) to take the lead with pastoral care of the Lostock congregation in the days ahead, and I (01204 61819 / email@example.com) will take the lead at Deane Church. The recently formed visiting team at Lostock may not be doing much visiting for a while but will likely have more of a telephoning ministry. Rev’d Elizabeth Plant at Deane and Rev’d Granville Spedding at Lostock will have particular roles in assisting me and Ben.
For those of us who, for whatever reason, will be isolating in the days ahead, this alone may be an anxious time. It also reminds us that God did not design us to live in isolation but in community, to enjoy fellowship with him and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is all the more reason why I now call us to go the extra mile to keep in touch with other members of church. To phone people up, text, e-mail and make use of social networking. Much of this already happens quite informally at our two churches but it now needs to go up a gear or two. This is in addition to the more structured contact and care system being put into place over the next few days.
Those who live on their own or who we know to be in particular need, may need extra encouragement. We cannot promise to do everyone’s shopping for them, but we can help where we can.
We are called to serve others, but we also need to look after ourselves and that is entirely Biblical. Those for whom this virus could be a particular hazard need to listen to the advice given and avoid contact with any potential sources of transmission.
And… read your Bible and pray.
It is Lent and we approach Easter. Holy Week, Good Friday and Easter this year will inevitably have a different feel but the essential truths of Easter weekend are not changed by coronavirus or anything else. Do be praying that in this time of global crisis, eyes would turn to Jesus – the only one who can bring lasting joy, hope and purpose.
Here is a prayer that you might like to use, perhaps to pray with others over the phone:
Lord Jesus, when you walked on earth
you healed the sick and stilled the storm;
We look upon our world and see its frailty and weakness.
We ask that you would look kindly on us,
Please help all who are sick and all who are confined
Please help all medical teams and care workers,
Please comfort the afraid, and those worried for their loved ones
Give us all faith above fear.
As we weep at sickness on earth,
May it remind us we are made for a new creation with you.