**The below reflection is published by kind permission of Methodist Minister Rev'd. Dr. Julie Lunn. It was first published on Monday in Theology Everywhere. All are welcome to subscribe.**
Coronavirus leaves me feeling conflicted.
On the one hand I am deeply sad about the number of those who have died and continue to die from the virus and those who have contracted it. I feel for the families who have lost loved ones, and whose loss and grief is compounded by not being able to say goodbye in person, or to attend funerals. I feel for those who are our front-line NHS workers; who risk their lives daily through their deep faithfulness to their work, and commitment to bring healing, to preserve life, and to help others whatever the cost. I am so thankful for them and I wish they did not have to go through it.
I also feel frustrated that in the UK we did not act more quickly to deal with this virus. I watch the daily update on the BBC news app – tracking the very gradual decline of infections and deaths, and, although I know it’s going to be slow, I long for the numbers to plummet, for the decline to be rapid, for the virus to be gone.
And on the other hand I am conflicted because I love the streets being quieter, I love the air being cleaner, I love the more frequent visit of birds – and an increasing variety of species – to our garden (probably because we now have time to feed them each day). I like the quietness, I like being at home, and not driving to work each day, navigating traffic queues, breathing petrol fumes. And I am very glad about the decrease in global carbon emissions – that’s a chink of light in the dark place of this pandemic.
So what are we to do with all that? As Christians where is God’s call to us? God’s movement is always towards redemption. It seems to me that we are called to work in tandem with God to redeem the loss, grief, suffering, danger, death, and pain, and to make those chinks of light a permanent outcome for the whole of God’s creation.
The Carbon Brief website states:
Pre-crisis estimates of GDP growth suggested CO2 output might rise by around 1% … in 2020. But even if this previously expected growth is deducted from the estimated coronavirus impact, the … effect is so large that it would still result in the largest annual fall in CO2 emissions ever recorded, in records going back to the 18th century.[i]
A recent Guardian editorial put it like this:
It’s too soon to say with any confidence what impact coronavirus will have on the climate emergency. The brakes placed on economic activities of many kinds, worldwide, have led to carbon emission cuts that would previously have been unthinkable: 18% in China between February and March; between 40% and 60% over recent weeks in Europe. Habits and behaviours once regarded as sacrosanct have been turned on their heads: road traffic in the UK has fallen by 70%. Global air traffic has halved.[ii]
That’s a chink of light. I am convinced that God’s redemption is for the whole world and not just human beings. ‘God so loved the world that he sent his only Son…’ (John 3:16). Is this drastic reduction in carbon emissions a tiny rebalancing of the relationship of humanity with the environment? A hint of Jubilee?
But it isn’t all sweetness and light. It comes with a warning. The trend has to continue. Unless carbon emissions continue to decrease, any gain will be lost. Each year we need a similar drop in emissions until, says Glen Peters from Cicero, ‘net-zero emissions are reached around 2050’.[iii]
There are a number of theological themes which emerge from this danger and possibility. There are chimes here with the prophetic warnings of the Old Testament. Jeremiah (9:10-14) connects the destruction of the land with the faithlessness of God’s people. ‘Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? And the Lord says” “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, or walked in accordance with it…”’. Northcott comments on such prophetic warnings, ‘The devastation of the land is not only seen as the judgement of a vengeful God. It is also interpreted as the consequence of the human rebellion against the created order and wisdom of nature.’[iv] There is a disconnect between humanity and the rest of the created world, which should not be, which is not God’s intention.
Theological themes emerge from the New Testament too. The Guardian editorial cited earlier continues, asking, ‘Could the renewed shock of human vulnerability in the face of Covid-19 make way for an increased willingness to face other perils, climate chaos among them?[v] As Christians we know about vulnerability. It is at the heart of our understanding of the Incarnation and Atonement. We’re not afraid of it, but respectfully embrace it, because God has been there.
So how do we catch up with those who are going before us, and help lead the way in facing the perils of climate chaos? This is arguably the biggest challenge and witness the church faces in this generation. How do we pray, work, act for governments, institutions and individuals to decrease carbon emissions, turn to green energy, reduce consumption and change our lifestyles? What will we do? What will you do? What can your church do to decrease carbon emissions? Can we use our video-conferencing that we have become suddenly familiar with, more? Can we use less car travel? Less air travel? Produce less waste? Do more working from home?
I’m going to make my own oat milk (Google it) and get on my bike.
Rev'd. Dr. Julie Lunn
Lecturer in Practical and Social Theology, Nazarene Theological College
[iv]Michael S. Northcott, The Environment and Christian Ethics. (Cambridge: CUP, 1996), 171.
This evening, Thursday 21st May, will see the North Cheshire Circuit's streamed weeknight worship service.
Please come and join us from 7pm at:
On Sunday 10th July 2005, a Service of Celebration and Final Act of Worship was held at Union Church, Frodsham, the church having been a living witness in Frodsham since 1886.
Joan Pollen, who we remember with great fondness at Frodsham Methodist Church, was the Church Secretary and along with other members of her family was a life-long member of Union Church. As part of the last act of celebration Joan wrote these words:
“In 1878, in an Old Mill Room by the River Weaver, two men, Mr John Jackson a Baptist and Mr Thomas Rigby a Congregationalist, started a Sunday School. The following year a United Church of Baptists and Congregationalists was formally established and over the next seven years it flourished, so much so that most of the present building, which includes the Baptistry, had been erected and opened for worship. The site had previously held a rather unsavoury tavern, which had been notorious for its association with the men constructing the railway, and a few cottages.
The church was completed in March 1887 and on Sunday 27th of that month the members and Sunday School scholars assembled for the last time in the Mill Room and processed to the new church singing the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee”.
The church was called “Union” indicating the origins and constitution from both Baptist and Independents.
Union was and is a very friendly and caring church and has always tried to give visitors a warm welcome. Many neighbouring residents look upon it as their church. Former Junior Church members get married here and bring their children for baptism, and funeral services are conducted for older, long-standing members.
Thank you all.
Throughout her ministry Joan inspired and cared for many who were part of both Union Church and the close community that surrounded it. At the final service crosses were distributed to those present with these words, which give us hope and assurance still today:
As you hold this cross,
may you rejoice in the knowledge that God’s love is indestructible.
May you know that nothing can separate you from the
love of God,
neither life nor death, things present or things to come.
The cross is the sign that nothing in all creation,
nothing at all,
can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Holy, Holy, Holy, performed by the Virtual Choir of St John’s Woking:
A blog post from George (9) and Bev (not 9)
April was Autism Awareness month but we are now in May and we personally didn’t get to do anything to promote Autism Awareness (or even better Autism Acceptance). So today we are going to hi-jack the church blog to share some thoughts about Autism.
George is awesomely autistic, so he is the expert here, Bev (mum) is just going to help a bit.
Autism is not an illness, it means your brain works in a different way to most other people. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently. Autistic people share certain traits but being autistic will affect each person in different ways.
Many autistic people have repetitive behaviour, big interests, they might feel and see things differently and often struggle with speech and non verbal communication. Sometimes we only want to focus on a couple of things and some of us don’t need much sleep or can’t sleep because we are thinking. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues and other conditions. Each autistic person is unique and will need different kinds of support.
A lot of difficulties that Autistic people experience is because the world doesn’t really think about us... at shopping centres the lights are too bright and the music too loud for many autistic people to cope with. They change this during Autism Hour.
Sometimes people say ‘we are all a bit autistic’, what they often mean by this is that there are some parts of Autism that they are able to relate to. Commonalities can be really helpful in enabling people to understand each other but only 1% of the population has a diagnosis - so we are quite rare! People with a diagnosis generally have an experience that goes way beyond what people outside of it experience. Sometimes the tendencies can be seriously disabling, especially because our society in general, isn’t designed with autistic people in mind.
People can help autistic people by turning the lights down but this won’t help all autistic people, I really like disco lights, so the best thing really is to just ask.
Autistic people can also help you because we have some great ideas.
People make guesses about autistic people but the guesses might be wrong, the best thing is to just ask.
In Philippians 2:4 St Paul says ‘Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.’
It’s good to understand one another!
George and Bev
This Thursday, 21st May, is Ascention, the rising of Jesus’ body into heaven forty days after his Resurrection. After the very first Ascension Day, the disciples gathered with Mary, constantly devoting themselves to prayer while they waited for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Like them, our reliance on the gift of the Holy Spirit is total – on our own we can do nothing.
Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement that invites Christians around the world to pray from Ascension to Pentecost for more people to come to know Jesus. This year it will start this Thursday, 21st, and run to Sunday 31st May.
During these 11 days of Thy Kingdom Come, it is hoped that everyone who takes part will:
1) Deepen their own relationship with Jesus Christ
2) Pray for 5 friends or family to come to faith in Jesus
3) Pray for the empowerment of the Spirit that we would be effective in our witness
Whether you have joined in Thy Kingdom Come before or not (like me), we are all invited to take part this year – along with churches from over 65 different denominations in 178 countries around the world.
The best ways to take part are to (by Thursday!) download a prayer journal & encourage others by joining the global prayer wave – it would be really cool to know others are taking part! An app is also available for download in the App Store & Google Play
Horatio G. Spafford was born in 1828 and was a Presbyterian layman from Chicago. As a young businessman he established a very successful legal practice and was also a devout Christian. Among his close friends were several evangelists including the infamous Dwight L. Moody and his companion Ira Sankey, also from Chicago.
Spafford built up a fortune, which evaporated in the wake of the great Chicago Fire of 1871. Having invested heavily in real estate along Lake Michigan’s shoreline, he lost everything overnight. In a saga reminiscent of Job, his son died a short time before his financial disaster, but for Spafford, the worst was yet to come. In the wake of all this disaster he decided that he, his wife and their four daughters needed a rest and he also wanted to go and join Moody and Sankey in one of their campaigns in Great Britain so he could experience, first hand, the great things they were doing in the Lord’s name.
Spafford planned a European trip for his family in 1873. In November of that year, due to unexpected last-minute business, he had to remain in Chicago, but sent his wife and four daughters on ahead as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre. He expected to follow in a few days. On November 22 the ship was struck by the Lochearn, an English vessel, and sank in twelve minutes. Several days later the survivors landed at Cardiff Bay and Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband with the words ‘Saved alone’.
Spafford left immediately to join his wife. On the Atlantic crossing, the captain of the ship called Horatio to his cabin to tell him that they were passing over the spot where his four daughters had perished. He wrote to Rachel, his wife’s half-sister “On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.” As he continued on his journey Spafford penned his great hymn, “It is well with my soul”.
Another daughter, Bertha, was born in 1878 as well as a son, Horatio, in 1880, though he later died of scarlet fever. After the birth of a further daughter Grace in 1881, Spafford and his wife moved to Jerusalem out of a deep interest in the Holy Land. There they established the American Colony, a Christian society engaged in philanthropic activities among Jews, Muslims and Christians.
For Spafford, despite the disasters that had hit him, his family and his business, he still came back to God, for as he says in the words of his hymn:
“When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well, it is well, with my soul’”.
You can listen to this inspirational song here:
Morning Worship for Sunday 17th May, will be streamed online and lead by our Minister, the Reverend Andrew Emison.
The service will start at 10am.
It can be accessed here:
Christian Aid faces a huge dilemma this year. For decades, it has relied on the generous donations of the general public to fund its overseas aid and development programmes aimed at alleviating poverty and addressing crisis situations.
Last year the total raised was in excess of £8m and engaged around 57,000 volunteers. This year, due to Covid-19, there are no door-to-door collections but we are still being encouraged to donate.
This year’s focus is on Kenya, which is experiencing its worst drought in living memory, and now has Coronavirus to contend with too. The prospect is extremely worrying. What were we all told to do to combat Coronavirus? “Wash your hands”. Well, that’s not difficult if you have soap and water.
Christian Aid is helping Kenyan’s to build water traps and dams, without which many will die from a basic lack of water and hygiene. We remember from Holy Week how when Pontius Pilate could not find any fault in Jesus he ‘washed his hands’ claiming to be “innocent of this man’s blood” (Matt 27:24).
Please let’s not “wash our hands” of the plight of our Kenyan brothers and sisters. If you can, please donate a little something to Christian Aid this year. You can do it via Christian Aid’s Just Giving page. .
Alternatively, all profits from the sale of the music CD ‘Michael Gough … in the Gallery’ are being donated to this cause. Please donate on-line, or buy the CD which is available via PayPal.
Kate McIlhagga was a minister and a member of the Iona Community until her death in 2002. Her intimate, insightful prayers and poems can really give a deeper perspective, including this one:
When the days beginning
Is dark and grim
Lighten our darkness
When my heart thuds
From one tear to the next
Lighten our darkness
When the next task
Lighten our darkness
When my mind races
Like a rat in a trap
Lighten our darkness
When all seems lost
Over the cliffs of fall
Lighten our darkness
O encompassing Love
Be our shield and our companion
Calm us as you stilled the storm
Enfold us in your loving arms
Encourage us to pilgrim with you
And surround us always
With the halo of your presence.
Kate McIlhagga, The Green Heart of the Snowdrop
This evening, Thursday 14th May, will see the North Cheshire Circuit's streamed weeknight worship service.
Please come and join us from 7pm at:
Check out our Calendar for a listing of all events.
Frodsham Methodist Church on YouTube here.
North Cheshire Circuit on YouTube here.
The reflections are written by members of our congregation.