Our bishops and clergy have to obey State authorities which forbid gatherings of people and impose ‘social distancing’. For the last four weeks, there have only been 8 churches open in the whole of the UK, all of them are Russian Orthodox: No Greek Orthodox, no Antiochian Orthodox, no Romanian Orthodox, no Anglicans, no Protestants, no Catholics.
Eight canonical churches for the whole country. We are besieged by Greeks, Romanians and others who are scandalised by what they see, rightly or wrongly, as their bishops’ apostasy in closing their churches down completely, not doing any services and refusing to give holy communion.
Our church in Colchester has been open for the last three weeks on Saturday mornings to give confession and communion to those who wish, individually or in family groups. The rest of the week, whenever there are no services behind closed doors, we travel to people’s homes and give confession and communion. We wash our hands, wear masks, use alcohol to clean the communion spoons and take all possible precautions.
Our parish covers 15,000 square kilometres now. It is exhausting. I have visited and am visiting and will visit Essex, East London, Suffolk, Kent and Cambridgeshire. Fortunately Fr Ion helps me in Essex and Suffolk and Fr Spasimir takes care of Norfolk.
However, this is not the USSR where churches were closed down for 70 years, this is only a temporary measure, an interruption of normality to which we shall return. But is it a preparation or rehearsal for something more sinister in a possible future? If we are being pressed to see if we are hard or soft and will resist the spirit of this world or not, we can say that we are resisting.
From the very start, this virus has been very puzzling. Clearly, this was going to be a bad flu for those aged over 70, for the long-term ill, for diabetic, smokers, drinkers etc. Clearly, tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands at least would die of its consequences (no-one actually dies of it, but of its results). It might even be as bad as, or perhaps even worse than, swine flu (500,000 mainly elderly and long-term ill dead in nine months) in 2009-10.
But no-one ever closed down the economy because of the flu. So why this time? Why commit economic suicide by closing down? How have the manipulators (the media) been manipulated? Now the internet is awash with conspiracy theories as to why. Basically, each theory is even more ridiculous then the first.
Only one idea seems to make any sense, that this is for some a sort of rehearsal, planned or unplanned, for a possible future in which we will all be controlled, our every movement, our every action controlled. Maybe we are being given a preview of what will come, a possible future – unless we resist. Maybe we are being tested to see how weak – or strong – we are. Maybe we are being warned. Maybe we are seeing whether we still have salt in us or whether our salt has lost its savour. As this Holy Week begins, it is up to us to show what we are made of. All the Holy week services can be followed at:
Full Suite of Texts for Holy Week: Readers Services for Every Day of Passion Week, For Those Homebound During the Period of Covid-19 Pandemic Restrictions | Тексты для домашнего совершения на Страстной неделе