Twinspires. St Boniface & St John's Churches. Nursling & Rownhams
Vicar's Letter

VERSE OF 2020

‘Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’.

Matthew 5:16

Dear Friends

 

As with everything else this year, Covid-19 is having its impact on Remembrance Day.  Many events have either been cancelled or scaled down or adapted to an online platform.  It wasn’t long ago that we remember having to adapt in our own churches when lockdown commenced.  The sense that remembrance this year will be different as we remember the 75th year since the end of WW2 may mean that people try that little bit harder to be more engaged with the day than usual.  Poppies will still be worn, the lone bugler will still be heard playing the last post at 11:00, images from the cenotaph will be broadcast into our homes.  The act of remembering will still happen, we don’t have to be in a particular place to remember.  What is clear is that Covid-19 is still exerting its influence and is no respecter of tradition.

 

In many ways, the act of remembrance will be more palpable this year, because our own shared experience recently, bears some similarities to the way news has been received in times of war.  A stark fact about our current situation is the way every day we receive news of the impacts of Covid.  We see graphs and charts, we are shown trends and then we get the totals for the day, including fatalities from Covid in huge bright red numbers across our screens.  As we watch the news today, we can perhaps grasp and imagine what it must have been like to huddle round a radio every day to listen to the statistics, to listen for signs of hope as we do now, stories of breakthroughs of vaccines etc.  The overarching sense of when will this come to an end. How will this all end. With all the personal ups and downs that shape how we will remember.

 

I hadn’t realised but the Spanish flu of 1918, at the end of another war, had a very similar impact to our experiences now. Masks were worn, churches, schools and picture houses were closed, people were only permitted to be in pairs. This has happened before. The world did not have the technology or medical capability it has today and yet the pandemic then passed, just as the pandemic will pass today. The two world wars passed, leaving devastation behind and yet they were not the wars to end all wars as hoped.  We remember, as history starkly reminds that wars and pandemics will not cease.

 

Jesus in fact tells us in Mathew 24 “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” It’s important to remember that God Himself through Christ has warned us of such times and He asks us to remember that He goes before us and He will be with us whatever the future brings.

 

We remember in church, through the breaking of bread and the taking of wine, that Christ offered Himself to be broken, for this broken world. That through his sacrifice, we can find the peace that the world cannot give and we have the hope of eternal life, where there will be no more war or disease and that God will wipe away all tears from our eyes.

 

Jude reminds us: “But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; look forward to the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And be merciful to those who are anxious or doubting.”

 

That advice, to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith” speaks of the need for each of us to take responsibility to strengthen the faith we have and to draw on the wisdom of the past at this critical time in our national and church life, not just for our own sakes, but for the sake of the wider community, so we can bring to others the hope we find in Christ.

 

Building ourselves up in faith means finding space and time to pray to God and read our Bible every day, remembering as the psalmist reminds us, that God is always with us, even when times are difficult.

 

Be people of compassion to those around us who are anxious or struggling. To those we share our lives with at work and home, whether Christian friends, those of other faiths or none, who are deeply concerned about their employment, their health, or their families, we are called to reach out.  We may well share those anxieties, yet our faith is a constant that enables us to find reassurance for ourselves, as well as offer it to others. Even if it is not possible to attend church physically as much as we would like, it is important to link in with others online at least, to be able to encourage others as much as to gain support ourselves.  We are online every Sunday at 10:00, please join us if you are able.

 

This is a time for the church to hold out the hope we find in Christ, but we can only do that if our own lives are deeply rooted in him. We must always remember that Christ offered us the ultimate sacrifice in giving His life for us. We recall that so many also sacrificed themselves for our country, and still do in times of war, and we recall that we are called today to sacrifice something of ourselves to put others first and reach out to others.

 

Graeme Dixon