I have called this “Watson’s Wednesday Weekly” because it is WWW – and we are all finding ways to use the world-wide web to meet, communicate, encourage and support one another.
Our son is the arch cynic when it comes to the Church – some years ago he returned from working with nuns in Africa who were combatting the spread of AIDS, caring for its sufferers and the orphans it left, and his role being to educate young people through football. Similar situation to today. When he looked at the agendas of our church meetings and synod, he declared “Dad, you are playing at being Church!” That hurt but there was Truth in his observation. He is now living in Melbourne, Australia, married to someone from the Greek community, whose family is obviously from the Orthodox tradition. There are dozens of Orthodox churches in the city and every Sunday, each is packed with hundreds in worship of over two hours in length and all standing, jostling together like a football crowd. Their priest, in defiance of government advice has said it is their duty to continue to worship and they are safe because no virus can survive being in a church building. What does that say to a young man who already thinks we are playing church? That is NOT faith, but primitive superstition.
Of course I understand the pain and frustration of the Orthodox priest, and all of us who know the importance of gathering together as church at a holy place. I felt utterly bereft when I realised I had led my last service in our Yorkshire churches, and how strange it felt not being in church on Sunday. But now is the time to find the strength of what we believe – that we can pray anywhere, at any time, and everyone has access to God!
I also know that God has given us amazing brains – gifting many to have academic ability and professional knowledge to make life safer and repair us when it is not, – researchers and the whole medical team. But we all have brains to be sensible and wise in how we live, and in this crisis now, to respond rightly to government restrictions and medical advice. We also have conscience to recognise that by fighting for our own rights, to do what we want, to stockpile food, to ignore advice, this will seriously endanger not only ourselves and loved ones, but everyone. We also have the Holy Spirit, that image of God within each of us. I see God at work, not in expectation of ridiculous divine protection, but in all the men and women taking sensible precaution, yet offering themselves to care for the vulnerable and the elderly. What amazingly encouraging stories we are hearing. And what ingenuity for all of us to discover ways of support at a distance through telephone and social media.
I shall offer reflections and prayers regularly on our website but I hope there will be conversation, with God and each other. I shall try and keep in touch with as many as possible, and hope to hear encouraging stories of real Faith in action.
In Christ’s love
Kevin Watson, Yorkshire Synod Moderator