Dear Friends,

I hope that, wherever you are and whatever you are doing, you continue to be safe during the current pandemic. There are many difficult aspects to being in lockdown. We miss our family and friends. We miss the regular activities we take part in, not least attending church, if that has been our custom and practice throughout our lives. We miss our independence, the freedom to head out to get a message whenever we want to and, if we are self-isolating, it is hard to feel dependent on others to get our messages and do our shopping.

One of the biggest challenges of all, however, is the uncertainty. No one can tell us at the present time when the restrictions are going to end. The Government and the Chief Medical Officers are all taking the best advice available to them. Experts are trying to construct some sort of phased system by which we can return to some sort of normality again. It’s a hugely difficult process to gauge. We need to enable people to return to work and business to rejuvenate the economy, people need that structure and discipline in their lives. There are very challenging effects on people’s
mental health through prolonged periods of isolation and, while we all know these things, they have to be balanced by the need to protect people while the virus is as active and deadly as it continues to be.

As this magazine goes to print, there have been celebrations to mark VE day 75 years on. I found it moving to see three veterans being introduced by video technology on the BBC news. They had all seen active service during the Second World War and now through the marvels of modern technology, they were getting to speak together and share memories.

Another group that was acknowledged in the programme I saw were the women who worked in very responsible jobs on the home front during the war, as well as rearing their families and looking after their homes. Like the current pandemic, when these women saw their men heading off to war, they didn’t know for how long it would last or, indeed, if their husbands and sons and loved ones would come home. They didn’t know either, what effect these terrible experiences might have on their loved ones when they came home.

In our house we have tried to watch something together on television most days. Our surprising channel of choice, as we don’t watch it too often, has been Channel 4. Initially we watched the TV chef Jamie Oliver doing a cookery show each day which he entitled “Keep Cooking and Carry On.” It was made with either his wife or one of his children filming the show on a mobile phone. He would also dig out a recipe or two from his archive of programmes and you could swap ingredients for whatever you had in the house. The idea was to encourage people to keep eating healthy nutritious meals that were not expensive to prepare and to use the sorts of things we might have in our cupboard.

The second programme we have been watching is of a similar vein. It is called “Keep Crafting and Carry On” and features the presenter Kirstie Allsopp making crafts using things we might have in our homes which might otherwise be thrown out. I’m not a crafter at all, but other people in the house are game to give it a go and it’s a fun thing to do
together and some days the results are better than others!

We do not know when we will be allowed to resume worship together again in the way we used to Sunday by Sunday. I would imagine there will be restrictions and social distancing as we are eventually permitted to do so. I know some people have been greatly blessed by being able to telephone each Sunday after 11am to our telephone service in recent weeks. If you telephone 02893447225 and wait 15 seconds or so after the initial message, you will hear a recording of the Sunday service. This has been a special connection for those who don’t have or don’t use the internet. Others have been able to connect into the services and blogs that appear on the church website and Facebook page. This is why we are continuing to try to post out this magazine to those who don’t have the internet and may not be receiving many resources.

If I could offer any encouragement or words of wisdom during this time, and we don’t know how long it will be for, I think I would say 2 or 3 things. Keep reading your Bible. Even if it is just a psalm or a chapter from the gospels or working your way through an account of life in the early church, like the Acts of the Apostles, read a little something every day. Tune into things on the radio like the service on Radio Ulster at 10.15 am or the televised worship on BBC1 at 10.45 am or Songs of Praise on Sundays. Keep reading your Bible and worshipping.

The second thing that is vitally important is to keep praying. Pray for your family, for their safety and protection. Pray that this time would reveal Jesus to them, especially if they have been far from Him. Pray for our Government, for the Health Minister and medical officers and all who make important decisions affecting our safety and livelihoods. Pray for the frontline medical staff and supermarket workers and delivery drivers and pharmacists and those working in nursing homes and catering and farming and fishing and doing all they do to keep us safe and healthy. So many people need your prayers at the present time and, while we might often say we are too busy, at the present time the stakes are too important and too critical that we cannot afford not to pray. Every Sunday morning, as I’m the only one allowed into church at the present time, I pray for each household in the parish by name as I celebrate Holy Communion and say morning prayer and belt out a few hymns.

I look forward so much to the day when we can be together again. If services are permitted before the end of June, we will be resuming with services at 9am, 11am and 7pm and people will be in touch to tell you when they are going to recommence, but we cannot do anything until we have permission to do so and, initially I suspect, there will be quite a number of restrictions.

Until the next time, my friends, I encourage you to keep reading your Bible daily, keep worshipping regularly, keep praying and carry on.

Much love.

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822