Bishop David McClay – Pastoral Letter

To the Diocese of Down and Dromore on Sunday 22 November 2020

Beloved in Christ,

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and those you love. These are days that stretch all of us, days in which we look to Christ for wisdom and to the Holy Spirit for guidance. They are days when the church and those who follow Christ need to own the calling that is ours to love and care for our neighbours, to consider and care for the needs of others and to love God with our whole lives, proclaiming Christ faithfully in all circumstances, at all times and in every place.

In the days and weeks ahead as we deal with this awful Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions placed upon us I’m calling on all of us in our churches and parishes to respond in ways that bear witness to Christ and to his Gospel.

First, please be diligent in observing all the ways we can keep others and ourselves safe. In public places please wear a mask, observe social distancing, wash our hands often and let’s do all in our power to keep each other safe.

Secondly, please pray earnestly for all those who currently work for our health service. Many of them are at the front-line in fighting this pandemic as they literally fight for the lives of those who are sick because of this virus. Alongside praying, let’s as church congregations identify those among us who work for the health service and find ways of supporting them and their families at this time.

Thirdly, as churches please find ways of supporting local businesses who have been impacted by periods of lockdown. These include what are regarded as non-essential retail, close contact services and hospitality. This Christmas please support them by doing as much as possible of your Christmas shopping from these local businesses. Why not give gifts of gift tokens from local businesses? Please support those whose future livelihood is on the line.

Fourthly, let’s be kind in our dealings with those who are working tirelessly to serve our communities. Perhaps you are retired or because of other life circumstances have time to hand. Please use that time to pray for others who are stretched and giving tirelessly of themselves. Please speak kindly and supportively to them. Please demonstrate the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your dealings with others; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Fifthly, those of us whose income has not been impacted by Covid-19 now have a Christian responsibility and indeed the privilege of ensuring that our churches are well positioned to serve our communities. We want to bring Christ’s love in practical ways to those around us and also ensure that the message of the Gospel is being spread abroad in our parishes and beyond. So you and I whose income has not been impacted in recent days should look carefully at how we can increase what we contribute to the work of God in our church each week or month, both now and onwards into 2021.

Finally, we are set in family and in local communities. Be watchful of those around us whose lives and livelihoods are being impacted, those whose security has been shaken and even those who might be victims of domestic abuse or in other ways ‘at risk’. Let’s be mindful of them, watching out for them, prayerful for them and loving towards them.

As Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonians,

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.”

Be blessed and stay safe in the weeks ahead,

Yours in Christ