The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd John McDowell, and the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Dr Michael Jackson, have issued the following message of thanks and encouragement to all members of the Church of Ireland following the announcements of the easing of Covid-19 restrictions:
We write with great thankfulness to God and heartfelt gratitude to you, as we on this island begin to adjust to the lifting of public health restrictions on many aspects of our lives. The speed with which this has happened has taken many of us by surprise, and it will no doubt take some time for each of us to adjust, not only our social arrangements, but also our mental outlook in the months ahead.
Of all the seasons of the year Spring comes most gradually; the anticipation we see in snow drops, then in cyclamen and daffodils. Then we notice the greater intensity and variety of birdsong at dawn and the vibrant loveliness of cherry blossom against still grey skies. Finally, there comes the full opening up of leaves on the trees as the annual rebirth of nature arrives in its full form.
This may be how it happens for us in terms of our greater participation in social and parish life, as we feel this renewed sense of optimism grow into the confidence that we are at a new point in our lives at which we can live with Covid-19, without imperilling our health services or putting vulnerable people in harm’s way.
In our genuine sense of relief and perhaps enthusiasm to “get going again,” we need also to remember those for whom the past two years have been much more than an inconvenience or a nuisance. There are families who have lost loved ones in the most chilling of circumstances; all who have worked in the health services and in the care sector, often putting the welfare of others before their own well-being, along with those who have maintained education and other essential services at all levels. People who are utterly exhausted by the experience of worry, loneliness and stress over two long years cannot be left behind. Children and young people who have missed out on experiences which simply will not come round again need to be nurtured and encouraged.
We wish to thank all who have worked so hard in parishes up and down this island, both in maintaining the worship and witness of the Church and in serving their communities, often in partnership with other organisations. We also thank all who have worked and prayed and persevered. We have passed through a uniquely difficult time which has placed great demands on practical discipleship. And it has been for all of us a time when nothing could be taken for granted. Now we are emerging into the light.
Risk assessments will continue to be a feature of parish life, and each of us, clergy and lay people, will need to make many judgements about exactly how and at what pace we move into our greater freedoms. At the same time there is a new sense of hope. There is an appropriateness in making this cautious journey through Lent and into Easter. Not in the sense of forty days of long faces, followed by an exhausted smile. Instead in a spirit of quiet preparation for the fullness of the resurrection light of Easter; God’s final and irrevocable act is that he has not let the world slip from his grasp, but has rescued and redeemed it in his Son.