What a crazy time we are all living through. When I wrote the “Minister’s Message” almost two months ago for the cover of Parish News, our parish magazine, with the title Tryin’ Times I was not anticipating where we are now. It should not come as a surprise for the threat of a pandemic such as that posed by COVID-19 has long been warned about, but we are very good at filtering out messages that seem a distant threat. Now we are having to think differently.
In tryin’ times such as these we have an opportunity, as a world, I hope, and certainly as local communities to reveal our true mettle. We need each other (from a good physical distance) more than ever.
At Ferryhill Kirk I will continue to lead worship (though not public worship) and we will live stream that via our webcast on Sunday mornings from 11 a.m. and it will also be available anytime thereafter. That will be supplemented by Rev Mary Whittaker with BSL for the deaf community from Sunday 29 March.
We are also going to try video conferencing for the remainder of our Lent Study series (details are on the home page for how to log in for that), and we have plans with neighbouring churches for other ways to continue our engagement on matters of faith over these next months.
Equally important is how we support our community and particularly those who are self-isolating and alone. We have taken a lead, again with our neighbouring churches, to form a community of volunteers via https://www.facebook.com/groups/covid19riverside/. Please join, if you can. We are building a team of volunteers who can look out for those who may be in need in their neighbourhood, to keep in touch by phone or email, to offer practical support (running simple errands to the shops, for instance) should the need arise. The first task from the weekend on into next week will be delivering leaflets to every home from Ferryhill to Garthdee.
Amidst all the strange mixture of busyness and isolation, we also need time to centre ourselves on what really matters. Below is a prayer for our times which you may find helpful.
A Prayer for Tryin' Times
we are living through tryin’ times,
when fear and worry can overwhelm some,
while others ignore good advice,
may we all work together
to get through this pandemic
as safely and as carefully as we can.
We are thankful for all those people
whose job it is to help and assist,
particularly for doctors and nurses,
carers and support staff
in surgeries and hospitals,
putting themselves at risk
in order to fulfil their calling
to bring healing.
May they know that their work is life-affirming,
and may they be resilient and resourced.
We are also thankful for those people
who, often under the radar,
make society work:
from delivery drivers to supermarket stockers,
from school staff to volunteer visitors,
and all manner of other roles in-between.
May they know they are valued and honoured,
and that we uplift them for the cohesion
they bring to our communities.
We recognise that we are called at the moment
to look out for ourselves and those closest to us,
we are challenged to keep a healthy distance, physically,
from each other,
but may that not deter us from making connections,
building new friendships,
tending existing relationships,
through all the tools we now have to hand,
from a phone call to a WhatsApp,
from an email to a postcard.
May we use this opportunity to build community,
to look out for one another,
not to be blind to the needs of our neighbour,
but to find ways to help.
We know that there will be lots of people and families
who will be struggling over these next months,
with tensions due to family circumstances,
with loneliness and isolation,
with money worries and job security fears,
and we hold them close in their anxiety.
May we provide encouragement and support
as best we can in these tryin’ times.
We also pray for those who are unwell at this time,
for those with raised anxiety
due to their age or to underlying health conditions,
for those who are currently infected with COVID-19,
and for the families of those who have died.
May we offer kindness and hopefulness,
even in the darkest of moments.
And when we emerge from the other end
of this pandemic,
a vaccine having been found,
may we not lose sight of the power that comes
when we work together
to be good neighbours.
Let us remember Jesus’ answer to the question,
“Which of all the commandments is most important?”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind
and with all your strength.
The second is: Love your neighbour as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.”