September Covid: Message from Reverend Gordon Gresswell

Superintendent’s Message

I write to you all to offer clarity of the rules we need to follow. There are many mixed-messages around, including my own, and so this letter is to stipulate what we can and cannot do in our Church buildings if they are currently open.

Before all this, let us read St. Paul’s words to the Romans and take real comfort in these….

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:1-4

Here we go again. The long expected second wave of Covid 19 seems to have arrived and measures to combat this are in full swing. Just as we are gathering together, once again, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and have been reopening our places of worship to praise and glorify Almighty God, so we have needed to take the sensible precaution in closing some for the time being. We can take solace in knowing we can reopen quickly, once safe to do so, as we have our risk assessments in place and have learnt much in these last few weeks.

Please indulge me for a moment: I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a step-father, a nurse, a minister and a Christian. I am also, at heart, an anarchist. Influenced by the Sex Pistols and the punk movement of my teenage years, I have always struggled with rules.

From a Christian perspective, anarchism was greatly influenced by Leo Tolstoy, whose; The kingdom of God is within you takes Jesus ‘Sermon on the Mount’ as the defined way God calls his people to live their lives. In this we are subject to God and to no other authorities. As someone who wrote an essay on the similarities between the Sermon on the Mount and Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto, I often see Jesus as a pacifistic anarchist.

From an Evangelical perspective an anarchist would perceive the depravity of humankind and therefore incapable of making laws as they would be corrupted by sinful man, and we can only live under the sovereignty of the God found in the pages of both the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian scriptures that we call the Old and New Testaments.

From a Liberal perspective, an anarchist would recognise the essential goodness in all human beings created in the divine image, capable of tremendous acts of love and kindness to one another and therefore rules will restrict us from acting rightly towards one another as it is innate within us all and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will guide us to a place of peace and hope.

There are many other avenues we could explore, BUT, why this pre-amble I hear you ask.  In 1066 England and Wales changed. Scotland and Ireland joined later to form the United Kingdom, but 1066 remains the focal point of change. We became Subjects to the Norman conquerors who established laws which we largely follow today. We stand in the linage of these Judea-Christian laws that bring a punishment against any of the Subjects who broke these laws. Many of these laws were enforced through Churches who held an enormous amount of sway and the civil law courts we have today still, largely, follow many procedures that the courts the Plantagenet rulers put in place (swearing on the Bible being an obvious example).

As Citizens (which we may no longer be after January 1st 2021 – with Brexit will we return to being Subjects once more?), we are called to follow the law of the land. Jesus and Paul both urged that we follow the law and be upright citizens. As Christians we are need to follow the law, whether we agree with it or not, the laws are there to be followed….even by an anarchist like me.

Therefore, if your Church is open for worship you will need to:

  1. Wear a mask in the Church building throughout the Service

  2. Follow social distancing rules that in Wales are 2 metres apart and in England 1 metre+

  3. Hum to music, not sing

  4. Follow all of the hygiene rules set in place by the risk assessment.

Failure to follow these instructions means that you are breaking the current law of the land.

I instinctively find rules hard to follow; the only reason I could think to take up smoking was because people told me not to do it! Yet the rules are there for very good reasons. Speed limits on roads have greatly reduced the amount of people killed on our roads and streets. Two headlines I would hate to see: ‘Coronavirus outbreak traced to a Methodist Church’ or ‘Methodist Church members fined £10,000 for breaking Covid rules’.

Let us persevere; think on others; pray for one another and know that God walks with us.

Shalom

Gordon