Dear friends at Holy Trinity,
Geraldine and I have been following the developments regarding the COVID-19 virus throughout Europe with great sadness and concern – and not least the increasing restrictions on daily life that you are all now suffering in Geneva. Please be assured of our love and prayers and great sympathy. I am so very sorry that this has proved extremely disruptive to life at Holy Trinity – here in the Highlands at present the local Scottish Episcopal congregation continues life more or less as normal, though with Communion in one kind and no flamboyance at the Peace! But then, quite often here the congregation numbers little more than a dozen and so the risk of infection can be contained by everyone sitting, in common Anglican fashion, a great deal away from the front and away from each other! Happily, things are rather different at Holy Trinity Geneva!
That said, the latest threat that we half expect from the UK Prime Minister later tonight is that those of us over 70 years old should shut ourselves away out of sight for about two months after which it is deemed that it will be safe to catch the virus when there may be more hospital beds available to deal with us! Small comfort there, then.
Meanwhile, on my shopping trip to Tesco’s earlier on today, I found empty shelves and I regret to say, a large number of people piling their shopping trolleys high with an assortment of goods in the event of perceived ‘shortages’. Some of them will probably have enough loo-paper to last several years – if not to the next decade!
What are we to make of all of this? One thing is clear. Life across our planet is fragile – the fact that something that we cannot see except under a powerful microscope has the power to disrupt our daily living to such an extent ought to be something of a moral wake-up call at many levels.
But much more positively, all this reminds us of how intimately we are connected with one another. In today’s world, what happens many thousands of kilometres away rapidly has an effect upon us. We have a common homeland with common problems. Problems which need co-operative not competitive action to solve them – but this you know well in Geneva where so much international effort is planned and coordinated. Not least, of course, through the World Health Organisation at this particular time.
For most of us, an infection with COVID-19 if and when it comes will be straightforward and uncomplicated, though some groups in society we know are at greater risk and it is for their benefit that we must all try to minimise this risk, as part of that common life to which God calls us. And if, as it appears just now, this calling means that for a while we must abstain for a season from the joy of being together for worship, then we may rest assured that when once again we are able to worship together, we shall be both renewed in that offering, and strengthened even more by one another’s mutual support. It is an unusual (and we hope never-to-be-repeated) Lenten abstinence!
While the restrictions continue, as Christians we can indeed learn how to support one another and worship God in new ways, relying as always upon the power of the Holy Spirit whose invisible presence binds us together as a single people, the risen Body of Christ on earth. As S. Paul so eloquently puts it in Romans chapter 8 ….nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 839) We can be sure that God’s arm is not shortened in this time of crisis. Together in Christ and through the power of the Spirit, our eyes will be opened in new ways – even when those new ways make their appearance through unexpected and at first sight unwelcome visitations.
This wee note from the north comes with much love from us both, and prayers. We miss you all very much and pray that you will all come through this time well and in safety. Geraldine and I will be sending you pictures soon of the tree which now graces our garden here. We planted this eight foot giant last week in somewhat Arctic conditions – and the snow started an hour later!