Dear Friends,

The season of Holy Week and Easter is always a high point in the life of any Christian community. It represents really powerful things to us like the emergence of hope and life after death. It’s a season that is not without its challenges when we walk that road of suffering with our Lord Jesus Christ during the last week of his earthly life. We are confronted with difficult and challenging things not least the reality of our own sinfulness and our potential to betray Him and forsake Him at the first hint of trouble. We see the way, however, that Jesus continues to reach out in love and grace and compassion to forgive and reinstate. We see his heart for humanity, his willingness to suffer and to die to enable us to find restoration and forgiveness and the possibility of a fresh start in our lives.

As we see cautious signs of hope that society will emerge from the restrictions of lockdown as the population gets vaccinated and the desire to get children back to school and young people back to university, it is so important to hold on to hope.

As yet we don’t know when the restrictions will be lifted for resuming public worship but the Executive hopes to make some decisions as this magazine goes to print. The dates being discussed are Good Friday and Easter weekend but, as is so often the case, we have to ask you to keep an eye on the church’s website and Facebook page.

We do have plans for special services which will be streamed during Holy Week and there is a slight possibility we will be allowed back into the building on Good Friday. Normally Good Friday is a prayer vigil for the life of the parish and we encourage the congregation to pray in the church from 7am until our evening service at 7.30pm. This year I am asking people to pray in their homes rather than come to the building and in this month’s magazine there will be some pointers for your prayers. Can you commit yourself to take some time on Good Friday to pray for half an hour or an hour for the life and witness of our church?

Can you spend some time before the Cross of Jesus reflecting on all he has done for you, hearing his call to return to Him, to seek His pardon and peace and to witness to his love and mercy in your daily life? Perhaps you are uniquely positioned to impact someone else for Him, to share the hope and purpose he has brought to you and can bring to them if they have not yet encountered Him.

I’m delighted this year that, in the midst of the uncertainties of whether we can gather in person for Holy Week services, our neighbour and friend Reverend Adrian Green has agreed to be our preacher. Adrian originally agreed to share with us back in 2020 but, as we entered lockdown and had to scramble, like all churches, to build a system of recording services and develop our online presence, we had to postpone his visit to us.

This year Adrian hopes to explore some of the remarkable and glorious paradoxes of Holy Week with us. On Monday evening he will be looking at the paradox of strength out of weakness. On Tuesday he will be looking at the paradox of glory out of shame. On Wednesday he will be examining the paradox of testimony out of mockery and on Thursday, the paradox for Jesus of being separated from, but sent to, the world. On Good Friday it will be the paradox of loyalty out of nowhere.

The services from Monday to Thursday will be streamed from the church at 7.30 pm as will the Good Friday service, but we don’t yet know if we will be permitted to gather on Good Friday or Easter Sunday so we will follow the guidelines on this as they become clear to us.

At this point I want to say a huge thank you on all of our behalf to our technology team who have worked tirelessly on all our behalf to facilitate and enable our Sunday services and our Lenten services to take place. There has been a heavy burden on the shoulders of Mike Johnston and
Peter Cooper who have adapted our system so that one person operates our cameras and records the services and streams them to keep everyone safe. They have also supported grieving families through livestreaming funeral services, enabling family members and others who couldn’t attend because of the restrictions, to feel part of these services and occasions.

We are also very grateful to Gillian Stevenson managing our website,
Alison Young managing our Facebook page, and Chris Sanlon overseeing our telephone service to facilitate those who don’t have access to the internet. Linda Campbell in the office has also been sourcing prayers and resources for our magazine and ensuring its distribution in challenging circumstances. Barbara Carlisle, our Sexton, has also been present to facilitate funeral services which are the only occasion alongside weddings, we are permitted to be open for public worship at present.

I always encourage people to make a special effort to be present at our Holy Week and Easter services. It is such a moving and powerful thing to share this sacred journey of the last week of Jesus’s earthly life and go with Him to his death and emerge with Him into resurrection. In this most challenging of years we need His help, His life and His hope as we look to a new horizon. May His light and love be poured out upon you as we go forward with our eyes fixed on Him.

With very best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Pierce (Rector)

Telephone 02890 793822