Coronavirus: a pastoral statement from the Rt Revd Philip Mounstephen, Bishop of Truro
My friends, I’m sharing this message today not just with the clergy and people of the Diocese of Truro, but with everyone here in Cornwall at what is a very challenging time for us all.
You’ll be aware of how much has changed in just a few short days. By now you will probably have heard too the call of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to suspend public worship for a season. That will come as a shock and challenge to many of you, but in the circumstances, and following the best medical advice, I’m sure it’s right.
But I want to say very clearly to you that does not mean the Church is shutting up shop! Far from it. Now is the time for the Church of God to rise to this great challenge of our times. I cannot help but feel that this crisis challenges us deeply to be just the kind of Church our God is a calling us to be.
One and All
And I believe too that that this crisis challenges Cornwall to be its very best: to express in heart and soul the spirit of One and All.
So to us all in Cornwall I would say – let us be the very best we can be. This is the opportunity we all have to shine, to be our better selves. It’s a great challenge: but let’s rise to it.
You are not alone
And if you are feeling isolated and fearful, remember you are not alone. There are many people standing by you, even if you can’t see them – and our God has not changed: he remains good and faithful and we can trust him and rely upon him. He won’t let us down.
And if you’re working in the public services, our NHS, the emergency services and the caring professions, planning and working to respond in the best way possible to the many challenges we face and who may be very stretched in the days to come: do know that we are cheering you on. We’re deeply thankful for you and are praying for you – and for your families too.
For the Church – whilst our pattern of worship will change significantly I think our church buildings need to be more open, not less, providing space for people to come and pray and be and socially interact (at an appropriate distance of course). We should use digital media creatively wherever we can and we are working on identifying a few churches in the diocese where live streaming of worship might be possible.
And we need to be the feet on the ground in our communities – identifying those who are lonely and isolated, fearful and grieving and doing all we can, within the constraints that are placed up on us, and without exposing people to unnecessary risk, to show in word and in deed the love of Christ.
Let’s keep food banks stocked
Likewise there will be others who will find these times very challenging economically: again we need to do all we can to meet their needs. Let’s keep the foodbanks well stocked up.
So for us as a church this will not be business as usual. But it will NOT be no business, it will be ‘business unusual’. We’ll still be about the business of the Kingdom of God, but in new, different, committed, creative and deeply caring ways.
The big question this crisis asks of us as a Church is this: will we meet its challenge to love and serve and give as Jesus did, for we are nothing less than his Body here on earth? I pray we will and will not be found wanting at this great hour of need.
And to all of us I would say, across Cornwall, in this crisis, let’s be people of prayer. This crisis is bigger than any of us. But God is greater. So we need not be fearful – in the end we can be people of hope, as we become people of prayer: because there is a good future for us, beyond this, a good future that God holds out for us all.
‘Pray with me now’
And as this virus is no respecter of borders, I’m going to close with a prayer written by our neighbour, Bishop Robert, Bishop of Exeter. If you’d like to, do pray with me now:
Keep us good Lord under the shadow of your mercy, in this time of uncertainty and distress. Sustain and support the anxious and fearful, and lift up all who are brought low; that we may rejoice in your comfort, knowing that nothing can separate us from your love in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
And may God bless us all.
Bishop Philip has also recorded this as a video. To watch that, please click here.