Approaching Easter in Lockdown

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

Here is the latest briefing from Bishop Keith…

Dear Friends,

This is going to be a Holy week and Easter like no other. To be isolated from one another when we will crave fellowship is truly awful. To be absent from the remembrance of the Lord’s supper, to be absent from the worship at the Cross on Good Friday, to be absent from the great celebration and the Easter Acclamation, “The Lord is risen; He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”, will be strange indeed.

At one level this absence will be a huge loss. At another level the absence will be a moment in which the Lord speaks. How keenly we will feel the Lord’s own isolation through betrayal, arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We will taste a very little of what it was like to be deprived of your closest friends at your moment of greatest need. Please God none of us will want to echo the cry of dereliction from the cross, “My God my God why have you forsaken me?”. All of this Jesus did for us, as the beautiful Good Friday Hymn says, “We believe it was for us he hung and suffered there”; his death a bearing of our judgement, his death a taking away of our sins, his death a bringing to us of forgiveness, his death an experiencing of death so that he might destroy its power.

All of this we will remember whether in our own reading and prayer, or as we access our local services online if we can, or the Cathedral or national services as we are able. In a time when there will be no gatherings and no socialising, only continued concern because of the Covid-19 virus and its impact on the whole world, we will be praying for the NHS and all those on the front line, we will be praying for those we know who are sick or bereaved, we will be praying for those facing the possibility of death. And as we pray for our own country, we will be praying for those countries we know, especially the Solomon Islands (also struggling with cyclones) and the Congo (Aru and Boga are also struggling with the absence of an infrastructure we take for granted).

It may be strange to offer now a verse that comes in the readings set for Morning Prayer in the week following Easter Sunday – who knows what that week will bring? Will there be some capacity for there to be some kind of “holiday at home”? I hope so – but this verse comes near the end of one of the great chapters in the Bible on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15. I hope each day, at the moment, all of us can include some reading from the Bible and prayer. During that week after Easter, the readings from this chapter are spread out over each day (Monday v1-11; Tuesday v12-19; Wednesday v20-28; Thursday v 29-34; Friday v35-50; Saturday v 51-end).

The verse I offer you, both for this week and next, is 1 Corinthians 15:49:

“Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust so we will bear the image of the man of heaven”

Last year I spoke on this verse at an Easter Assembly at Woodchurch C of E Academy on the Wirral. I asked them to notice that the verse doesn’t say we may or might bear the image of the man of heaven, but we will.

This is our hope and joy this Easter. We know, I think, about bearing the image of the man of dust; our mortality, our frailty, our sinfulness, these are all included in this description. How can we not know that reality in our present crisis?
 
But the hope that the Church has held out to the world since that first Good Friday and Easter, is that just because Jesus went all the way to the cross alone, and to the depths of death, experiencing it in the fullest form of its cruelty and desolation, we now would be in no doubt that his resurrection life would be ours too, begun now and completed then – bearing the image of the man of heaven, Jesus himself.

What a hope? What a promise? What a word for those facing their own death or the death of someone so dear to them?

We may be isolated from one another, but we are never isolated from him. As 1 Corinthians 15 goes on to say, “Where O death is your victory? Where O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. (55,56)

This is the truth summarised in the great Easter acclamation: “The Lord is risen; he is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

This Easter Sunday, whether in the evening when we maybe lighting a candle and putting it in the window or at some other time in the day, may we find a way of sharing this greeting with our neighbourhood; perhaps by some post on Facebook, or some recording on YouTube, or creating some poster in the window, or seeing if any of your neighbours might like to join you on each of your doorsteps as you join in the joyful shout together! You might want to join in the chorus of a great Easter hymn: “Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son; endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won”.
 
This Easter and Holy Week will be like none that I have ever known; but yet somehow the very isolation and danger we are now in from this virus, I believe will enable us to enter yet more fully into the truth and the victory Jesus has established for us and for the world.

With love in Him
 
+Keith
 
The Last Supper
Courtesy of Gordon Johnson & Pixabay
Before the lockdown regulations of course!!!!

Palm Sunday & Holy Week

Radio and TV broadcasts during Holy Week and Easter

With no Church Services for the foreseeable future, here are some of the Services that are being broadcast on Radio and TV during Holy Week and Easter…

A yew branch with light green new growth sprouting from th eends
Yew was used as an alternative to palms in this cooler climate

There is an interesting series on BBC Radio 4 during Holy Week  9.45am each morning (15mins)
          The Passion in Plants 5 Episodes commencing Monday 6th April
   Monday   Pussy Willows and the Yew  – Palm Sunday  1/5
          Bob Gilbert traces the associations of British wild plants with the Easter Story beginning with Palm Sunday. No palms here, instead people carried fronds of goat willow and yew.
    Tuesday   The Last Supper and the Betrayal – Bitter Herbs and the Elder 2/5
          The Last Supper was the Feast of the Passover, when Jewish people eat the bitter herbs.
           And the Elder from which Judas, full of remorse following his betrayal, hanged himself
     Wednesday   The Road to the Cross – Hawthorn and Speedwell 3/5
           British wild plants and the Passion of Christ; the hawthorn crown, the road to the cross
           and the humble speedwell.
     Maundy Thursday   The Crucifixion – the Orchid and the Aspen 4/5
          The Passion of Christ through the folklore of wildflowers. The tree the cross was made from, and the plants that grew at its foot.
     Good Friday     The Resurrection – Pearlwort, Touch-me-not and the Alleluia Flower 5/5
          The plants that by tradition tell of the Resurrection: the pearlwort that cushioned Christ’s feet, the touch-me-not balsam and the alleluia flower.

Palm Sunday

BBC Radio 4  8.10am Sunday Worship “Walking alongside Jesus in suffering “
          Fr Dominic Robinson and Dr Theodora Hawksley reflect on the way Jesus accompanies   Christians spiritually when facing times of trial, suffering and bereavement.
TV BBC 1  10.45am  SUNDAY WORSHIP Hereford Cathedral
TV BBC 1    1.15pm  Songs of Praise – Glasgow Cathedral
BBC Radio  3.30pm   Choral Evensong – Magdalen College Oxford

Wednesday 8th April

BBC Radio 3 3.30pm  Choral Evensong  Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, Texas

Good Friday 10th April

  BBC Radio 3  2.00pm  Bach’s St John’s Passion

Easter Sunday

BBC Radio 4  6.05am  Dr Rowan Williams – retired Archbishop of Canterbury
– Reflections on the meaning of Easter
BBC Radio 4  6.35am Sunrise Service celebrating Easter morning
                      –  with Gospel Group Volney Morgan and New-Ye !
BBC Radio 4  8.10am Sunday Worship “Christ is Risen”
                                                    – with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
TV BBC 1  11.25am  SUNDAY WORSHIP Bangor Cathedral
TV BBC 1  1.15pm  Songs of Praise Katherine Jenkins celebrates Easter at a new church,
       –  St Luke’s ( C of E ) Gas Street in Birmingham
Radio 3  3.00pm Festal Evensong ( Norwich Cathedral )

See the prayer resources page for links to Chester Cathedral and other streamed Services including the National Virtual Service for Palm Sunday led by the Bishop of Manchester (on Facebook only).

From the Diocese Coronavirus Briefing No 4:

Sunday Prayer Candle

A white taper lights a white church candle

If you can join with others again at 7.00pm this Sunday night, lighting a candle in the window, please do, and as suggested by Bishop Keith, pray this psalm:

“I lift my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth"
Psalm 121

April edition of the Chester Diocesan News

For now, the CDN will only be produced as a digital download. You can get your free copy here.

Share a Prayer, Pray a Prayer

The Acting Bishop of Chester, Keith Sinclair, is inviting you to, “share a prayer and pray a prayer” as part of a diocesan-wide effort to support one another through the coronavirus crisis. 

Bishop Keith says: “We are all coming to terms with the new realities of the coronavirus pandemic. For us all this means staying at home, but even from our armchairs we can serve our communities in prayer.

“I want to encourage everyone, whatever your experience of prayer may be – seasoned regular or just dipping your toe – to try walking with God in prayer today.

“There is an abundance of prayer that can be said for our communities, NHS, police, schools, business leaders, and government, as well as for individuals and their personal circumstances.”

Prayer sheets made up of prayers requested for a wide range of situations are available at the Prayer Hub for people to download and pray in their own time. 

In addition, a discreet group of 12 volunteers is also praying day and night for sensitive situations that people may not wish to share with the wider diocese.


Are you in need of prayer?

Text or WhatsApp your prayer to 07513170210 and it will be shared with people in the diocese to pray. Or you can email your prayer to foxhill@chester.anglican.org. Prayers received will be distributed across the diocese to volunteers to pray in their own time as part of a daily rhythm of prayer.


Bishop Keith says: “To anyone who is in need of prayer, I want to say this: share it with others so that we can pray together for you and your loved ones. We all have personal concerns and anxieties, and prayer has always been a real comfort to me in a time of need.”

The team at Foxhill is helping to serve the diocese by coordinating this prayer effort after closing its doors in March. If you would like to request prayer for you and your personal circumstances, contact the team at Foxhill. Your prayer will be distributed around the diocese for volunteers to pray as part of their daily rhythm of prayer.

A man kneels in prayer silhouetted in the sunset infront of three crosses on a hill