The Bishiop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Ipgrave, reflects on an Easter morning mishap last year and the growing hope that we share as lockdown restrictions begin to life:
Every year our Easter celebrations begin by lighting a candle, while it is still dark, as a sign of the light and the hope that the risen Jesus brings to us. Most years, we do that just outside a church, with a crowd of people gathered around. Last Easter, all our churches were closed, so early on Easter morning I lit a candle in the shelter in our garden while hundreds of people watched online. It was a solemn moment as I declared: ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever; all time belongs to him and all the ages’. Then I dropped the candle on the floor and it smashed as hundreds watched. It was no longer a solemn moment. For me, it was a moment when I wondered if my world had come to an end. For everybody else, it was a moment of unexpected comedy.
We have all been through some very solemn times in the last year, as individuals, as communities, as a nation, as a world - times far more serious than being embarrassed publically online. It has sometimes felt as if our world was coming to an end, as all our plans have been shattered. For so many there has been grief, sorrow and loss. Those were also the feelings of Jesus’ first friends two thousand years ago as they saw his battered body shoved into the ground. But then something totally unexpected happened, and they found a hope they could not have dreamt of. The world became a different place for them, as they lived their lives with a new sense of purpose and care.
Many of us are on the brink of that feeling this Easter. There is a new hope abroad as vaccinations spread, as restrictions are lifted, as the world opens up to us again. We still carry burdens of sadness and anxiety, but we can see a way ahead and we can look forward to meeting and greeting one another again. As we start to do that, we remember that we all belong to one another across our one world. We have together been through a pan-demic, which means literally something which affects all people. None of us can think of our own safety alone, and our joy is not complete until all have come through this terrible ordeal. To express that practically, you might want to mark your vaccination by making a donation to Christian Aid in, in a project supported by the Church of England and the Methodist Church jointly: https://giving.tapsimple.org/online/christian-aid/diolichfield
Many of our churches are open this year, but I will be in my garden again early on Easter morning, online with my candle at 5.45am. I will try not to drop it this time, but whatever happens I know that this great feast will bring joy and hope into my heart. I pray that it may be the same for you.