From the Vicarage
As I write this letter from the Vicarage, news of over 100,000 COVID deaths is being broadcast on social media, television and radio, and I have received the email letter below from our Archbishops. I have reproduced the letter in full in the hope that we will be able to respond as requested, and I have included the prayer to which it refers at the end.
From the Archbishops of Canterbury and York
As we reach the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, we invite everyone in our nation to pause as we reflect on the enormity of this pandemic.
100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.
We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.
We therefore encourage everyone who is feeling scared, or lost or isolated to cast their fears on God. We also know that poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities have been afflicted disproportionately and cry out for the healing of these inequalities. During this pandemic, we encourage everyone to do all they can to live within the guidelines and constraints given by government following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. We show our commitment, care and love for one another by ensuring we do everything we can to stop the virus spreading.
None of this is easy. Very many of us are experiencing isolation, loneliness, anxiety and despondency like never before. Many people have lost their livelihoods. Our economy struggles. Also, the necessary restrictions we live with have also prevented us from being alongside loved ones as they died, or even at their graveside. All grief profoundly affects us, but this pandemic grief is so hard.
Therefore, we need to support each other. We do this by following the guidelines. But we also do it by reaching out to each other with care and kindness.
One thing we can all do is pray. We hope it is some consolation to know that the church prays for the life of our nation every day. Whether you’re someone of faith, or not, we invite you to call on God in prayer. Starting on 1 February we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day. More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love. A number of resources will be made available at www.ChurchofEngland.org/PrayerForTheNation.
Finally, we write of hope. We are grateful for the hope we have because of the service of our NHS and social care staff. What a blessing and lifeline for our nation. We are grateful for the service given in local communities by clergy, other frontline workers and so many good neighbours. We are grateful for the hope of the vaccine. It is a testimony to the God-given wisdom and gifts of scientists and researchers. We urge everyone to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you.
Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter. We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom every tear will be wiped away.
Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Revd & Rt Hon Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York
A prayer for those who mourn
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.
A request for help from NHS Devon
We have been contacted by Jane Bullard from NHS Devon who is seeking our help in finding volunteers to assist at vaccination centres in Devon. The work will involve marshalling in car parks and acting as receptionists and helping out at the new 12 hour/7 day centres. Volunteers must be 69 or younger:
- Hundreds of volunteers are needed to cover four hour shifts, 12 hours per day, 7 days per week for the next few months
- Shifts are 0800 – 1200, 1200 – 1600 and 1600 – 2000. There isn’t anything to stop people doing multiple shifts
- We aren’t asking for a minimum commitment – people can do as many shifts as they would like and it’s possible to book 2 x 4hr shifts if they would rather do 8hrs
- All volunteers must fill in a simple application form hosted on the regional Our Plymouth volunteering website https://ourplymouth.co.uk/volunteer-opportunity/covid-19-vaccination-program-volunteers-needed/
- To see a short video of how a vaccination runs please follow this link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_HDLt_X-aQ
For those who do not have access to this on-line magazine, I will include both these letters in my regular pastoral letter which is due out during the first week of February. I will also be able to let you know details of our Ash Wednesday service and Lent Study Group(s) at that time.
You very much remain in my thoughts and prayers during this time of lockdown.
Please stay safe and well.
With my love and prayers.