As we prepare to journey with Jesus and each other through the eventful days of Holy Week and Easter we want to begin with thanksgiving. Thank you once again for all you are doing to serve God’s people the impact of which is clearly being experienced both within our church communities and in the wider parish. We have heard so many encouraging stories of how people are engaging in prayer and worship in fresh and deeper ways than has perhaps happened for many for a long year. We have heard of people engaging with prayer and worship who are not currently part of our church lives. We also know that amazing support is being given to care for the most vulnerable and needy in our communities. This has all required prayer, imagination and lots of hard work and we are deeply thankful to God for you.
All of us also know that these initial few weeks where so much has been achieved are likely to be followed by some lower and tougher times ahead. So please keep attending to your own well-being and the well-being of those you love and support. We know that a great deal of work has already gone into preparing for Holy Week and Easter. We want to offer a small contribution with you particularly in mind though for use as widely as is helpful. Members of the Bishop’s Leadership Team together with Jamie Harrison are writing a 3-minute daily reflection for each day of Holy Week and Easter. They will be released each morning at 9 am starting on Palm Sunday. They will be based on the New Testament Reading for Morning Prayer. You are welcome to share them however you wish. The reflections will be available via the Website (https://staging.durhamdiocese.org/covid-19/) and on the Diocesan Facebook Page and other Social Media.
Life has moved on so much in the last few weeks you might have forgotten that we promised to still have a service of Renewal of Vows at the scheduled time on Maundy Thursday. Originally, we had planned to do this from the Feretory. Now this will be from Bishop Paul’s house and will be live-streamed via the Cathedral & Diocesan Facebook pages at 11 am. Bishop Paul will lead a service in which oils will be symbolically blessed and you will have an opportunity to renew your ordination vows. We hope every one of you will take part in that service joining in from your own homes. We will not be able to distribute oils afterwards; that will have to come once restrictions are lifted. We hope that you find this a renewing point in the midst of everything that is happening and have a sense of us being together.
The Cathedral will be live streaming the lighting of the dawn fire at 5 am. Bishop Paul will be live-streaming a Eucharist, again via the Cathedral & Diocesan Facebook pages, starting at 11.15 am. This will again be from Bishop Paul’s home.
Before that, we encourage you to join in SING RESURRECTION. This project began here in Durham but is now promoted by Churches Together in England. The idea is to stand at your front door, or gate, or open flat windows at 10 am and sing ‘Jesus Christ is Risen Today’ and ‘Thine be the glory’. Premier Radio are broadcasting both at exactly this time if people need help to sing along.
There will be many resonances with our current situation as we travel through Holy Week. It may well be that the Lamentations readings take on fresh power and Good Friday and Holy Saturday capture the sense of abandonment and loss that might feel closer than ever. We may resonate with disciples locked away in a room cut off from the rest of the world in a new way. Yet the Easter cry of ‘Jesus Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!’ will take on a fresh power and joy.
May these days draw us all closer to our Lord Jesus who travelled this way for us, and now travels with us, calling us to remember his promise, ‘Lo I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28: 20).’
May God’s rich blessing rest upon you.
+Paul and +Sarah