16 March 2020
By Bryan Smyth
The Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork Paul Colton has taken the exceptional step – for the first time ever in his 21 years as Bishop – of releasing his monthly one-page open letter online. Previously it was published in the Cork, Cloyne and Ross Diocesan Magazine only.
Bishop Colton’s Monthly Letter to Cork, Cloyne and Ross
I am writing this to you on my 60th Birthday. I am beginning to feel that, having lived on three continents and seen much, I have seen a lot. Many of you in the Diocese have known me longer than I have known myself! But even those of you who are around longer haven’t seen it all, it would seem. When have we ever seen it all? Never. But we do learn lessons from the past in order to live now.
We are truly living in strange and bewildering times. When I say that people have lived through such times before, in our communities locally, nationally, and worldwide, that is not in any way to diminish our own sense of anxiety and vulnerability at this time. Almost certainly by the time this issue of the Diocesan Magazine gets to you (however it does) things will have changed again; they are changing by the hour, yet alone the day.
On two occasions in recent days I have been in contact with all of the clergy personally in the Diocese who I’ve been able to make contact with. I’ve been messaging ministers – lay and ordained – involved in ministry. The staff in our Diocesan Office have already put in place new technologies for our communication with each other. Many times a day I am in touch with some of my episcopal colleagues.
The one thing ALL of these chats have in common is our shared concern to do the right and responsible thing. About key matters, people – clergy and laity alike – are not agreed on how we should proceed. We are a small Church and Diocese that draws on very limited resources, stretched to the limit at a time of emergency. Against this backdrop, wanting to do the right thing at every turn, I concluded that the safest thing at every stage is to follow Government advice and the HSE guidelines. These, no doubt, will change. We have also been asked repeatedly, while assessing risk in our situations, not to be impetuous about taking unilateral actions. I do urge everyone to rely on those official sources too: online and by telephone if need be: 1850 24 1850 Please help neighbours without internet to be aware of the guidance coming from the State. Radio news is a valuable resource.
We draw strength, I hope, from our faith. The Good News is still good news in times of great trouble and fear. As Christians we proclaim it and we share it, lovingly and practically, with those who are most affected at this time, and least in a position to feel that there is much that is ‘good’ for now.
Following the tragedy of the death of Moses, and when the children of Israel faced the task of pressing on into the unknown, we read that God told them to carry on, and said to Joshua their leader ‘Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
✞ Paul Cork: