Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

I am writing to you as your Pastor with a deep desire each week to remain connected to you in these strange and troubled times. As we continue to journey through the experience of ‘lockdown’ we are all too aware that much of what we hold dear is changing before our very eyes day by day. For example, I now regularly queue for around 30/40 minutes before entering our local supermarket and then I make my way round the aisles carefully distancing myself from other human contact. When I walk down the street I surreptitiously cross the road when I see someone coming towards me.  As the weeks go by, much of this is becoming commonplace and part of our accepted routine – but who could ever have imagined this a few months ago! I indicated in an earlier letter how unsettling this is to the human spirit and that we should not underestimate the effect that it may have upon our sense of well-being. All of this is compounded by a deep sense of the unknown – how long will this crisis last? How long will it take before our collective life together returns to what we once knew? We could be forgiven for feeling that we are entering a dark tunnel that has no perceived end point.

You will recall that a week or so ago we were encouraged to light a candle in the evening and place it on a window sill in a visible place as a sign of solidarity and hope. As I reflected upon this the other day I was drawn to those poignant words in the prologue of John’s Gospel where the writer seeks to explore the wonder and mystery of the incarnation;

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’ (v.5)

God has made himself known in the life, death and resurrection of his living Word Jesus Christ; here is the presence of God abiding fully in the rich tapestry of our human experience. Christ at one with us, in our joy and sorrow, in our hope and fear and in our life and death. Christ who communicates all of the goodness, grace and peace of the living God to us in the midst of human experience. This certainly does not mean that hardship, suffering and the gritty reality of life will suddenly be lifted from us but it does testify to the enduring presence of God in the midst of all these things. The light of God’s presence continues to shine even in the darkest places and in the darkest moments of human experience.

Perhaps one of the challenges for us as people of faith is to be attentive enough in these difficult times to recognise the points of light that are shining in the midst of this crisis – the unselfish acts of kindness and care, the dedicated vocation of key workers, telephone calls of comfort, the discovery of neighbourliness once more, the watching over the vulnerable and the hundred and one different ways in which ordinary people will discover a new capacity for goodness! This is to be celebrated and should leave us in no doubt that the light is continuing to shine in the darkness.

Friends, for a season, we have been called to reside in a dark and difficult landscape, but it will not always be this way – the day will come when we will emerge into the light of a new day. Restrictions will be lifted, familiar ways will return and life will have a semblance of normality. Until this time; journey well, keep the faith and rejoice in the light wherever you find it and wherever it shines!

With peace and blessing!

Julian