June 2021



Letter from Fr Scott, our curate

One thing that strikes me about Pentecost is the behaviour of the disciples. Throughout Easter, you have this sense of 11 very frightened men, holed up in a room somewhere, reassured by regular visits from their master Jesus. Then during his last appearance, he promises that he will very soon send upon them ‘what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ (Luke 24.49).

Just days later, as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit descends upon them and completely transforms them.

Suddenly they are fearless. Peter gives a powerful declamation to the watching Israelites (Acts 2. 14-36) and they immediately begin converting and baptising people into the fledgling Christian faith and performing ‘signs and wonders’ amongst the community. It’s a remarkable transformation. These men, cowed and terrified not a week before, are afire with the power of Christ. They are set free.

In one way, this story reminds me of our own current situation. We’ve been cowering in our homes through lockdown, awaiting guidance from ‘above’ to free us from our own fear and allow us more presence in the outside world. A little of that was granted on 17 May, and as I write, our release from all restrictions is promised on 21 June.

The nature of the virus now means that promise has become more uncertain. Jesus, being God, honours his promises and nothing can prevent that. But our freedom is in the hands of our government, who are human and flawed – and subject to an invisible threat.

We now hear of cases of the Indian variant of coronavirus in Bolton and Blackburn and Darwen, places too close for comfort. It’s a worrying and frustrating development that could well hold us back. The success of the vaccine has reduced cases and deaths, and there’s a strong temptation to leap over the parapet and charge gung-ho for the wide sunlit uplands.

The problem is, we’re compelled to stick to guidance, which comes down from the government and is tailored to our church context. And not all churches stick to it. I’ve been in Roman Catholic masses where social distancing seems to be an option rather than a requirement. And there are churches in our diocese whose implementation of the guidelines is very free.

Others have seen this inconsistency. I’ve picked up murmurings of discontent in our own church in the last few weeks, a discontent which is understandable. I share this. I’d like to relax rules and encourage more fellowship after services. But we have a legal requirement to adhere to guidance.

Our churchwardens Janet and Tony have worked extremely hard to implement this and satisfy public health requirements. As fellow Christians, we need to support them and recognise that these aren’t their rules, but ones handed down from ‘on high’. And we must remember that, as churchwardens, they’re legally liable.

There’s an analogy here for us as disciples. We’re caught between Ascension and Pentecost, caught between the promise and the freedom. Jesus instructed his friends to ‘stay in the city’ until the Spirit was sent. So must we. Let’s bind together and support each other until ‘the power on high’ sends the word. Amen.

Fr Scott

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