week 34 letter: Fred Ireland

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Dear Friends

Week thirty four. Another week that begins with good news. The University of Oxford and AstraZeneca Vaccine, has proven to be between 70 and 90 per cent effective, and, if approved, could be in use from next month. The Government have ordered 100 million doses, enough for 50 million people to be vaccinated. There is a quiet optimism that this could be the turning point in our battle against Coronavirus. Let us pray it is.

On a global scale, the fact that this vaccine does not require storage at -70°C as the other two vaccines do, make this potentially much easier to be distributed around the world, particularly in developing countries. And it is much more affordable too. This is all very encouraging.

I have been informed that from this Thursday (my prison day) I will be tested for the Coronavirus every week, along with all other "prisoner facing staff." I am pleased and relieved about this as for months I have watched colleagues working in that Victorian Prison working week after week, month after month, often unable to observe social distancing, for some time without PPE serving to keep our communities safe as key workers. I have looked into many anxious eyes, below furrowed brows, at officers apprehensive of working in such close confinement with hundreds of prisoners. Now, at least, they will all be tested regularly in the hope that those who may be tested positive for the virus can be isolated as soon as possible. And personally, I am pleased to be tested as well as I hope in the future restrictions on movements will be reduced and I'll be able to be back in church and seeing my family again, safely. I realize that my prison chaplaincy increases my risk of contracting and transmitting the virus and this regular testing is a way of minimizing both.

Politicians are good at leaking out policy changes to the media in advance of publicly announcing those changes, especially if they may prove to be un-popular. Today, Monday 23rd November, the "leak" concerns the Chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak, who may announce later this week that public sector workers are to have a pay freeze (which in reality, when inflation is taken into account, equals a reduction in pay). If that is true I think it is utterly indefensible. Looking at my Prison colleagues (and many other Key Workers) did we not stand on our doorsteps applauding them for all they have done for us? And now, for all their hard work and risk to their own health we may reward them with a pay cut. How in the name of all that is just can that be right?

I know we face a financial and employment crisis and we will all have to tighten our belts in the coming months and even years. And key workers will be part of that. But they are not asking for a pay increase, just a recognition how our key workers kept the nation going during lockdown and beyond and that should be recognized with a just pay settlement. I cannot support key workers once again taking the first blow as they did after the financial crisis a decade ago.

Someone kindly suggested that when we are through this coronavirus I should put all my letters into a collection, a kind of souvenir of our journey together. If that ever happens I hope at the bottom this letter I write an apology as I clearly read the times amiss — that the rumour was just that — a rumour. I sincerely hope that apology will appear. But I suspect it won't.

With kindest Regards.



This week's devotional for Advent Sunday

Read: Mark 13: 24-37 (Lectionary Reading)
Read StF 170

Darkness Like A Shroud Covers The Earth;
Evil Like A Cloud Covers The People.
But The Lord Will Rise Upon You,
And His Glory Will Appear On You-
Nations Will Come To Your Light.

Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
The Glory Of The Lord Has Risen On You!
Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
Jesus The Light Of The World Has Come.

Children Of The Light, Be Clean And Pure.
Rise, You Sleepers, Christ Will Shine On You.
Take The Spirit's Flashing Two-Edged Sword
And With Faith Declare God's Mighty Word;
Stand Up And In His Strength Be Strong.

Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
The Glory Of The Lord Has Risen On You!
Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
Jesus The Light Of The World Has Come.

Here Among Us Now, Christ The Light
Kindles Brighter Flames In Our Trembling Hearts.
Living Word, Our Lamb, Come Guide Our Feet
As We Walk As One In Light And Peace,
Till Justice And Truth Shine Like The Sun.

Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
The Glory Of The Lord Has Risen On You!
Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
Jesus The Light Of The World Has Come.

Like A City Bright So Let Us Blaze;
Lights In Every Street Turning Night To Day.
And The Darkness Shall Not Overcome
Till The Fulness Of Christ's Kingdom Comes,
Dawning To God's Eternal Day.

Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
The Glory Of The Lord Has Risen On You!
Arise, Shine, Your Light Has Come,
Jesus The Light Of The World Has Come.

Graham Kendrick

Listen to it here:


Father God,
We praise you once again for this season of Advent,
For its mood of expectation,
Its message of hope,
Its call to prepare ourselves,
Its spirit of confidence and trust
God made flesh
Hear our prayer.

We praise you for the way you have spoken,
Through the prophets of old,
In promises yet to be realized,
And in the living presence of Christ
Made known through the Holy Spirit.
God made flesh
Hear our prayer.

Touch our lives again at this time,
As we remember the coming of Jesus
As we anticipate his coming again,
And as we strive to serve him better here and now.
God made flesh
Hear our prayer.

Grant that through this season
We shall be renewed in hope and strengthened in faith,
Trusting more completely in the future you hold.
May our confidence be deepened
In your eternal love and purpose,
Despite all that seems to work against it.
And may we be ready to welcome Christ,
In the assurance that as he came so shall he come again.
God made flesh
Hear our prayer. In the name of Christ. Amen.

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father,
Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thing is the Kingdom,
The power and the glory,
For ever and ever. Amen.

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