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I think recently our sense of togetherness has been challenged because our church services and church activities have been suspended, physical contact and any meetings minimised, socially distanced or avoided. It is hard to maintain our fellowship without physical contact, church services etc. Of course, the Internet connects us all, we use on-line faith resources, email and video call each other, arrange Zoom meetings and Zoom and streamed services. We do enjoy this “virtual togetherness”, however it cannot replace the social part of our fellowship.

Coronavirus spread is the context for One World Week at the end of this October, during which we celebrate our togetherness and oneness, as usual. The central theme for this year is “It’s Our World – Let’s make it better.”

The Coronavirus crisis has seen huge changes in most of our lives: sadly, tragedy for some and lasting health problems for many, financial difficulties for ordinary people and great concerns for our churches, some of the URC churches might not even survive the lack of letting incomes for several months. Also, it is hard to maintain the unity between our churches and ecumenical partners. Simply, unity seems to be a contradiction in our world, in which self-isolation, and social distancing are the reality of everyday life.

It is not. I believe we can be more united than ever. Social distancing is necessary. Relational distancing is not. Let’s seize the opportunity to check on our neighbours, phone and email our church members, make the most of our Zoom meetings and experience a kind of growth in numbers when it comes to Zoomed and streamed services. Technology can help in keeping contact with our friends and churches for the time being. One World Week reminds us that if we distance ourselves from each other in our relationships, we are worse off.

To the contrary let’s make this world better by maintaining our relationships, keep praying for those who are unwell or feeling lonely. Let’s make our world better by our being sympathetic, sensitive to the needs of others, grateful to God for our resources which we can share more justly in our world, by going back to a harmonious state with nature – with much less environmental polluting! -, in which we respect and care for creation and do not exploit it.

I believe we are united in the primary concern of One World Week: Make our World better: fairer, more just, Greener. Can we build on signs of hope in major changes in the world to work for a future which is not just “back to normal? Many are arguing against the idea of going back to what we thought was ‘normal’ but was destroying the natural systems of the world we depend on and created huge social inequalities. So let’s make this the moment to choose a new way of living where we come together to take care of each other and our world – Let’s make it better.

With love and prayers, John