From the Rector

19th March 2020

Dear friends,

for we are perplexed but not driven to despair’   2 Corinthians 4

As I write this the Government has closed schools and there are rumours of a ‘full lockdown’ as we wait in the calm before the surge, as the Taoiseach put it. Many of you are trying to work from home, having woken up on Friday to find that you are now a teacher too – I feel your pain – I’m writing this whilst trying to work out how to do phonics.

On Saint Patrick’s Day the Archbishop came to Zion to Celebrate the Feast of our Patron Saint. That was the last public service that will be held in the Dioceses for some time as later that night he directed all public worship to cease. Worship in Zion will continue. To quote the hymn, ‘the voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away’. It is clear from our old parish registers that in times of crisis, such as the Spanish flu or the Great War, the response of this parish has always been to pray more. We are in unchartered territory here, but we will continue to pray.

It will be odd to say prayers in an empty Church, but Margaret and I will continue to do so at the usual times, because God will be here. We will not close the doors, and we will continue to ring the bell. If you live close enough to hear the bell I trust it will be a comfort and a reminder that you and your loved ones are being prayed for.

Apart from worship all other parish activities are cancelled. The Easter General Vestry is postponed until further notice. The present Select Vestry remains until a new one is elected. At present the parish is compiling a list of those who may be able to assist vulnerable parishioners who are self-isolating. Now is the time to show how we serve and whom we serve. I have been overwhelmed by the response and the high number of offers to help.

If you are healthy and well and are in a position to do so, might you consider offering to do a doorstep food drop or to collect essentials for someone who can’t? This all seems simple today, but the challenge will be to keep this going for weeks to come. Email me if you’d like to offer your services. If for whatever reason you can’t you can still pick up the phone and check on a neighbour – the phone calls will be one of the most important things in fighting the loneliness of isolation. We are all in this together.

Now is the time to explore the limits of ‘togetherness’, to find ways of fighting isolation that do not involve touch or risk, but that still mean solidarity and kindness, generosity and love. We will respond to this with peace, faithfulness and gentleness. Insofar as is possible, I would encourage us to support local businesses and those of parishioners at this time. The economic effects of Covid-19 are impossible to predict with accuracy at this time, but we can each do our bit to support local. To those who have lost their jobs or are worried about making ends meet, Protestant Aid has launched an emergency Covid 19 response fund, and some assistance is available. Phone me (in utter confidence) if you would like to avail of this. We are a people of faith, hope and love.

When Paul wrote his second letter to the Church in Corinth he warned them against panic or giving up hope. We too must take this warning to heart. This is the time for the Church to be a rock and to offer calm and balm in a troubled world. Christian mystics have long known that we see God most clearly in the darkest hour. Julian of Norwich lived through the ravages of the Black Death and the Peasants’ Revolt and its aftermath. And yet she managed to find solace in God, and to write words we all can take to heart today:

All shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be well.

Be not afraid, says our God. I am with you like never before.

The Reverend Stephen A. Farrell M.A. (Oxon), B.Th., LL.M.