The burden of suffering from Covid-19 will not be evenly shared, warn Church leaders as day of prayer called
Ireland's Church leaders have thanked those who 'walk towards the danger' of Covid-19 to help others and issued a call to national prayer, writes William Scholes
THE leaders of Ireland's Churches have called for a special time of prayer on Palm Sunday in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"As we look to Him with our pastoral and practical concerns during these unparalleled times, as the island battles this pandemic, standing alongside other denominations and Christian organisations, we are today issuing a call to pray," they said.
Following a meeting held by video conference, they also paid tribute to health and social care staff "who have walked towards the danger".
In a joint statement, the Church leaders acknowledged that Covid-19 restrictions meant that "we can no longer gather and 'be church' in the traditional way".
We want to thank everyone in our health and social care services and those working on the frontline for their courage as they work to minimise the suffering caused by coronavirus. Alongside our chaplains and pastoral teams, they have chosen to walk towards the danger
However, "the call to live out the Gospel as agents of God's mercy and compassion through the sacrifices that we make to protect the vulnerable, and by finding new ways to be Good Samaritans and good neighbours" remained "as powerful as ever".
"To all who are suffering, have lost loved ones and are anxious in these unprecedented days, we pray that you may find strength and comfort in the loving presence of Christ who promised to be with his people always," they said.
The statement was published in the names of Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, Methodist President the Rev Sam McGuffin, Presbyterian Moderator Dr William Henry, the Church of Ireland Archbishop-elect of Armagh John McDowell and the Rev Brian Anderson, President of the Irish Council of Churches.
"As Church leaders, we want to thank everyone in our health and social care services and those working on the frontline, for their courage as they work selflessly to minimise the suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic," they said.
"Alongside our chaplains and pastoral teams, they have chosen to walk towards the danger for our sake.
"We owe it to them to play our part in limiting the spread of this virus by staying home and practising social distancing when we need to go out."
One outcome of the crisis has been a "heightened awareness of our interconnectedness and interdependency".
There is also "a new recognition of the vast array of jobs that are essential to the functioning of our society".
"All our workers, whether called into service at this time, or asked to stay home, need to be adequately protected," they said.
We are all called to make sacrifices, but the burden of suffering will not be evenly shared
Amidst the suffering and anxiety, there were also "many signs of hope".
"The speed with which local communities, involving churches, community groups, charities, businesses and other local community leaders, who have mobilised in response to this unprecedented challenge, has been a great reassurance to many," they said.
"We still have a long way to go in the fight against Covid-19 and its consequences.
"We will need many volunteers for our health service and to protect the vulnerable.
"Charities that provide much-needed support also need donations, so please consider giving online.
"We are all called to make sacrifices, but the burden of suffering will not be evenly shared."
The rhythm and pattern of everyday life has been thrown into upheaval and flux by Covid-19.
"There is however one constant throughout - an ever-loving God who tells us, 'So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand'," they said, referring to the words of Isaiah 41:10.
In the midst of this global pandemic, we turn to Jesus in our time of need
The call to a special time of national prayer on Palm Sunday was in keeping with the Christian belief that "prayer sustains our life as followers of Christ".
"In the midst of this global pandemic, we turn to Jesus in our time of need," they said.
"As Church leaders, we join together in calling all our people to pray.
"As we begin the journey through Holy Week towards Good Friday and Easter, we invite all Christians from across the whole Church to join in prayer on Palm Sunday, April 5, from 3pm to 4pm - remembering that we should only gather to pray within our own households, in line with government advice."
They suggested that prayer should be offered for:
- Those who are sick and those feeling fearful
- Those who have been bereaved
- Those who are isolated and alone
- Healthcare professionals, delivery drivers, essential workers and all who continue to work on the frontline
- Those fearful about their employment
- Those reaching out to provide food and shelter
- Families and friends, neighbours and civic, business and political leaders for the inevitable challenges that will arise in the coming days
- Those across the world who are similarly suffering
- Those working hard to produce new treatments and vaccines
"Though we cannot meet as the gathered Church, we will end the hour united in prayer, asking for the Lord's healing touch on our land and all its people," the Church leaders pledged.
"All are invited to pray, regardless of where they are in their own journey of faith, even if they have never prayed before.
"At this critical moment we will bring this land and our world before our loving God in prayer remembering that, 'We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy'."