Along with many other people, I followed what other churches did as part of their online ministry during the closing. I recently came across a very creative series that started Belvoir Parish Church in south Belfast called Letters to the Post-Lockdown Church. On their YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRfo9UDA6ze2aT1grDLDu4Q) they describe the letters in this way: ‘We are sending letters to the future! No, you’ve never come across an episode of Doctor Who – but our series Letters to a Post-Lockdown Church in Belvoir. How can we inspire and challenge tomorrow’s church with today’s insights – and especially the lessons we have learned in recent months? “
Each week, a member of the Church writes and reads a letter during the service. I first came across the series when I saw Michael Wardlow read the second letter. In his letter he quoted some words from the writer Fr Richard Rohr:
“Normally we do everything we can to prevent the old from falling apart, but this is when we need patience and guidance, and the freedom to let go rather than sharpen our control and certainties. Change takes place, but transformation is always a process of letting go, living in the confusing space for a while. “
The third and most recent letter, written and delivered in last week’s Sunday service, was from Jonny Watson, who was accompanied by his cat at some point in the video.
In his letter, Jonny used as a chorus throughout his play the famous words from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best time, it was the worst time” while outlining some of the challenges the churches could face up.
After a wonderful rendition of The Lord hears the Cry of the Poor sung by John Emmanuel Mullan, Jonny raised the issue of mental health issues and wondered what role churches could play in responding to it. I liked his phrase, “How do we extend our walls in churches and open our doors?”
He also spoke about the problem of poverty, placing it in a scriptural context and God’s clear concern for the poor and the ministry of Jesus while bringing the good news to those in need. In his video brief, Jonny suspected that as we move out of the lockdown and leave schedule ends, we only get an idea of how Covid-19 has affected not only the economy but many people’s lives as well.
In addition to considering the impact of Covid-19 at the local level, Jonny then broadened the discussion to include global issues. Regarding the search for a vaccine and the efforts of pharmaceutical companies to find one, he expressed the hope that if a vaccine is developed it will be a generic vaccine for the benefit of all humanity and not just humans in rich countries where there is a vaccine. are the financial means to pay for it.
In this third letter, Jonny put forward the idea of forgetting debt from the poorest countries in the world to enable them to face the current crisis.
I particularly liked his question: “How can we use our influence to change systems to create a fairer world?”
In the last part of his letter, Jonny ended with a reminder that it was in Jesus where people will find their rock and that he will be with them when they face life storms.
Looking back at this series of letters, my question is what do we do about the challenges they present?
Father Martin Magill is pastor of St. John’s, Belfast
Apt Bible Readings
Some scriptures for the coming week:
Monday – Psalm 34: 6
Tuesday – Mark 4:39
Wednesday – Exodus 3: 7
Thursday – Luke 4:18
Friday – James 2:17