Dear Friends,

Happy New Methodist Year and Happy New School Year! September, usually the time for the diary to be filled with meetings and commitments. Schools have all opened to a ‘new normal’, whatever that means. As we mark Education Sunday on the 13th September, let’s all take a moment to pray for those involved in education. Within the life of the Church, there are tentative steps being taken to re-open, if only for outside users, but it’s still early days. We continue to live in a time of uncertainty. At Westerhope, the Playgroup re-started on the 7th September. A big thanks to all those who have prepared for this. We can support them through our prayers and by respecting the restrictions, which mean that there are only a few designated people who should be in the church building at any time. At Blucher, there are steps being taken to re-open for worship at the end of October. There is much to be done in preparation so please pray for all involved in working to make that possible.

Throughout these six months, the language of blame has been used liberally. Conspiracy theories have abounded. Some people have even suggested that the Pandemic has been sent by God to call us to repent of our sins. This week, I’ve started reading a book by Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham. It’s called, ‘God and the Pandemic – A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and it’s Aftermath.’ Wright grounds his book in Scripture and says that Jesus is the ultimate call to repentance, not the current Pandemic, ‘The cross is where all the worlds sufferings and horrors have been heaped up and dealt with. The resurrection is the launch of God’s new creation, of his sovereign saving rule on earth,’ he writes.

In John Chapter 9, Jesus’ disciples ask if a blind man has been so afflicted because of his sins or of his parent’s sins. It’s absurd to suggest that the man has sinned when he was born blind! Jesus discounts any suggestion of sin as the cause and answers, ‘this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ Jesus then goes on to deal with the man’s affliction and heals him. In Acts Chapter 11, the prophet Agabus predicts that there is going to be a severe famine that will spread over the entire Roman world. Jesus’ followers don’t even begin to explain why – they could have said that this was a sign of Christ’s return, or that this was a call to repentance. There’s no blame game in their response. Wright says that they ask themselves 3 questions:

  1. Who is going to be at special risk when this happens?

  2. What can we do to help?

  3. Who shall we send?

God works through Jesus’ followers to respond to the pending crisis and help is sent. As Wright says, ‘God always wanted to work in His world through loyal human beings.’ Thankfully, there are many loyal human beings today who are continuing to ask those 3 questions in the midst of this world crisis. The question we need to be asking doesn’t begin with a ‘why’ but with a ‘what.’ What part can I safely play to respond to the many needs that this Pandemic has created? May God continue to guide us and lead us.

Your sister in Christ, Juliet

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