Letter from Rev. John Downing


A spring in the step


In my garden, bulbs are bursting from the ground. Some have already finished their bright display. Others have yet to come. Nest boxes that recently were being viewed by merely prospective tenants, once again are being customised to their inhabitants’ preferences.


In the wider economy, shelves are getting stacked in readiness for a long-awaited, great re-opening by vendors of non-essential goods and services. It’s a category of shopping that makes you wonder what we got from all that retail therapy in the days of malls and outlet centres.


Vaccines are being delivered. Infection rates are dropping. Churches are dusting off their Covid risk assessments. Can we? Shall we? Will we? Won’t we?


And in the midst of it all—Easter. The season of new life. Hope born from death. A fresh start for humanity. For the entire cosmos, if the apostle Paul was right.


Broadening horizons. That’s the message of Easter. The God once thought to be the monopoly of a single people turns out to be the God who wants the whole world to be saved.


His divinity recognised by Roman overlords and their minions, Jesus spreads his arms wide to embrace the ‘chosen people’ and the unchosen alike. Figure of fun and figure of faith, he appears first to the women, whose reliability then, as now, was easily belittled by their mansplaining companions.


The new community builds cautiously. Prayerfulness is the key to their early development. Only when the Spirit comes with Pentecostal fire do things take off. Faith then spreads like a pandemic, spread by viral personal testimony.


And for our own communities of faith, here in Reading, what next? The olden days are past and gone. The new have yet to come. But hints of wider horizons are already with us. Linked by technologies we were ignorant of twelve months ago, there is much yet to learn.


Our crucified and risen Lord goes before us. Let’s follow on into the unexplored and unexpected places he’s going to take us.

Hope is in the air.