The Bishops of Lichfield, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Worcester have all written messages for worshippers across the Diocese of Lichfield and Worcester to offer their thoughts on the past year and their hopes at Easter.
The Bishop of Lichfield, Right Reverend Dr Michael Ipgrave, said he had lit a candle in the shelter of his garden during the first national lockdown, having traditionally done so outside Lichfield Cathedral.
He said: “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.”
Dr Ipgrave reflected on the struggles of the previous year and the grief and sorrow that so many had gone through and compared it to the feelings of Jesus’s friends, having seen his battered body two thousand years ago.
He also compared the feeling of hope they experienced at his resurrection to the feelings of hope many people around the world are feeling this Easter.
He said: “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 pandemic, which means literally something which affects all people.”
The Bishop of Wolverhampton, Right Reverend Clive Gregory, spoke about the idea of Christianity in relation to the 2021 Census and how it could thrive in the modern day.
He said: “There has been some speculation in the media about whether this year’s census will, for the first time, show less than 50 per cent of the population identifying as ‘Christian’.
“But perhaps the real story should be that over 2,000 years after his death, such a huge number of people in the UK and about a third of the world’s population, should still be willing to identify themselves as followers.
“This by following a religion associated with a wandering Jewish preacher and teacher who never had any wealth or status, and was only in the public eye for about three years before he was put to death as a criminal in his early 30s.
“That such a life, and death, should give birth to a world religion that is still thriving after two millennia does not make any sense at all, humanly speaking.”
Bishop Clive also said the events of the first Easter were equally baffling, but said the belief in Jesus as a living presence is what unites Christians across the globe and throughout history.
He said: “Countless people that I have spoken to during this uniquely challenging year have said that it is their faith that has got them through.
“I have no doubt that it has also been faith that has helped to get society through, as faith so often provides the motivation for the acts of loving kindness we have seen so much evidence of this year.
“Many things will not be possible this Easter, but churches will be open and the joyous mystery of Jesus’ resurrection will be celebrated, not as a past event in time, but as a present reality, through which lives are transformed and communities blessed.”
The Bishop of Worcester, Right Reverend Dr John Inge, said that the world had been confronted with death in a spectacular and shocking way over the last year, but said it did not have the last word.
He said: “When God raised Jesus from the dead, it was made clear for all to see that his love is stronger than death and stretches out into all eternity.
“Easter can give hope in the face of the terrible death toll of this last year, and in the face of our own mortality, in a way that nothing else can.
“Yet many people find resurrection difficult to believe. As a former scientist, I don’t.
Dr Inge reflected on the words of his late wife Denise and how she viewed the idea of resurrection.
He said: “As my late wife, Denise, wrote shortly before she died: ‘The whole of human history is littered with things that were once deemed impossible’.
“We know so much about matter and energy, but there is also much that we do not yet know and our knowledge is always changing.
“Five hundred years ago, no one imagined light bulbs, or space travel, or genetic engineering.
“A decade or two ago saying we are made of star dust would have sounded like the stuff of a fairy tale, and now it sounds like particle physics. So I do not find it hard to imagine the possibility of a bodily resurrection.”
He finished by saying he agreed with his late wife and looked at the idea of resurrection. He said: “Resurrection is not just about the future, though: it’s about the here and now. It can bring meaning and purpose and hope. May it do that for you this Easter, as it has for millions over hundreds of years.”
The Bishop of Dudley, Right Reverend Martin Gorick, reflected on where the world was a year ago, looked at the pain and loss of the last year, but also looked at the hope many people now had.
He said: “This time last year, we were just into lockdown number one.
“Now, 12 months later, 125,000-plus deaths, every person, every family affected. The pain and loss has already been immense. The grief and cost of Covid will be with us for years to come.
“But there is always hope. Hope seen in acts of kindness. NHS staff giving their all and sometimes their lives.
“Tens of thousands of volunteers helping neighbours, the housebound and now delivering vaccines by the million. They have filled me with hope.”
The bishop also looked at the story of Easter and how it could help to inspire people going forwards.
He said: “The story of Easter begins with darkness, division and death, as Jesus is nailed to a cross of wood to die as a criminal. He was crucified, dead and buried.
“But that wasn’t the end. On Easter Day Christians around the world celebrate Jesus risen from the dead.
“Christians have discovered that life with Jesus begins now, and lasts forever. That’s why there is always hope.
“The crucified Jesus comforts us in our fear and grief.
“The risen Jesus inspires us to come together as one, and to share his love and new life with others.”