This week on 21st March the Archbishop Cranmer blog shall be 14 years old. It seemed like a good moment to call it a day: to everything there is a season. But there is a sudden and pressing need which cannot be ignored. During this grievous time of coronavirus pestilence, great sickness and mortality, many millions of Christians all over the world are unable to attend Church as usual. Since the Archbishop Cranmer blog is read by many tens of thousands of people every day, making millions of views from across 63 countries, it is necessary to feed the wider flock until their regular teaching and worship may be restored. That must be the immediate mission: souls are starving, and man shall not live by Twitter alone.
His Grace’s Cyber Cathedral is virus free and tries to be spiritually and intellectually edifying. It can accommodate many more worshippers than your average bricks-and-mortar cathedral, though admittedly, lacking gargoyles and stained glass, it isn’t as aesthetically pleasing. It is, however, an excellent pulpit for reaching the masses, so, during this time of global crisis, if any priests, vicars or pastors have written a salient sermon and think it merits a wider congregation than the five who manged to sit in your pews on Sunday, you are welcome to submit it here. Just express an interest via the ‘Contact’ tab, and further details will be sent.
This invitation is not extended to sciolists, who currently abound on Twitter or the TV studios, often looking a bit like Piers Morgan, Owen Jones or Carole Cadwalladr. There appears to be a curious correlation between anti-Brexit constitutional experts and the new wave of virologists, epidemiologists and behavioural psychologists.
Nor is this pulpit open to those who simply want to bash Boris Johnson or Justin Welby. It is a time for mental balm and spiritual nourishment. It is also a time for loving thy neighbour, as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York exhort:
Above all we must look after one another, knowing that in an uncertain world with a new virus we are best protected with honesty, compassion and care.
Remember the example of the Good Samaritan, the story in the Bible, which speaks about the need to care for others and ensure we notice those who are in distress even if they are those who are often invisible to us.
We can find hope and courage in the goodly and wholesome spirit that is in so many ways common to all human beings, whether they are people of faith or none.
We must distinguish between a healthy fear – the beginning of wisdom, which prompts us to follow advice, and to care for those at risk – and unhealthy fear which is driven by pride, leading us to act selfishly, doing harm to ourselves and others.
With the gift of truth and hope, we can care for one another lovingly, using words if not touch because of self-isolation. We can accept advice without grumbling, out of concerns for others, even if we do not see ourselves as being at risk.
We can go out of our way to be attentive to neighbours and to those who are vulnerable. We can shop for one another.
We can help at a food bank. We can volunteer in community service. We can support those who struggle to feed their children when there are no free school lunches.
And they add: “”We make no apology for saying ‘Pray!’ Even if you scarcely can imagine how, pray! Pray for yourself, for those you love, for friends and neighbours.” A national and international crisis is an opportunity to love others while so many about us are neglectful, indifferent or selfish.
The antidote is not to carp or criticise, but to be salt and light in the world: that is the vocation of every Christian. If any of the Lord’s shepherds would like to feed a world of lambs with words of wisdom during this time of trial and tribulation, please make contact.