Keeping Hope and Joy Alive

Hello from Rev Helen Everard.

I am very happy to be writing to you and I hope that Lucy is better.

I consider myself to be a friend of Woking URC after my 2-year ministerial training placement at Woking in 2018 & 19 and I have led services occasionally since. I minister at Wonersh URC and am chaplain to the Moderator of General Assembly, the Rev Clare Downing. I enjoy catching up with Woking online services on my Sundays off.

This year, Easter falls right in the middle of April, so we spend the first part of the month journeying with Jesus up to Jerusalem. We cheer Hosanna with the crowds as he enters the city, knowing that the opposition gathers during Holy Week; we share the Last Supper, keep vigil in the garden at night, and stand at the foot of the Cross as the sky turns dark at midday, leaving Jesus in the Tomb, waiting for a glorious Easter dawn.

Then we rejoice at the news of the resurrection, we greet the risen Jesus and wonder as he appears to his puzzled disciples, yet we continue to celebrate His glorious victory. It’s actually a bit of a marathon and sometimes we find ourselves glad to get “back to normal” the Sunday after Easter, but actually we continue to marvel right up to Pentecost – Easter should go on and on!

It feels as if we ourselves have been trapped behind a stone for the past 2 years but this year we will be able to celebrate Easter together. I am looking forward to finally preaching an Easter sermon! I have led services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but never Easter Day. I just hope Wonersh church members are in good voice!

This year, as I write in March, we are very aware that it’s not all good news for many people here in the UK and around the world. Many are still getting Covid and while the vaccine has made a huge difference to how ill we get, it is still a debilitating experience (I had it at Christmas), and a threat to those of us who are not in the best of health. Then there is the war in Ukraine and the cost of living, famine in South Sudan and underneath everything, the climate crisis.

It feels still like we might be coming to the end of one difficult time, but we cannot celebrate yet. This is very much the experience of the first disciples though. They were slow to believe what they were seeing as Jesus appeared to them, they faced opposition and danger, and yet the resurrection joy and the comfort of the Holy Spirit led them to do and say great things despite their difficulties.

We believe in the resurrection. This means, I think, keeping hope and joy alive knowing that Jesus has been through the worst, the very worst that can happen. We are challenged by world events and by personal tragedies – but we cling to a saviour who burst out of a tomb, shattering the power that death has, setting at nothing the power that evil thought it had over Jesus.

At the moment, the twigs on the tree outside my window seem dead – yet new life is bursting forth if we look for it. These signs of new life bring hope and an assurance of God’s love for us, living and working in our world and our lives right now.

I look forward to celebrating with you. May God richly bless you this month.