The Dean’s Easter Message

Sunday 12 April

Well, what a strange Easter it has been – glorious weather on the one hand, but a world in continuing turmoil and searching for signs of hope, amidst the ongoing struggle against disease and death.

We long to return to something like normality, but increasingly sense that things will be very different – that old certainties will no longer apply and that we face a long journey to a ‘new normal’.

For Christians, Easter is of course a season of profound joy. It may seem crazy to talk of joy in the current circumstances but the hope that Easter brings has nothing to do with glib wishful thinking – rather, the Resurrection hope is born out of the profound suffering we recalled on Good Friday, and is seen in the Christ who continues to bear the marks of the crucifixion on his body. There will be a new beginning for us all but we shall continue to bear the scars and, God willing, recall the lessons we are learning.

For this time of testing has surely reminded us that we are one human race – the virus has not discriminated between people of different class, culture, race or faith. No one is immune and the battle to find a cure involves us all. Idiotic attempts to apportion blame, whether for its existence or for its transmission, simply reflect a lack of understanding or imagination. And how striking it’s been to see the indiscriminate care offered, not least in this city, by people of every faith and none.

What we are also learning is who are true heroes of our day. The shiny veneer of our celebrity culture has been torn away and the extraordinary dedication not just of our health care workers but of teachers, shop workers, refuse collectors, delivery drivers, undertakers and hundreds of other unglamorous, under-valued and under-rewarded professions and occupations have been revealed for the gifts they are. These are the people who have continued to keep the wheels of society turning. The supposedly unchallengeable power of so called “market forces” to determine social value has been shown to be a sham – will we remember that in the ‘new normal’?

And the importance of not doing – of silence, of stopping and listening to birdsong, of focussing on the things around us and the people we most deeply care about – is that a lesson we can learn? Do we always have to be hurrying on to the next engagement, the next exotic holiday, or might we recall how wonderful the world is on our doorstep?

And what about our faith, our Christian community, our brothers and sisters and our neighbours?

These last few weeks have seen us separated one from another, and our wonderful Cathedral standing empty. Did we take each other for granted and with it our holy place – its beauty, its liturgy, its music and above all its life of prayer? Maybe a little – but not now I guess.

When the time comes, we shall delight to return, and the biblical songs and psalms of exile and return will – as so much Scripture has in these past weeks – take on a new depth of meaning.

But meanwhile as we worship apart, like the disciples on the first Easter day, who remained isolated and immured for fear in that upper room, and found that the risen Christ came to them; may we continue to recall that he comes to us wherever we are – in our homes, in our hospitals, in our gardens, in the streets of our city. He comes to us and speaks of peace – if we will but let him.

So while we wait for the time when restrictions will be relaxed, continue to make your homes places of prayer, and whether it is watching an online Cathedral broadcast (and thank you so much to Canon Rowan especially and to the technical team who have made that worship possible) or reading the Scriptures for yourselves, let the presence of the risen Christ find a welcome with you. And continue to reflect on how we might model the Church and shape our lives to be of service to the city, the diocese and to our families, friends and neighbours when this is over. We have learnt that we are one body even when apart – how powerful we might be when we can meet and work together once more.

And just a reminder, if you are feeling isolated or have any particular need – or know someone who would value a call or a conversation – please do not hesitate to let us know.

Meanwhile the Cathedral Chapter is already beginning to reflect on what life after Covid might look like for us – what the challenges will be and what opportunities might present themselves. We are keeping in touch with all our staff, whether working from home or furloughed, and I pay tribute to all of them for their dedication and support. Over past years we have been strengthened by adversity – we have sought to learn what it means to place our trust in God and respond to Christ’s call. We shall face whatever the future brings with courage and resolve.

At the moment, I imagine we are spiritually still in the upper room with those disciples on the first Easter Day; still hurting, still perplexed, hardly daring to glimpse the possibility of a new beginning or taking the risk of believing. For them as for us, it was just beginning but as Christ spoke to them in their doubt and fear so he speaks to us: “Peace be with you, do not doubt but believe”.

May Christ the Morning Star that never sets, draw us all closer to God, and may the joy of Easter and the love of God be with you and all those you love.

Every blessing,

Chris Dalliston
Dean of Peterborough

12th April 2020

Share this page: