The first of our ‘virtual’ services was held at Newport Cathedral today.
The Eucharist was live-streamed at 10.30am, but there is still chance to watch it here https://youtu.be/o9DB74PPX9U
Bishop Cherry, says; “This is not the way that any of us were expecting to be celebrating Mothering Sunday. Our churches and cathedrals empty of those who would normally have been joining us. Mothers sitting alone in their homes; their children unable to travel to visit. Families prevented from going out to celebrate. Mothers and children of all ages keeping a painful distance from those they love and want to hug in care and gratitude. Some, we have to remember, already ill with the virus.
“We continue, of course, with thanksgiving to God for our mothers wherever they are and with prayers for those whose mothers have died, particularly those recently bereaved. But our services today, however we’re taking part, will be covered with a blanket of additional emotions : fear, worry, anxiety and a sense of helplessness in the face of what we’re having to cope with.
“The gospel reading that we’ve just heard read is one of those set for Mothering Sunday and it reminds us that motherhood can bring with it not only the deepest of joys, but also the deepest of sorrows. To see the flesh of your flesh, the one that you physically birthed into the world suffer and die is an anguish particular to mothers. And Mary would have felt that, watching her son die on the cross, just like any other mother does at the sight of her child suffering.
“The first time I began to have any sense of this at all was when I was around 12 years old and I stayed out much much later one evening than I’d been told to. In an age well before mobile phones, there was no way of contacting me or discovering whether I was ok or not. I arrived home, probably getting on for 2 hours late to find my mother sobbing her heart out in a desperate state. Tears of aching love and worry turned into tears of anger and then relief as we hugged. I hadn’t realised until then that my mum loved me, that much.
“Mary’s love for Jesus kept her at the foot of the cross. She’d have been at a distance, not least because being nailed to a cross, Jesus would have out of reach. No chance of touching, never mind hugging. But when many others, like the disciples, would have stayed away, unable to bear the harrowing sight of their friend, their teacher and leader being crucified, Mary, his mother, stayed. She stayed to the end because of her great love, and that would have made all the difference to Jesus, even at a distance.
“The situation with which we’re living today has been described as unprecedented, extra-ordinary, even apocalyptic. Many of us are frightened and fearful for the future – our own future, but also the futures of those we love and may be separated from, the future of our communities, our country and even the world when this is all over. And integral to that fear is our sense of helplessness. There seems to be little or nothing we can do to change anything or to make it better.
But that’s not true. For God is at work in the world and in our lives no less now than he was three months ago. And those of us who’ve responded to Jesus’s call to follow him are also called to join in with what God is doing now.
There may be nothing we can do to alter the course of the pandemic, apart from strictly following all the government advice. But we can, like Mary, stay alongside, remain present and thereby connected; spiritually, psychologically and emotionally, even if not physically.
“First we can stay present to God through our prayer and worship. One of the amazing things that’s happened in the last week is the flurry of activity to provide resources for use at home, whether paper copies of prayers and services or videos that people can watch and join in with. We’ve discovered and started using digital ways of connecting with one another in the moment, to pray and worship and even do bible study together. And I’m very aware that this is not the only Eucharist being live-streamed today. We can remain in communion with God and with the family of the church, even as we sit alone in our homes.
“Secondly, as well as being present to God, we can stay alongside one another, by continuing to pray for one another but also by staying connected. Phone calls, cards and letters are always very welcome, even in this digital age and I know that some churches have arranged a rota of phone calls so that those living on their own who don’t have access to the internet can feel in touch and cared for. Doing all we can to help people feel they’re still connected is going to be increasingly important as the weeks and months go by.
“And thirdly, we can suffer with. We too, like Mary, can stand at the foot of the cross in prayer alongside all who are suffering and in pain – not just those who are ill and dying but the bereaved and lost, the overworked and exhausted, the frightened and the lonely. Followers of Jesus are invited to respond to the pain and agony of the world with love and compassion, just as he did. For love changes everything, even in a pandemic. It brings shafts of light in the darkness, glimmers of joy and hope in despair and even moments of life in the face of death.
“May God bless each one of you this Mothering Sunday, wherever you are. And, in these challenging times, may you know within yourselves, his love and joy and peace which are everlasting. Amen