In the midst of the Coronavirus outbreak, the Diocesan Bishop for The Church of England in Lancashire has spoken of his hope for a ‘new wakening of faith’ in a message to the people of the County.
His comments come in a new video message available to watch here ...
Rt Rev. Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, said: “Into this crisis Christians bring a positive emphasis of hope. Church is not cancelled – it will continue, but in a different way. Faith can be lived out in our homes through prayer and study together."
“In a crisis, opportunities to serve and help are multiplied. In the slow down there will be new time for rethinking and re-evaluating our priorities in life. My prayer is (the outbreak) will lead to a new wakening of faith and, over the Easter period, a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ death and resurrection.”
* In reference to ‘a different way’, many churches across Lancashire are beginning to consider new ways of using technology (or adapting existing technology if they are already using it) to best serve the people of their parishes. More on this in coming days and weeks.
It is extraordinary that a virus that was unknown until very recently and that is unseen to the naked eye, has been able to have so much impact on so many people in such a short space of time and at so many levels of our national and international way of life.
Schools forced to close, acts of Christian worship suspended, workplaces shut down, restrictions advised on travel, unprecedented pressure on our NHS, calls for self-isolation. Who can imagine a Holy Week and Easter, proclaiming the death and resurrection of Jesus; events at the centre of our faith, without public gatherings of worship, meditation, celebration and prayer?
Into this crisis Christians bring a positive emphasis of hope.
Church is not cancelled; we continue, but in a different way. Faith can be lived out and expressed in our homes through prayer and study together.
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy 2.9, he speaks of his suffering in prison, being chained like a criminal, locked down and then declares:
"But God’s Word is not chained, the work of God goes on relentlessly. The gates of hell cannot prevail!"
Of course, in a crisis opportunities to serve and help are multiplied. A recent visit to the Blackburn Foodbank showed me a band of wonderful volunteers making up food parcels for collection.
In the slow down, there will be new time for rethinking and re-evaluating our priorities in life.
This outbreak is a solemn reminder that we are not in control of our present, or our future and my prayer is that it will lead to a fresh turning to God, to a new awakening of faith and over the Easter period a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ death and resurrection. That using the familiar words of the baptism and confirmation service, sees many turn to Him, submit to Him and come to Him, as the way, the truth and the life.
The disciple Peter said to Jesus when the crowds were leaving Him, "To whom else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." He does indeed. May in this crisis many find that to be true.
Ronnie Semley, 20 March 2020