Bishop's Comment: Extraordinary Time

2nd June 2020

Singing together in worship is another restricted activity during the early recovery stages of Covid-19. We were inspired by the online harmony of The UK Blessing coordinated in Birmingham by Tim Hughes. I find myself, in my lock-down prayers, returning to familiar hymn tunes and spiritual songs with their faith-building words, though mercifully only God can hear the sound.

We wait with increasing anticipation and some frustration for the Government to make decisions about gradually reopening public worship. Let us use the time of waiting to listen attentively to what “the Spirit says to the Churches” (Revelation 2:7). During the Crisis so far, Christians have made the annual journey with Lord Jesus though seasons of fasting, prayer, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and spirit-outpouring. Now we come to a period of what the prayer books call Ordinary Time. Can we trust God in 2020 England to make the next twenty weeks Extraordinary, as he reveals the Church he wants us to be in the months and years ahead?

John V Taylor in ‘The Go-Between God’ reminds us of two of the outcomes of the promised Holy Spirit: worship of the God who does ‘mighty acts‘ and and an admission that humans cannot make or be Church in their own strength.

While we struggle on in the battle against the virus with all its disrupting and stressful consequences for daily life, we have already seen the work of the Holy Spirit in renewing faith in Lord Jesus and his purposes.

New ways of worship, learning, prayer and practical care have emerged. The good news of God Father Son and Holy Spirit has spread with the help of the digital revolution, just as it did in centuries past with printing and translation. 

We will gather again in large buildings, not least remember those who have died from COVID-19. We will sing praises to the Lord together again in glorious assembly.

But is the Spirit also showing us the profound gift of meeting in small groups in our homes and other rooms, for worship, learning, prayer, practical care and attracting ‘day by day those who are being saved’. (Acts 2:47). I will write again about this. Do let me know if the Spirit is saying to you ‘meet in small groups’.

Meanwhile I can’t get these words and tune out of my head ‘Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed thy hand has provided, Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me’ (Christopher Rice, T Chisholm, W Runyon).