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As the coronavirus outbreak continues we continue to feature regular video messages from the Bishops and Archdeacons on our Diocesan YouTube channel. 

All messages have been well received and you can still view all the past messages on the channel here

Today's weekly message is from the Rt Rev Julian Henderson, Bishop of Blackburn, and the full text can be read below the embedded video. You can also download it for printing here

We know of many parishes providing information in printed form and sending via Royal Mail to parishioners who are not able to get online. If your parish is doing that, why not add these weekly messages to your future mailings? 

As we enter August, we are still in the middle of the Coronavirus world wide Pandemic. Yes, in the UK the number of infections and deaths has reduced and there has been an easing of the lockdown.

But there are still local outbreaks, quarantine can be imposed at short notice and the experts forecast a potential second wave in the winter. So the message rightly is one of caution.

However, despite all that, we are beginning to see the consequences of the pandemic work their impact into our way of life and reveal what the new normal looks like.

It is becoming apparent that the future will see a reshaping of our priorities in the national economy and in church life, what the Archbishop of York called a stripping back to essentials, learning to live within our more limited means and cutting out what we do not deem essential.

What does that look like?

  • This is a challenge to the world of work. I have been shocked to read of the large number of applications for current vacancies, revealing the scale of unemployment and the lack of jobs. A reconfiguring of the workplace away is underway, redeploying the workforce, focussing on those areas of work that are essential and contribute to the common good, roles that have gained a new dignity during the pandemic, in the health and care industry, the food supply chain, and local authority services. And in these days of the availability of the internet for many, those who are able to work from home will not have to travel as they learn to operate remotely.
  • A second area of challenge focusses on issues of lifestyle. Recent evidence shows that those who are overweight are more liable to the dangers of illhealth and the virus. This has resulted in a call to rethink diet and calorie intake, to eat more healthily and to take regular exercise. The hospitality industry and the culture of eating out has been deeply affected by the lock down. And while it is always good to have reason to go out, we have learnt we can manage quite well by eating at home. Food is a very personal matter, but we all need to adjust our diet, to eat more healthily.
  • Another area of challenge facing us all after the pandemic is the environmental one. The last four months have been called a sabbath for the environment, with fewer cars on the road and fewer aircraft in the air. Greta Thunberg must be delighted. Decisions about what is necessary travel should influence whether we go or stay, the holiday industry is likely to recalibrate and attempts to reach the church’s carbon neutral deadline by 2030 should affect our use of energy. We must listen carefully to the voice of nature as we address climate change. The scourge of plastic waste also has to be addressed by suppliers using more recyclable materials and by purchasers steering clear of goods wrapped in plastic. As so much plastic is used, that will not be easy.
  • And one more. During the pandemic we have been faced with the ongoing racism in much of our culture and institutions. The Black Lives Matter protests all round the world have brought to the fore what has been highlighted many times, that discrimination is unacceptable. The new emerging normal needs to be around a better way of treating others and that is with respect and dignity.

So when I say we have to reshape the way we live after the pandemic, even though it is not yet fully passed, it is going to be quite a challenge, giving up on certain things, creating new priorities, changing mindsets and patterns of behaviour and handing on to the next generation a more sustainable pattern of behaviour and a cleaner world.

One biblical verse comes to mind to address this challenge and it is one that is repeated several times in various contexts and is applicable to church life and life in general. Let me quote from Galatians 6.7

‘Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. For you reap whatever you sow.’  In many ways we are reaping today what we have sown in the past. My prayer is that we will sow now that which will lead to a good harvest in our nation, our local communities and our churches.

Thank you for listening.