In this anxious and confusing time we find ourselves required to act against or normal instinct and keep our distance from each other in an effort to ensure our own health and wellbeing and that of our family, friends and neighbours. It can be tempting to seek new and innovative ways to circumvent the social distancing measures put in place by our government to restrict the transmission of Covid 19. Being alone is not an easy thing. Some people are much more experienced at being alone than others. Many of us have busy lives and we struggle when we aren’t busy. Over the next number of weeks and months we will be tempted to break the social distancing guidelines, perhaps by doing what would in ordinary circumstances be an act of kindness. Unfortunately, since Covid 19 arrived in Ireland, what was once a kind act could now be the means for the spreading of the virus; and, what was once considered uncaring, is now the means by which we ensure the health and wellbeing of each other.
In many ways we seem a little like Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army who is afflicted by leprosy and seeks healing by visiting the Prophet Elisha. Elisha sends a servant to meet Naaman and tells him to go and dip himself seven times in the River Jordan to cure his affliction. Naaman, who had been expecting both to meet the prophet and to witness an impressive and elaborate performance of a healing ritual by the prophet is furious and refuses to do as Elisha has directed. It is only when one of Naaman’s servants, says to him, “But Sir, if the prophet had commanded you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?” and so, Naaman swallows his pride and does as Elisha had directed and he is made well. We may find the prospect of keeping our distance from our friends and neighbours and families difficult over the coming months, but if we had been asked to do some great thing to ensure our health and the wellbeing of our families, friends and neighbours, would we not like Naaman do it? It seems like such a strange and mundane thing, to simply keep our distance from each other and wash our hands more than we normally would, but it is this that will keep us, our friends, families and neighbours well. In short, in this strange and anxious time, this is how we show love for each other. And, we can still keep in touch with each other by phone, Skype and prayer.
If you are wondering how you might keep up your prayer life at this time of church closures, we have added an Audiocast of the Sunday Service to the parish website. Recordings of the Sunday Service are posted on the website each Friday afternoon along with an Assembly for children (and adults) which contains a short Bible story and a few well known prayers. From Easter Monday a Prayer for the Day Audiocast for each day of the week will be posted on the parish website each Sunday for the following week. This takes the form of a short 5 minute prayer stop with Psalm, Reading, Canticle and intercessions that can be listened to at any time of the day. The best way to use these Audiocasts is to simply close your eyes and prayerfully follow the words of praise, thanksgiving and intercession. I hope you find these Audiocasts helpful.
A short form of Morning and Evening Prayer has also been posted on the parish website. When you click on the tab for Morning or Evening Prayer you will find the order for prayer with a different Psalm and Reading for each day, which is followed by the Gospel Canticle and the prayers. You may also like to down load the Church of Ireland’s Daily Worship App from the App Store on your phone for €1.69 which has different Psalms and readings each day, following seasons of the church year. There is also a selection of prayers for use during the Covid 19 outbreak on the parish website.
God of the good news that spreads faster than fear, God of the courage that comes from the heart: Be with us as anxieties rise, and with us as uncertainty grows. Be with us when children ask difficult questions, and with us when parents seem farther away. Remind us that to be a community does not always mean to be physically present beside those we know well but that it also means being spiritually present with those who feel very alone; and that you as our God, the God made flesh, are also the God who calls us from the tumult and tells us to be still and to know that you are God with us. Amen.
by The Revd Alex Wimberly, the Leader of the Corrymeela Community