On this Palm Sunday weekend, we commemorate Jesus entry into Jerusalem. Our readings for Sunday include the Liturgy of the Palms (Matthew 21:1-11) and in many churches the Passion reading would have been heard (Matthew 26:14 - 27.66). But this year, with our country and much of the world in lockdown, our churches are closed, and we are only allowed to leave our homes for essential reasons. Many of you may be self-isolating and, difficult as that is, it’s the sensible thing to do, and we need to follow the advice of the government in order to help restrain the Covid-19 virus.
It’s a difficult time for everyone as our lives have been disrupted and the normal structures and routines have been removed. Many are anxious about contracting the dreaded virus, or about empty shelves in the shops, or not being able to book a doctor’s appointment or a supermarket delivery slot. Others worry about the economy; many workers have been furloughed and businesses small and large are struggling to survive. When things eventually go back to normal, and yes, I am confident that there will be a life after the Corona virus crisis, it will be a different and new normality to which we return. But for now, we face months of uncertainty and restrictions which are unlike anything most of us can remember. The hardest bit is not being able to see family and friends, to speak only by phone or, for the technology-savvy amongst you, to communicate by Skype or Facetime.
Church meetings now take place by Zoom which enables group meetings where we can all talk and see each other. It’s been an interesting learning curve, but we are all getting better at it. We have to find new ways of working around the restrictions, but one of the positive outcomes is that many of you now stay in touch with me regularly by phone, text or email. Please do let me know how you are, and I will respond and stay in touch, even though this may take me a few days due to the incredible number of messages and emails which I receive every day.
Life is very different for me as well. My husband is still working abroad and the company he works with is very safety-conscious and they have had no cases at work yet. It is good that therefore he can spend weekends with his father who is nearly 94 and not in good health. We speak on the phone a couple of times per week and we communicate by WhatsApp. In the meantime, I have managed to keep on top of the grass and hedge cutting with the help of a friend who is staying here. Our youngest daughter from London is also at home with me, and so is her friend whose family are all in the Netherlands. The girls are working from home during the week and sometimes it feels like I’m running a boarding house. But I am grateful that we all have a safe space to be together, and I am very conscious that we are fortunate to live in rural Suffolk where most of us have gardens and we have green spaces all around us. We also have four dogs between us! My oldest dog Hector is still with us at 16 and nearly 3 months and he is enjoying all the attention. I am slightly anxious as vets are closed to all but emergency treatment, but I have been able to collect the various medications which he needs.
One of my daughters who lives in Cornwall contracted Corona virus a week ago and she is slowly improving, but now her partner is ill as well. Thank goodness they seem to have only mild symptoms and we hope that they will soon feel better. I am very conscious that some of you, like me, have friends or family members who are more seriously ill, and I hope and pray that they soon show signs of recovery.
I commend to you the services which the Cathedral is making accessible online, and also Morning Prayer led by Bishop Martin every day. Details about services can be found in the pew sheets, on noticeboards as well as on the website and Facebook and these are regularly updated. I am grateful to all those who helped set up communication and support networks and update them almost daily, while others make sure that our church buildings are safe within the strict guidelines issued by the Church of England.
We are all living in a strange new reality and my thoughts go back to last year’s Palm Sunday service when an amazing number of people joined in with our donkey procession from the Cavendish Hall up to St. Peter’s Church. We walked up the road and processed round the church waving palm branches and singing the well-known hymn ‘All glory, laud, and honour to thee, redeemer King’. This year, we will only be able to watch services online, but I hope that you are able to tune in to some of these.
As we move towards Holy Week, we reflect on the Passion of Jesus. Jesus’ passion was not a defeat but a victory, a victory of good over evil, of light over darkness and of life over death. The passion story shows us that his was the victory of love over all the powers of darkness and destruction. Jesus endured human suffering, but it was not his suffering that saved the world but his love. Our redemption came about by his love for us. We see so much suffering in the world around us at this time, but we also see God’s love in the dedication of our NHS staff and of those who keep other vital services going at a great risk to themselves. I hope and pray that we continue to see God’s love in the world around us, and that we continue to be lights that shine in the darkness as we care for others in different ways.
I will be in touch again during Holy Week and in the meantime please be assured that you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Yours in Christ,