COVID-19 Briefing 02/07

Nine new curates started their ministry yesterday, with three more to come in September. In a simple but moving Zoom service, each received a temporary licence as a Lay Worker, and was commissioned to ‘Lead the people in public worship, to exercise pastoral care, to evangelise and preach the Word of God, to administer the elements of the Holy Communion and to perform all other ecclesiastical duties belonging to that office’. Their ordinations as deacons are due to take place in early October, when restrictions on our corporate worship should be somewhat more relaxed.
Reading those words on their licences, I was struck by how every aspect of that commission has been radically reshaped over the past few months: public worship, pastoral care, evangelism, preaching, administering the elements at Holy Communion and – for that matter – ‘all other ecclesiastical duties’! Clergy who have been celebrating a whole variety of ordination anniversaries during this Petertide (Beverly and I have notched up 45 years between us) have never had to think so hard on their feet as over this time. And while the easing of lockdown is exciting and hopeful on one level, with the prospect of combining worship online and in person, it also poses many extra complexities as well. In particular I would wish to reiterate: please don’t feel pressurised into taking on an impossible workload or into too hurried a return to more ‘normal’ congregational worship; and please ensure that you build both rest and holiday into the coming weeks and be kind to yourself in amidst the particular pressures of these extraordinary days.
And in all this I’m reminded of a kite: an object designed to catch the wind, wherever its gusts would take it; but an object too that needs to be firmly grasped in a human hand if it’s properly to fulfil its purpose.  
The kite is the church in the metaphor – or maybe your ministry and mine – ducking and diving in quite such tempestuous times. But however expertly we negotiate the challenges and opportunities of this season, our true security lies in the knowledge that we’re held in the hand of Almighty God, ‘rooted and grounded in love’ ‘in the words of the great apostle (Ephesians 3:17). As one of the prayers in the ordination service puts it, we therefore pray for one another: ‘Through your Spirit, heavenly Father, give these your servants grace and power to fulfil their ministry. Amen’.
Bishop Andrew