As I sat to write this piece, I nearly put the heading “Life After Covid” – but that’s exactly the point. Life after Covid is a long way in the future. For now we must all learn to live with Covid, whether because we have had it, are still suffering from it, have lost loved ones to it, are hugely vulnerable to it, or because it significantly impacts our daily lives.
“Normal” as we knew it in 2019 now seems a very long time ago, and part of me wonders if we will ever quite return to that. There are some things which have gone which very few people will miss. Other new things have come in which are good, and yet others which are less good. But it is also quite clear to me, having listened to a lot of people over the past months, that each of us has different perspectives on what has been good or less good for them.
However there is also the Common Good – and this is, I think, where our Christian faith becomes most visible and vital. At the very start of the pandemic, we were told that wearing a mask would very likely not protect ‘me’ as the wearer – but it would protect ‘you’, the other person, from my germs. And so we wear masks for the sake of others, to halt the spread of a virus which many of us carry without even knowing we have it.
There have been other measures, such as distancing, which have been mentally and emotionally far more painful. We are social creatures. Even the most introverted person needs some friends and company. And we have been either cut off or severely limited in this for so long now.
And on 19th July comes the Great Release! Or does it?
I ask this because, whilst all the measures which we have experienced / embraced / endured for these past months now become voluntary, we must still ask ourselves what should go and what should stay. The answer will change from person to person, and from one situation to another. Yet again, there is vast inequality. The lifting of restrictions is a sigh of relief for some. For others, it is sheer terror and panic.
As always, the blessing of freedom carries the burden of responsibility. We must be compassionate towards and respectful of the needs of others even as we do what is right for ourselves.
One thing I am very excited about it being able to sing again! But I know not everyone will share my joy. So in this case, whilst we will begin singing hymns in church again, those who sing will sit towards the front, and those who prefer not to will be seated towards the back of church, so they are not in “breathing direction” of the singers.
In the benefice churches, we will take all possible steps to ensure that everyone is made to feel as comfortable as possible. It’s not going to be easy, but Christ commands us to love others as we love ourselves. Although it’s tempting to focus only on ourselves and our choices after so long without choice, perhaps this is one of those moment when our Christian compassion and care for our neighbour truly does come to the fore.
I know you will all join me in making these coming months joyful as we come back together in community, and in ensuring that no one feels excluded or unwelcome because of their vulnerabilities – but rather that we can all gather to give thanks to the God who invites and blesses the sick and the healthy, the rich and the poor, who welcomes the outsider and honours the outcast, and who calls us all as his beloved children.
Peace and blessings,