I said during our service this morning and will reiterate here: we The Emmanuel Group Of Churches, Northampton would love to be able to open our building for ‘private, supervised prayer’, but will only do so when we are as sure as we can be that it is safe to do so. We have a team working hard to complete all the risk assessments and other necessary preparations and precautions. We are fortunate that we have staff and remarkable volunteers who work incredibly well and so might, and I say might, be able to enable us to offer a space for prayer, reflection and pastoral support. However, if we do so, we will only do so following both the government guidelines and my strong conviction that ‘loving our neighbour’ can in times like these mean making and responding to developments prayerfully, reflectively and probably more slowly than some would like us to. It can very much mean staying at home.
We wish to do all we can to avoid being in any way responsible for illness or death – none of us know whether those are likely or not, which is enough reason for caution. As a disabled person who is leading a large parish I am aware that we have a responsibility to support the people who live here as much as we possibly can, as we have through Weston Favell Centre Foodbank and Emmanuel Coffee Shop and their remarkable work over these last three months. Many of us are vulnerable and many of us, whether categorised as vulnerable or not, feel our mortality and need of help more than we have at most times in recent history.
Be assured, we are praying for you. We are here to support you in whatever way we can, but more than that, we truly believe that God will hear your prayer whether it is in our Church building, somebody else’s Church building or in your kitchen, or even on a park bench or golf course. Of course buildings matter and some feel like very special places of connection for people with the divine. They can be sacred, indeed, but they are no more sacred than a human being who is made in the image of God – indeed to look like God and to have something of the character of people who are his daughters, sons, friends. It is not a backward step to close a building any more than it is a forward step to open it. The really important thing is the steps that we take as individuals and as a society to realise our need for help from one another and from God – we can’t manage life on our own, we weren’t designed to and when we realise that, the best thing we can do is to turn to the source of all being and life, the one for whom we are made. Our building will be open as soon as we are able to open it and I hope that when it is you will visit and that something of what you find there helps you find God. In the meantime, I encourage you, see if you can open yourself up to finding God where you are right now, even now, today. Then when the building is open you’ll find it helpful in the way it was meant to be all along.