As the cold lockdown season comes to an end, the church will have opportunities to attend online conferences to connect with God and each other as well as hear from encouraging speakers. New Wine has created a digital journal to accompany its programme, and from 1 March is releasing a thought for the day from different New Wine leaders, to help delegates to come together prepared, hungry, and ready to encourage each other. See Meanwhile the usual huge Spring Harvest events at Minehead and Skegness have been cancelled to make way for a safe socially distanced and online event that delivers what it should in a new way. These are just two of a new season of Easter celebrations that are about to break out across the nation.

Following last week’s intercessions for our Christians in Parliament as they meet up virtually to read the Bible and offer pastoral support, pray for God to anoint them as they walk alongside other people in difficult circumstances and for new opportunities to give one-to-one support. Our Christian MPs also hope to run a course exploring the Christian faith soon; please pray that those who would benefit from such a course would be able to find the right time to meet. Also, plans are being made for this year's National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. Please pray for God to give the organisers wisdom as they work out what will be feasible given the ongoing Covid restrictions. Pray that whatever format the event takes, it will be an encouragement for all who attend and a vehicle for strengthening relationships between church leaders and their local MPs.

Lent in lockdown

18 Feb 2021

We are now in the season of Lent, setting aside time to make deeper connections with the Bible and Jesus. Pray that we, the body of Christ, will not find isolation a hindrance to our Lent devotions, but rather may we all experience a renewed desire to worship, pray and study the word of God. The Bible Society is providing a free 40-day Lent email journey that includes Bible verses, images that can be saved as screensavers, video reflections and practical challenges. Resources are also available through All We Can with Lent ideas to grow faith, pray, connect with others and discover how to help change lives in marginalised communities around the world. Christians can join one of their online community groups to share faith, fellowship and be inspired by Colossians 2:17 ‘In Christ all things hold together.’

NHS staff stress

18 Feb 2021

Work-induced stress is a significant problem in the health service. Health and social care have some of the highest rates of self-reported illness due to stress, anxiety and depression. 1/3rd of ill health in the NHS is stress-related. Two of the many over-stretched UK hospitals are Guy’s and St Thomas’s, caring for hundreds of coronavirus patients, while rolling out the vaccination programme to thousands and continuing to run vital services in the hospitals and the community. Staff are re-deployed to other areas of work, to keep patients safe and support colleagues in the areas under greatest pressure. Everyone is working tirelessly - battling fear, anxiety, flashbacks and exhaustion to tackle this pandemic. A senior nurse on the intensive care unit said nothing could have prepared him and his colleagues for what they are facing. ‘You've been sent to a Covid-19 unit, then suddenly, you're on the front line. It’s just like shell shock. It hits you all of a sudden.’

The Duke of Edinburgh was admitted to hospital as a ‘precautionary measure’ after feeling unwell on the evening of 16 February. The following day a Buckingham Palace spokesperson said the 99-year-old is ‘expected to remain in hospital for a few days of observation and rest’. It is understood the decision to admit him was taken with an ‘abundance’ of caution by his doctor and he is said to be in good spirits. He does not have a coronavirus-related illness, and walked into the hospital unaided.

A star-filled video urging people from ethnic minority communities to get the Covid vaccine is being shown across commercial TV channels amid growing concern that black, Asian and other ethnic minority communities in the UK are less likely to get vaccinated. Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, and Romesh Ranganathan are among the celebrities who feature in the video, which was first released online. More stars have been added to the TV version. The BBC’s charter prevents it from taking part, but the issue was raised on BBC TV and radio programmes on 18 February. The video coordinator said, ‘We are in unprecedented times, and this pandemic disproportionately affects people from ethnic minority communities.’ Fake news about the vaccine, which has been a particular problem in the South Asian community, is addressed in the #TakeTheVaccine video.

Boris Johnson has said it is ‘absolutely right’ to take a ‘data not dates’ approach to leaving lockdown, stressing that England will ease measures ‘cautiously’. He will set out a road map for easing restrictions on 22 February. Pray for Boris and his advisers to agree on the way forward that God has prepared for us to follow. We can thank God that infection rates are coming down quicker than expected and the vaccination programme is going well. Pray for the ongoing safety of the large numbers of vulnerable people not yet immunised.

Researchers calculate that £190 billion is needed to get the UK economy back on track – four times as much as the chancellor has committed so far, and a figure which broadly matches the ambition of US president Joe Biden’s new administration. This UK stimulus should be devoted to supporting businesses, workers, and households hardest hit by the pandemic, restoring public services and helping the growth of sustainable, ‘future-proof’ industries and jobs. The thinktank said, ‘Failure to deliver such a boost risks condemning the UK to a stagnation trap with about half the rate of economic recovery. It would mean lower business investment and leave unemployment at more than 10 per cent in spring 2022.’

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