1 - Letters

Interesting Times

a letter from Revd Nick Bird

Brexit, floods and now COVID-19; it is fair to say that we live in interesting times. As I write, Italy is in lockdown, hand gel is as rare as hens teeth, and ASDA's toilet roll shelves are empty (what a very British response to a crisis!), and who knows what will be the state of affairs next month, or even next week? As one situation pushes another from the headlines, there will be an understandable rise in anxiety, not especially helped by the stirring of the tabloid press with their lurid headlines.

As is perhaps always the case, what we fear most is the unknown – the sense of something lurking in the shadows that we can not control or predict. Unpredictable feels like uncontainable, and our imagination makes monsters in the flickers. But what is known, when facts are presented, feels a whole lot less overwhelming. Perhaps it also feels as though the virus, novel in its virulence, is close at hand.

Distance is a great relief, in many ways. The ebola virus was terrible, but far away, and relatively well contained, with between 10-15,000 deaths in Africa. Seasonal flu takes hundreds of thousands of lives each year, but for some reason that seems normal. To date, in our country, coronavirus is responsible for a relatively limited number of deaths, though that will surely be out of date in the next few days, and yet there is a rising sense of panic. Each day, around the world, around 25,000 people die of hunger or hunger-related disease, and yet governments are not rallying, newspapers are not reporting, economies are not being re-engineered to combat such a terrible reality.

And yet coronavirus does present a threat – not to the majority of us directly, but to those most at risk, and through pressure on the system as a whole. So we do our part with good hand hygiene, containment of our own coughs and sneezes, and a measured response to the toilet roll crisis (or other goods that seem urgently necessary in the circumstances).

However, there is something about the local – we are understandably parochial. What we can see and touch, we care more deeply about. So perhaps we can harness this. In these trying and uncertain times, when we can do a thousand different things, let us choose to be kind, to look after one another, to keep an eye on an elderly or vulnerable neighbour, to care for our community. Perhaps make sure that someone you know who has no family near by, or who lives alone, has your phone number. Develop a network along your street, enquire as to people's wellbeing, use this opportunity to connect.

Eighty years ago, all it took to bring our country together was one Messerschmitt. Today, if we were to find a way to embrace the uninvited gift, and, though we can not change the world on our own, we can care for one another as a community, introduce ourselves, serve each other, and look after the needs of those most vulnerable before we see to our own. The contagion of kindness might be the result that endures.

Nick Bird

Your Rector



a letter from Revd Canon Terry Joyce

As I write, the news is that we may be reaching the Covid-19 peak as you read this. Much advice has been given about what we are to do. But the Anglican Bishop of St Alban’s recently released his own ‘golden rules’ – not official advice, but great food-for-thought about our attitudes. It has captured the imagination of those who use Twitter, with a warm response. I suspect it will be a valuable contribution to the way we steer through this crisis.

To summarise his points, first of all, think about how we can protect and support our neighbours. So much of the public rhetoric is sowing fear about the danger of other people. So, taking all the necessary precautions, offer help and reassurance to others – and don’t demonise anyone or any group. Secondly, think about who may be suffering more than us. For those of us who are healthy there is much less to worry about but the elderly, the housebound and those with chronic health conditions may be very anxious. Who do we know who might be vulnerable – if we can’t visit, can we ring them? There’s nothing like a friendly voice to offer solace when someone is worried and/or lonely. Alongside this, think about what others might need by way of shopping if they are unable to or fearful of going out.

Thirdly, live life to the full and heed Jesus’ constant refrain to not be afraid; perhaps easier said than done! And finally, along with just over half the adults in the UK, don’t forget to pray. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer whilst washing our hands takes about 22 seconds – perfect timing! Or just make up your own prayer for those around you. To pray for others is an act of love. To love is to pray. The intensity of our praying reveals the intensity of our loving. In praying for others, we are reflecting the love of Christ. And that includes the biblical imperative to pray for those in positions of responsibility, which means global, national & local politicians, leaders of industry, and particularly at this time NHS and Public Health leaders who are on the frontline of managing crucial treatment resources.

Terry Joyce