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Easter invitation from Bishops Graham, Jane, and Alan

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On Ash Wednesday 2022, Bishop Graham wrote a pastoral letter to reflect on Lent and asks us to consider inviting people back to church to join in the celebration of the Resurrection; to return, reunite, rejoice this Easter:

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ

As we enter the third Lent of the pandemic, I want first to thank you for all that you continue to do in the face of many challenges and many anxieties.

I am really enjoying being back to a full programme of visiting parishes, schools and deaneries, seeing and hearing firsthand, from lay leaders, teachers and clergy, about our life together.

There is so much to be thankful for, not least the vaccines which have reduced our fears and enabled us to return to a happier pattern of life, and the beauty that we see around us as winter turns to spring.

If your heart is anything like mine, one sense of anxious waiting has been replaced by another. The cold wind of winter continues to chill us as the unfolding horrors of war are seen in Ukraine. The Russian aggression is an act of unspeakable evil in our midst.

This Lenten season will be one where we need to continue to pray for peace, both in Ukraine and in countless other places around the world where people live in fearful conflict.

The late Henri Nouwen described Lent as “a time of refocusing, of re-entering the place of truth and reclaiming our true identity.” Through self-examination and self-denial, and a deeper contemplation about the mystery and grace of God’s mercy, we discover something more about what it is to make our home with God.

During the last few weeks, I’ve gained immensely from reading David Ford’s new theological commentary about The Gospel of John. He speaks about John’s use of the word ‘abiding’ as being “that of home, dwelling, and habitation, where individuals are in long-term relationship with one another”, where the words abide in me are “as much longing and an invitation as it is a command.” Ford remarks that we are challenged to “be willing to face the truth about ourselves and be pruned and cleansed of whatever prevents bearing the fruit of love.”

That is true as much for us as individuals, local communities and for the geopolitics of the world. It is time to take stock, to re-orientate where we are going so that the poorest and most vulnerable, indeed the whole of creation, might flourish, and nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore.

Over the course of the pandemic, we have known periods of abiding, pruning and fruitfulness. We have learnt that Church is being together, both gathered in a building, as well as gathered online.

I am very conscious that there are some people within our congregations who have not returned to onsite worship, nor are attending online, and may well, as someone said to me recently, simply got out of the habit of church.

I invite you to join with me in praying for their return. Together as a congregation you might be able to identify who these people are and reach out to them this Lent. And, indeed, know of others who joined you for a period online and simply need to be encouraged to continue to be part of our life together.

With Easter approaching, this is an ideal time to invite people back to Church to join in the celebration of the Resurrection; to return, reunite, rejoice this Easter.

We will hear again those words of the risen Christ: Peace be with you. It is that post-Resurrection greeting that we long to see our world filled with, because it conveys a foretaste of the beauty of heaven.

I attach, if of use, a suggestion for an invitation poster that can be locally adapted with details of Easter services. Other invitation poster options and social media templates are also available on the diocesan website here. I would also encourage you to update your webpage as this is a significant way for people to find out about church services in their local area.

With us abiding in him, Christ sends us out to be bearers of his peace amidst the tragedies of our world. May his peace abide in us this Lent.

Yours, in Christ

+Graham Norvic: