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A Church of England Perspective on the Coronavirus Pandemic

A Church of England Perspective on the Coronavirus Pandemic

By the Rev. John Paylor
Special to Virtueonline
March 31, 2020

This is now the second week in which churches are closed for public worship, and it is very difficult to find ourselves unable to worship in our sacred places, where, as T S Eliot says, "prayer has been valid". This is something beyond our experience, we find ourselves disoriented, the rhythms of our life disrupted so that we already wonder if we will ever recover peace of mind.

Outside our houses the roads and public places are windswept, still cold, and largely deserted. The regular news bulletins tell us statistics and give us advice, and the rising numbers world wide who are ill, or sadly have died. The supermarket aisles are hushed, friends hurry past one another on the rare occasions when we pass by nowadays, a fortunate few even wearing surgical masks, or just plain winter gloves to push the trolleys.

But if we were to enter our churches, we would see there the record of earlier times of solemnity, the war memorials and the names, some of which are still remembered by the living. Prayer has helped before, on the front, at sea, in the blitz, waiting for news of loved ones, consoling us when we must learn to live without them. Most prayer, in fact, takes place outside the walls of a church, and even if we are unable to pray in each other's presence for now, we are always in the Presence of God, who hears even before we begin to form the words.

Passion Sunday, the fifth Sunday in Lent, is the precursor to Holy Week, with readings which look ahead to the final battle in Jerusalem, and Christ's great victory over sin and death. The royal banners forward go, proclaims the great hymn for today, with Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle as an encore. The victory is already won, by Jesus, and we must remember this, as Holy Week and Easter remind us year by year. The dead bones in the valley are raised -- Lazarus is raised -- Jesus is raised -- we are raised!

The music for today is at times sombre, at times emotional, inviting us to contemplate the record of history in Israel and in the Church, in which resurrection is the goal and the destiny of our pilgrimage through life's journey. Soon it will be Palm Sunday, and soon after that comes Good Friday, and just three days later, the Resurrection. Sorrow must finally give way to rejoicing.

I may not be able to open the churches here, ring the bells, and welcome everyone to God's house, but be please be assured that I am very much here and keeping in touch, and always available to help and to pray. Please telephone or email at any time.

Here is my sacred music selection for the week beginning with Passion Sunday:

The royal banners forward go https://youtu.be/9a6COrCR5K0

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle https://youtu.be/EH7386KtQbo

Sing the ending of the fray,
O'er the Cross, the victor's trophy,
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world's Redeemer,
As a Victim won the day.

God in pity saw man fallen,
Shamed and sunk in misery,
When he fell on death by tasting
Fruit of the forbidden tree.

Then another tree was chosen
Which the world from death should free.
Therefore when the appointed fullness
Of the holy time was come,

He was sent who maketh all things
Forth from God's eternal home:
Thus he came to earth, incarnate,
Offspring of a maiden's womb.

Thirty years among us dwelling,
Now at length his hour fulfilled,
Born for this, he meets his Passion,
For that this he freely willed,
On the Cross the Lamb is lifted,
Where his life-blood shall be spilled.

To the Trinity be glory,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit,
Ever three and ever One,
One in love and one in splendour,
While unending ages run.


There is a green hill, far away 1 https://youtu.be/23rHbE27Y

There is a green hill, far away 2 https://youtu.be/JYEiS18MH8A

We sing the praise of him who died, https://youtu.be/45t_3WuX1cU

of him who died upon the cross;
the sinner's hope let men deride,
for this we count the world but loss.

Inscribed upon the cross we see
in shining letters, 'God is love';
he bears our sins upon the tree;
he brings us mercy from above.
The cross! It takes our guilt away:
it holds the fainting spirit up;
it cheers with hope the gloomy day,
and sweetens every bitter cup.

It makes the coward spirit brave,
and nerves the feeble arm for fight;
it takes its terror from the grave,
and gilds the bed of death with light:

The balm of life, the cure of woe,
the measure and the pledge of love,
the sinner's refuge here below,
the angels' theme in heaven above.


Tchaikovsky, Hymn of the Cherubim https://youtu.be/OPlK5HwFxcw


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