For an update to our response please visit https://youtu.be/euwqz3AmeSk
Here at Saint Peter’s we seek with passion those whom God desires to be in relationship with…that’s all of us. We value relationship because it is through this beautiful gift in life that God has decided to communicate his love. In light of current event around public health we are taking the advice from the authorities and experts on how to respond appropriately and most helpfully. Our guidelines have come through the Church of England and we will continue to take these on board as best practice.
Some of these suggested measures we would like to name as permanent measures moving forward and others are temporary whilst the situation develops and immunisation and vaccination options are discovered.
If we can see one good thing coming out of this pandemic it is the heightened awareness for good hygiene. It is surprising how many of us have become aware of the lack of good hygiene in general life. Hand washing, which we all know we should do, have not been in a position where this is as important as ease and speed of life. As a church, we are asking people to wash hands thoroughly and consciously not just whilst the pandemic is happening but into the future too.
C.S. Lewis, a Christian writer in the 20th century was asked about living under the fear of the atomic bomb. His words encapsulate our response to the fear of the coronavirus.
In one way we think a great deal too much of the [coronavirus]. “How are we to live in this age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”(“On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays by C S Lewis)
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the [coronavirus] was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by [coronavirus], let that [virus] when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about [coronavirus]. It may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but it need not dominate our minds.
We are asking our congregation to not confuse the media narrative by adding our ‘received wisdom’ without expertise or the necessary information to discern truth and reality. We may feel we are being helpful by sharing views and opinions but in a current culture of ‘viral’ media it is not helpful to add another voice clambering for attention. The mixed messages and different political decisions that need to be made add to stress, anxiety, and panic particularly those who already struggle with mental health issues. We are going to try and not engage in the social media frenzy of talking about the coronavirus online and we will wait for health care professionals and those in charge of discerning, on our behalf, the right course of action. This means that important announcements will not get buried under our own opinions. We will only be sharing decisions made online to inform people of any activities that may need to be cancelled (more about that later).
As Christians we believe in the resurrection. This means that Easter, which we are currently preparing to celebrate, is not just some nice idea or great philosophy of how to look at life. Jesus coming back from the dead gives us hope that death does not have the final word. The same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead has been given to us and therefore we do not fear death. It is part of the Christian history to be the people who stay and face plagues and illness well after the world has run away in fear. We look, very much, to local examples of this in Eyam where the Church remained in the infected area to care of the sick and vulnerable. Here at Saint Peter’s are not afraid of Covid 19 and remain committed to serving those in need and most at risk. We still value ‘sharing without fear’.
We are taking the precautions of hygiene and isolation not for self preservation but in order to protect the vulnerable. If you are needing to isolate for reasons of ill health then we at Saint Peter’s are here to help. Please contact 0114 2375326 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you are in need of provision or help. We partner with Grace Foodbank and other agencies who are set up for this help. We say a loud “no” to selfishly stockpiling at the cost of vulnerable and needy people getting necessary provisions. We believe in a generous God who provides for the poor and so we are offering help and provision to those in genuine need of food and goods.
During this time of stricter isolation advice we will need to change how we connect and serve our community. This includes: temporarily suspending all activities. We appreciate that for many in our community, isolation is not a novelty but is a long-lived experience due to circumstance beyond coronavirus. Our activities are often the only contact people have with other human beings. We will be trying, as best we can, to find alternative ways to share friendship and love at his time when the fear of loneliness is the most pressing concern.
We are taking the Government and Church of England’s advice to cancel all gatherings for worship. We are live streaming Morning Prayer (9am) and Evening Prayer (5.30pm) each day (Monday-Friday) on our Facebook Page. You are welcome to join us live or watch the recording in your own time. We are also, for a time, live streaming a Eucharist Service and reflection at midday on Facebook. Finally we will be live streaming Sunday morning worship at 10.15am. Please do join us for any of these.
We will be adding new resources to help people engage with faith and worship during this time. You can find these at www.saintpeters.co/sermons.
In conclusion, then, we want to proclaim over our community that perfect love casts out fear and that we believe and have experienced a God who is generous and is able to deliver us from all darkness and pain, bringing real healing and transformation. We follow in the footsteps of a healer, Jesus, who did not shy away from disease and death but rather came and embraced us in that, taking it on himself in order to, not only communicate the love and care of God but also to bring about the ultimate delivering from death. That was true before the coronavirus, it is true during the pandemic and it will be true into eternity.