Dear sisters and brothers,
Pentecost is the feast of the ’new normal,’ life in the Spirit poured out on the apostles and on all creation. As we celebrated Pentecost this year people were talking about a different ‘new normal’ – our life after the Pandemic. When we rebuild our lives, will we have a better sense of what is important? Or will we just rush back to the same old life? What will ‘new normal’ mean for the Church? What will our priorities be? How will we welcome those who have been joining us online? How will we support those who are sad about people and things that have been lost? What will we need to do if we are to open our churches but keep people safe?
A week ago over 40
clergy and lay readers shared in an online CMD Conference about exactly
these questions, organised for us by Michael Paterson. Our discussions
began from his reflections
on the Four Hallmarks of Ministry in Luke 24 (Jesus and the Disciples
on the Road to Emmaus) in the context of the pandemic. I’d like to thank
all of you who attended (and those who tried to but couldn’t due to
broadband problems), to thank Michael for organising
it and for guiding our reflection, and to Carrie Applegath and Elaine
Garman for managing the event. The text and a video of Michael’s
presentation is available on the Diocesan website. https://standrews.anglican.org/clergy-development-resources/
The Scottish Government’s ‘Route Back’ outlines 4 Phases for opening up public life. As we know, it is measured and cautious, and the timing of each Phase will be announced when the Government decides the time is right. Phase 2 does envisage the possibility of churches being opened for individual prayer and for funerals, but the requirements of physical distancing, provision of handwashing and masks, deep cleaning, and support and training of volunteers, will make this challenging and demanding for churches who decide to offer this. And many of our active members, and some of our active clergy and lay readers are ‘vulnerable’, and may be ‘shielding’ by staying at home for longer than others. Very shortly the Advisory Group set up by the College of Bishops will send out detailed practical Guidance on what Episcopal churches would be able to do (and not do) once Phase 2 is announced by the Government. I (assisted by the Dean) will be ready to talk to clergy and vestries who decide they want to take any of these steps when the time comes. We all want to see the opening of our churches, but we also know that opening them safely will require care and patience. Globally, the pandemic is still in its early days, as we know from the present situation in Brazil and India from our link bishops in Amazonia and Calcutta (letters sent to you last week, and in the current Diocesan E-News.
Also in the E-News, with Trinity Sunday and a version of Rublev’s icon in mind, I have written about ‘Black Lives Matte’r and the reality of racism. It is in all of our minds, in wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, as are the protests that have sprung up in the USA and in other countries (the article is attached to this email). The fact is that Racism is as real in Scotland as anywhere. Many people have said that the death of George Floyd at the hands of police is a reminder of the equally unacceptable death of Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy in 2015. Mr Bayoh also died from asphyxiation in the process of being detained. Accusations and counter-accusations have circulated ever since, but it is only now, 5 years later, that a public enquiry has been established. Mr Bayoh’s sister said, “If he was a white man that is not the way his life would have ended. … We are black people but we are not bad people. So why do our children have to feel afraid walking in the streets?”
Like you I am horrified by Racism, and by how hard it still is for Black and Asian people to be treated justly even here in Scotland. But as a White male person I also know that I have a lot to learn about my own attitudes formed by growing up in a world that privileges people like me. I chose to write about Racism this month because even in the situation of pandemic and lockdown, the Church has to engage with the other deep evils that continue to oppress and destroy people’s lives, and to witness to the love of God that calls us to overcome them. As clergy and lay readers we need to take opportunities to think and pray together about enabling our churches to engage. I hope that future CMD discussions and study gatherings will help us to do this, even while we are struggling with Covid.
Racism, the abuse of women and children, homophobia, the exclusion of disabled people, the neglect of older people – these evils are in reality the same evil, the same sin: our refusal to respect and love every human being, regardless of difference, as our equals in humanity, and as the image of God. After Pentecost we have to pray that the Spirit will lead us and all humankind into all the truth, that we may proclaim the word and works of God.
Also attached to this are some further resources for you:
– the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer for 2020-21, revised with corrections received after the draft was sent out recently.
– 2 more resources from St Luke’s Trust on the welllbeing of those in ministry.
– the latest edition of the SEI Newsletter.
– information about bursaries offered by Ecclesisatiacal Insurance for clergy study.
As always, please accept my great admiration and thanks for the love and prayer you are bringing to help our congregations to continue in prayer and service. Thank you for all your faithful work which is making this possible.
With my greetings and blessings for Trinity Sunday,
The Right Revd Ian Paton
Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane