I write this hoping that it finds you in good health.
When we entered 2020 it was inconceivable that we should find ourselves in a lockdown. Stories of a virus in Wuhan had made the newspapers, but I don't think we imagined it having such an effect on our lives many thousands of miles away. We have now been in lockdown for over two months and coming out of it is likely to take some time. We are, indeed, living through the greatest global public health crisis of our lives.
I am sure that it effects us all in varying ways. On the positive side, it has brought out real moments of togetherness and some wonderful examples of creativity and humour. However, it has also brought us moments of anxiety and a feeling of being cut off from the company of others whom we value and need. This is especially true for those who live on their own.
I really want to say to those of you who are struggling that it is ok to be finding this experience hard. If you feel lonely, angry, anxious or even somewhat depressed, it is no judgement on you. Your feelings are perfectly natural in this once in a lifetime experience. I tell you that my own feelings are increasingly resembling a yo-yo with moments of feeling good interspersed with moments of feeling gloomy. It is absolutely natural that at times we should feel the pain of this situation. Do not beat yourselves up over the moments when you are overcome with negativity. Do not apologise for your humanity. Hold on to it with defiance, even shouting at God, for God has been shouted at by multitudes down through the ages and is perfectly able to take all that we throw in His direction.
Today I want to tell you that when you feel lonely God is your companion. When you feel unloved as a result of not having a warm touch for several weeks, God still loves you and feels your pain. When you feel despair, God gives you reason to hope. When you feel down on the ground, God lifts you up. Truly, the God who is the reason for your very existence and who loves you as if you were the only one to love, is not going turn away from you or withdraw the love that lifts you up. This is a time to hold on to God even if it is by your finger tips. We will come through this time and we will have a song in our hearts once more.
I do not know when we shall return to our churches, but I do know that we will return when we can make it safe. Your wellbeing is at the heart of how the Methodist Church and, more locally, our circuit will make decisions. For a time we are effectively in exile but I promise you that church will go on, albeit in different ways than we are used to. I shall continue to produce (with help- offers of participation are always welcome) a Sunday service as well as daily reflections. I hope to start an online Bible Study soon too. All these things can be developed and refined. We are together finding our way through previously unchartered waters.
I give thanks for the ways in which you are looking after each other. I have heard so much about how people from my local churches have supported each other. You have embodied church in the ways that you have cared for each other. It has been truly inspiring. I have seen what it means to be a community of the people of God.
As the death tolls seem to be coming down, I encourage you to keep your guard up; the danger is by no means gone. There may well be future spikes, so stay safe! Together we can go on to rebuild as we emerge from this experience. Most of all, be kind to each other and to youselves. You deserve that!