THE Bishop of Penrith has taken these strange times within her stride as she delivers the traditional Easter message through non-traditional means.

Rt Rev Dr Emma Ineson is wielding the power of social media to ensure that people across Cumbria can tune into her message of hope regardless of the lockdown measures that aim to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Her video, filmed in her garden in Kendal as opposed to inside the church, has been uploaded onto Youtube and then shared on Facebook and Twitter.

Bishop Emma said: “This is a very unusual and strange Easter for everyone.

“Normally this week we’d be gathering in our churches to relive and to celebrate the events of Holy Week and Good Friday and then on Easter Sunday to celebrate the rising again of Jesus from the dead.

“But although our church buildings are closed and we’re physically distanced from each other in our homes around Cumbria, the church continues to be alive and well, finding new ways to pray and to worship God together.”

It’s difficult to escape the words “coronavirus” and “social distancing” at the moment but the cultural shift that the country is currently undergoing cannot be understated.

Life has quickly shifted into the online realm where previously it was thought impossible.

The Bishop’s Easter message reflects on this and connects it to the Christian faith, with a focus on how coronavirus is changing the everyday.

She considers how the country has already quickly adapted to this new way of life and what may come once life returns to normal.

For many, this has become an opportunity to get to know their neighbours who until recently may have been strangers.

In February, an Office of National Statistics report found that only 62 per cent of people in the UK felt a sense of belonging to the area that they live in.

Similarly, a survey conducted by the Big Lunch found that only one in five people felt like they could go to anyone in their area for help.

She said: “I wonder what might emerge after these days of isolation are over and the restrictions are lifted, whenever that might be.

“What’s growing now in the dark and unseen places that will lead us into new life and growth in the years ahead.

“What kind of people will we be in Cumbria when we emerge?”

There is a sense among people that this might lead to a society that is more in tune with one another – a return to days gone by where people were more aware of their neighbours.

So far, people are being more considerate of those around them.

Covid-19 groups are springing up everywhere and social media is helping people to connect with each other, to support each other in ways that didn’t seem possible before.

The surge in community groups showing their support for each other is evidence enough of this but individual acts should not be forgotten.

All over Cumbria, people are going out of their way to help strangers who are self-isolating with their shopping, to pick up their medicine, and even to just have a chat through the window.

“We have certainly seen an increase in neighbourliness, I think, and in different ways of connecting with each other,” she said.

“And we’ve seen an increase in appreciation for those on the frontline of our public services and our health care systems.”

Key workers are doing things that may seem a little wacky but it brings a moment of brevity into people’s days.

NHS staff are singing songs and postmen are dressing up in fancy dress in an attempt to keep things light.

The Bishop said: “Wouldn’t it be good if some of this love, and appreciation and good will continued after these dark days are over?”

The current experiences of the country, and the world, can be linked back to the Bible story of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

“When Jesus was buried in the tomb for those three days, his friends and family must have thought it was the end,” said the Bishop.

“But little did they know that out of the darkness God would bring something new and hopeful out of the pain and the suffering.”

Social media has shone throughout the ongoing situation regarding Covid-19, connecting people and enabling such a strong community response.

Faith groups – which already had a large online presence – were able to use digital tools like Facebook Live to keep people in contact and maintain their services as if things hadn’t changed.

It was quick to shift its services and congregations online.

The Bishop of Penrith’s message being shared across platforms is just one of many innovative approaches to overcoming the lockdown.

She remarks on this in her message: “But although our church buildings are closed and we’re physically distanced from each other in our homes around Cumbria, the church continues to be alive and well, finding new ways to pray and to worship God together.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will be leading a service on Easter Sunday that will be streamed on Facebook, the Church of England website, and on BBC Radio 4.

The Methodist Church in north Cumbria has similarly adapted its approach in order to keep the church alive.

Reverend Rachel Williams from Brampton Methodist Church created a group for all congregations within the Borders area.

There’s more to it than sharing weekly services on Facebook, they continue to host events that bring the members of the church together – knit and natter groups, as well as coffee mornings, continue as planned via the internet.

Rev. Rachel Williams said: “It’s not just Facebook that we’re using, I’m in the process of putting together some worship materials to post out so that everybody in the congregation will get a copy of the morning prayer and a copy of the Sunday service that they can use themselves.

“We’re trying to keep the church family and the church community together through all the different means of communication that we have got available to us.”

Even though it may seem as if life as we once knew it has come to an end, the Bishop’s message does not shy away from the worrying reality that has become the lived experience of many.

Isolation can be detrimental to your mental health but the Bishop links that back to the story in the Bible of Jesus’ time spent alone in the dark cave and how he overcame that struggle too.

But, she ends with the thought of a hopeful future – that this too shall pass and there is good news to be found within the bad.

“For now, it does feel very much like we are in a dark place under the earth and the suffering of many is very real,” Bishop Emma said.

“But this Easter let’s not lose sight of the hope that we have in the good news that Jesus Christ has defeated death; that He lived and died and rose again, bringing out of darkness and suffering, peace and joy and life and hope.”