Ad Clerum from the Bishop of London – #PrayerForTheNation
A letter sent to all clergy of the diocese on 5 November 2020.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Over the last seven months I have spoken of how we find ourselves in the midst of a storm. I have encouraged us to hear, together, the words Jesus said to his disciples, tossed in a boat on the Galilean sea, “Do not be afraid.” To hold onto those words of Jesus is not to deny the existence of fear, it is to ensure that we draw courage to carry on living. Moreover, Jesus preceded them with, “It is I” – a reminder that God walks with us.
Thank you to each of you for your ministry. You have been my inspiration throughout these difficult times, and a light for me in my own ministry.
Once again national policy is being driven by the need to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed as the rate of Coronavirus infection increases. Staying home and staying safe is the priority once again. We must pray for all those suffering from the virus, as well as those who will suffer from the impact of lockdown. Pray also for all those in the NHS who seek to care under extreme pressure.
As we go into lockdown again, we will not all have the same emotions; some of you will be relieved, especially if you or one of your family members is clinically extremely vulnerable. Others are frustrated – devastated, even – by the cessation of public worship once again. Please be assured that in meeting with Government Ministers, I have made it clear that for Christians the sacramental life of the Church cannot be seen as an optional extra, alongside my support for keeping people safe.
It is encouraging that we are able to open our churches for individual prayer, this will be a decision that needs to be taken locally recognising the needs of individuals and communities.
A recent survey by BritainThinks reported that many people see no way out of the current situation, with 50% of the public reporting mental health problems resulting from the crisis. Isolation, the apparently never-ending nature of the pandemic and a lack of hope were the top challenges cited.
We are called to be agents of God’s purpose, to proclaim love and hope in Christ when everything looks and feels defeated. Now hope is not about optimism, hope is firmly grounded in what God has done in Jesus in the past, what God is doing now, and what God will do to fulfil his loving purposes at the end of time. We can look to a future without pain and suffering and find solace and security even now. Hope, as the author of the Hebrews reminds us, is an anchor for the soul – firm and secure. It is that which holds us when we are living in the shadow of a pandemic.
I know that as a Church we can be agents of God’s purpose of love and hope because I have seen it. I have seen it in the way you have been creative about worship; in the care you have offered in food banks, reducing loneliness and providing debt advice, remaining in touch with those who are most vulnerable; in your unswerving commitment to holding those among whom you minister in prayer. I know too that there have been surprising and unexpected opportunities to share the gospel with people enquiring about faith. Thank you for taking these up.
With lockdown now upon us, I would like you to join me in making this a month of prayer for the nation. The Diocesan website now has a dedicated page based on national Church of England resources, bringing us together in prayer each evening in November at 6pm. Churches are invited to ring a bell at this time and you should share your prayers on social media with the hashtag #PrayerForTheNation.
In London, we will also be marking the month of prayer in additional ways. There will be weekly fasting on Thursdays, and we will be bringing the Diocese together at 1pm every Thursday – starting today, led by +Ric. You can join on our Facebook page, or via the Zoom link on the Diocesan website.
Never in my lifetime have our communities needed more the hope that we have found in Jesus Christ. Over the coming months, we need to support each other in reflecting that hope and light. We need to be kind to each other, to ourselves and to our households. We need to allow ourselves to be honest about how anxious and exhausted we sometimes feel.
My brothers and sisters, as the storm continues, may I on behalf of my episcopal colleagues assure you of our love, appreciation and prayers. Let us in these coming days and weeks continue, in the heart of the storm, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”