Week 1: Things are going to be different from now on
Welcome to our new weekly email, full of reflections and resources to support, encourage and sustain you and your rural churches during the coronavirus outbreak!
In partnership with our national church colleagues and fellow rural mission and ministry organisations (more info below), we have decided to respond to the challenges faced by rural churches – in common with churches, communities and individuals across the world – with a suite of reflections and resources that we hope you will find helpful.
Each email will contain a Bible passage, a short reflection and a prayer, plus practical suggestions of ways you might like to respond locally, We’ll also highlight information and resources available on our website and signpost to our partners.
We’d also love to be able to share resources that you are producing and using in your own churches and communities, as well as stories of creative and surprising local responses to coronavirus; please send anything you’d like to contribute to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be assured of our love and prayers during this really challenging time.
The Arthur Rank Centre team
Things are going to be different from now on
Bible Reading: John 19:25-27
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Things are going to be different from now on.
This was my first thought when the initial disbelief and shock had subsided from the spread and speed of the coronavirus and the measures to hamper it. Our practice and the way we do things is going to have to change.
For me, the most significant moment was when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued their statement suspending public worship, adding that ‘the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead. Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.’
In the midst of chaos and fear we are being asked to step up and step out in what we do as Christian communities where we live.
In the Gospel reading for Sunday we see Jesus at the most painful time in his life reaching out to his disciples, followers and family, pointing out that while things were going to be different they were to carry on. This was especially true for the new relationship between the disciple and Jesus’ mother, called to care for one another; a new family built not on blood but on the love Jesus taught.
This Sunday, Mothering Sunday, we are especially called to prayer and action for the sick and anxious in our communities, loving them as Jesus has loved us, and demonstrating this in new and inventive ways that respond to the whole of our communities and not just those we know well.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you taught us to love our neighbour, and to care for those in need as if we were caring for you.
In this time of anxiety, give us strength to comfort the fearful, to tend the sick, and to assure the isolated of our love, and your love, for your name’s sake.
Ways to respond…
As government and denominational guidance around coronavirus changes, it may not be possible to undertake all of our suggested responses. You should ALWAYS adhere to the latest guidance.
How we respond to the coronavirus outbreak as churches will very much depend on the needs and opportunities of our own situations.
- Buildings: In rural areas the church building can be a significant place of solace, hope and comfort to many. Aim to keep these open and offer resources such as prayers for people to take away with them.
- Mothering Sunday: Why not put flowers out for people to take away and pass on to those who have been mothers to them?
- Facebook: Use Facebook and other social media to let people know what support you’re providing as well as uploading videos of prayers or a celebration of Holy Communion
Your wider community
Your church is unlikely to be only organisation working to support your community. Find out what is being co-ordinated locally beyond your church and join in; we can see much of Christ’s love for us in these spontaneous outpourings of support for the vulnerable and anxious in our communities at this time! In the village where I live the Parish Council is sponsoring a postcard to put through neighbours doors to offer help if they are self-isolating. The idea came from one concerned individual in the parish and is being organised via our village Facebook site with people volunteering from across the community.
Revd Dr Mark Betson, National Rural Officer for the Church of England