Dean John writes…
This is a time of anxiety and uncertainty as individuals, families, communities and organisations work out the immediate and longer-term implications of the government’s advice in the face of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
We started Lent at the cathedral with the theme ‘Travelling well together’, little knowing how very perilous that road would be. Yet we do travel together even when separated and in some cases, isolated. The provisions and responses to the coronavirus threat which I outline below, are means by which we continue to journey together through the challenges and uncertainty of these coming weeks. A strength of the Christian faith is that it unites us as one in Christ Jesus.
While aiming to safeguard our staff and volunteers, Ripon Cathedral’s aim at this stage is to remain open as a place of calm encouragement where people, taking advantage of its large sacred spaces, can light candles and pray quietly – where prayer has been offered for over 1300 years. I am keen that everyone is aware of the arrangements we now have in place.
Our daily services continue but, in the light of guidance from the Church of England, these are now not open to the public; our choir has been stood down for the time being and events due to be held at the cathedral have been postponed or, in some cases, cancelled.
Naturally, it is with regret that we are taking this action but see clearly that we must play our part in safeguarding the wellbeing of people, especially those most at risk. We have started livestreaming via YouTube the daily morning and evening prayer and the 10.30am Eucharist each Sunday. So you are able to join us through this means on Sunday at 9.30am, 10.30am (Eucharist) and at 3.30pm; Monday to Friday 8.30am and 6.00pm; Saturday 8.30am and 5.30pm. Please, keep an eye on our website and social media platforms for updates.
I would like to encourage everyone to follow the call of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to keep this coming Sunday, Mothering Sunday, as a national day of prayer. Our Mothering Sunday daffodils, usually distributed in services, will be in the cathedral if you wish to come and take a posy to give to your mother. As in previous years, you may choose to leave a posy at the high altar in memory of a loved one.
As a community of Christians, now rather more dispersed than gathered, we continue to pray and join in worship – if remotely. Do join us by YouTube, if possible, or try as much as you can to pray at a time when you know we are praying in the cathedral. If you would like a new copy of the cathedral’s prayer cycle – something we use in the cathedral every day – we can email you a copy or send one in the post – just contact the office. Please, do pray for our country and the whole world, for everyone affected by the pandemic. We ask for courage for the anxious and strength for those providing medical care and essential services. Through prayer, we believe that we are making space for God to work in us and through us as we respond in practical ways to meet the needs of those who are especially vulnerable at this time.
I have been working with others in Ripon, especially Ripon Together, Harrogate and Ripon Council for Voluntary Services and North Yorkshire County Council, to ensure that we establish a system whereby those with practical needs resulting from being in isolation, can be cared for. In the darkness of the Covid-19 threat, it is heartening to see the light of those who are keen to volunteer and respond to the needs of others. I know that much of this will be done by simple, every-day neighbourliness: never to be underestimated or taken for granted. I expect that by early next week a system will have been established providing a telephone number for those who need assistance. More details of this to follow on our social media platforms. I would like to encourage us all within the community to look out for neighbours and any who may be in need, while also being responsible in caring for our own health and well-being.
Even in these unprecedented days of no public worship, the church is still very much alive and active, dispersed throughout the community. I am keen that people are reminded that God can be trusted and is a source of strength, even in the most testing of times. As Psalm 121 says, ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills: from where is my help to come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’
You may find this prayer helpful
Keep us, good Lord,
under the shadow of your mercy
in this time of uncertainty and distress.
Sustain and support the anxious and fearful,
and lift up all who are brought low;
that we may rejoice in your comfort
knowing that nothing can separate us from your love
in Christ Jesus our Lord.
With my very best wishes