A message to the Diocese of Norwich from Bishops Graham, Alan and Jonathan
17 March 2020
The Bishops of Norwich, Thetford and Lynn have written a letter of reassurance to everyone in the Diocese in the midst of COVID-19 fears.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Further to the letter from the Archbishops, we write to assure you of our prayers and loving support.
Mother Julian of Norwich lived through anxious times with plagues and uprisings. In her anchorite self-isolation, whilst still hearing the bustle of the street outside, she had a vision of God speaking to her.
“He did not say, ‘You shall never have a rough passage, you will never be over-strained, you will never feel dis-eased’; but he did say, ‘You will never be overcome.'”
We live in anxious times and we are conscious that many long to hear God say in our own day, “You will never be overcome.”
As we enter these next few weeks and months, we are encouraging the whole Diocese of Norwich to do everything with these principles in mind:
To seek to be a Church of living hope.
“Hope is love stretched into the future”, wrote the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf, and during this time we need to keep our eyes on the horizon of God’s Kingdom.
To follow government and national church guidance.
“We who are many are one body in Christ and individually we are members one of another”, wrote St Paul, reminding us that as a series of interlinked local communities the Church receives wisdom that has been distilled and given to us for the good of all.
To continue to pray.
We know that at the heart of our life as Christians is prayer and we hear the voice of the Psalmist afresh in our own time, “I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer”.
To strive to keep each other safe and to practice kindness.
Through our actions and the ways we will minister, we want to do all we can to protect our clergy, lay leaders, congregations and neighbours, asking God to “keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me under the shadow of your wings”.
To prioritise pastoral care.
We love and serve our neighbours, as Christ calls us, when we reach out to the vulnerable, those self-isolating, and those who are anxious; offering them our help, support and prayers, because we believe that “The church is the Church only when it exists for others” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).
We encourage you to look at the Church of England’s website for regular updates in this fast-changing picture and resources for prayer.
God of compassion,
have mercy upon this nation and our world in this time of fear and confusion:
we bring before you those who are suffering and who tend to their needs;
may those in isolation know your comfort and company
and may neighbours show your love in works of care, kindness and prayer;
we pray for the National Health Service and all engaged in scientific research
and we pray too for those upon whose shoulders
the yoke of leadership rests,
that in their conversation and communication
your still small voice may be heard;
we ask this in the power of the Holy Spirit,
through the One who stretched out his hands to bless and to heal
even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We thank you for your prayers and for your care of others.
And we assure you that you are each much in our prayers at this time as we seek new ways of being Church to serve our nation.
With every blessing.
+Jonathan, Bishop of Lynn ~ +Graham, Bishop of Norwich ~ +Alan, Bishop of Thetford