‘Loving our neighbours should be at the top of our list – but we also need to take care of ourselves’ says Bishop Hugh
Bishop Hugh has encouraged Christians throughout the diocese to make the care of society’s most vulnerable people their priority, in the face of a second wave of Coronavirus.
Bishop Hugh said: “We are facing a tough winter, and many people are already running low on reserves – their energy, their money, their resilience. Many people are tired of all the challenge and change, but this situation isn’t going away any time soon, so we need to stay committed to caring and looking out for one another – and especially for those who are suffering most.
“It’s universally acknowledged that both the ongoing and new restrictions that have been put into place to try and protect people from Covid-19 will impact severely on our economy. Unemployment is rising and we face a difficult winter. This illness already disproportionately affects our poorest, weakest and most vulnerable neighbours. And sadly, the number of people falling into that category is set to rise.
‘We need to pace ourselves’
“It is clear that we are now having to learn to live with Covid, and that we will be in this situation for some time. That means we need to pace ourselves.
“Church communities who have been working so hard to care for others cannot continue spreading themselves perpetually ever-thinner. It is important that our clergy and church communities take care not to burn themselves out.
“That may mean prioritising and making some tough decisions about what they can do, what they may need to start doing, and also potentially what they should stop doing. As we make those choices, I encourage everyone to keep service to our neighbours at the top of our list.
“I have been incredibly impressed by the way that our churches in Cornwall have risen to the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic have brought, and know that they will continue to respond prayerfully, creatively, lovingly, and practically,” said the Bishop of St Germans.
Demand for charities is growing
One example of a church responding to the crisis is All Saints Highertown (ASH), which is home to the Truro Foodbank. That has changed from being a three-day-a-week operation to being open most days and since the first lockdown began has taken over the entire church hall at ASH which it used to share with other groups. Those other groups now meet in the church’s worship space, to enable the foodbank to continue to operate in its expanded format. The amount of food being given out by the food bank has risen by around two thirds since lockdown began.
At the height of lockdown the foodbank also had a fleet of volunteer drivers who were on furlough. Many of them have returned to work and are now unable to volunteer but, with increasing prevalence of Covid-19 in the community, it is anticipated that the number of people needing deliveries will increase again. If you could join the team of volunteer drivers, please email email@example.com.
“Make and take the time you need to nourish your faith and to renew yourselves.”
All Saints Highertown is also the base for the local branch of the charity Acts 435, which helps people to access relatively small amounts of money for specific purposes, or to help them through a crisis. It’s a way of giving directly to those in need and all of the money people donate goes to the intended recipients. In the six months before Covid-19, the ASH branch of the charity helped 31 people and gave out £3,345. In the six months after the pandemic hit, the charity’s work has doubled: they have helped 58 people and given out £7,210.
And the good work done by churches in the community is not limited to large parishes in Cornwall’s main population centres. Rural parishes, too, are doing their bit to help their neighbours. One example is the church and community of Downderry in south-east Cornwall, which pulled together to raise money to help the young families in the village. They raised enough for the village shop to fill four food boxes every week, to which the shop also added its own contribution of extra food. These boxes were then taken to the local primary school, so the headteacher could pass them on to the families in need. More than £3,000 was raised in total.
‘Sense of community is alive and well’
Bishop Hugh said: “One of the many things I have noticed since arriving in Cornwall and the Diocese of Truro earlier this year is that the sense of community that has been lost in some other parts of our country is still alive and well here. That people know their neighbours is no surprise to us, then. But more importantly, perhaps, I see countless examples of people loving their neighbours, and I know that will continue.
“So I urge you all to draw on the love of God; make and take the time you need to nourish your faith and to renew yourselves. That way you will be able to take care of yourself while continuing to love and serve both Him and your neighbours.”