Dean John writes…
The psalmist of the Old Testament once lamented the fact that he hadn’t been able to go to the temple. “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” He tries to take courage by trusting in God, “Why are you so cast down, O my soul, and why are you so disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
We can understand something of this in these troubling days when all our church buildings are closed and yet when there is a greater need than ever to turn to God for strength and encouragement. It is with a very heavy heart that we at Ripon Cathedral are following national guidelines and have now closed the cathedral building for both public worship and private prayer.
The important thing, however, is that this does not mean that we in the cathedral community have stopped praying – far from it; both the clergy and many members of our congregations are saying prayers every day for the people of the city, region and nation. We also have a large number of volunteers prepared to support others in practical ways, remembering that the church is called to serve the world in its needs. And at the same time we are still very clear that God is with us in every situation.
It is very encouraging to see how many people in the community have been offering their services to help others; it’s reassuring that North Yorkshire County Council has been working with a number of organisations across the region to provide local hubs to co-ordinate voluntary support.
Here in Ripon that is Community House and we certainly pray for the people who will be staffing that critical centre. I have assured them that the cathedral – as with Ripon Together and other voluntary organisations within the city – is on hand to support as and when needed. The emphasis is very much on people looking to family, friends and trusted neighbours in the first instance. Our willing team of cathedral volunteers will do what they can to help you out if you need them – you can call the office number 01765 603462.
Reassuringly, the county council is also providing a number 01609 780780 – for those in need.
The church in the region is also looking this week at how we might support the work of hospital chaplains.
Weddings cannot now proceed and funerals cannot now be conducted in our church buildings. The clergy will be conducting short services at the crematorium or the graveside. It will be important for families to know that memorial services will be possible, once things have returned to normal. We will make provision for these within the cathedral diary, knowing that there will also be an ongoing need for pastoral care.