Most of us have not experienced times like these. Unless we are old enough to have lived through the privations of the second war, or have had exceptional life experiences, it is unlikely that we will have known our present levels of uncertainty, fear or restriction.
Just as in every other sphere, churches are having to radically adjust their lives to accommodate the national effort to combat this dreadful virus. All public worship has been suspended. However, this does not mean that our churches are closed, far from it. They remain open for private prayer and reflection. We are seeking to reach out and support those who are isolated, particularly the vulnerable and elderly, alongside many others in our community.
Today, an essential part of the way in which we love our neighbour is through the physical distance we keep from them. We do this to protect them, our community, and ourselves. The phrase commonly used seems to be “social distancing”, but as our Bishop Nick has suggested it might be better to use the word “physical distancing”, for in the physical distance we keep we also desperately need to maintain our social interactions with one another. These are more vital than usual since there is a great danger of our mental and emotional well-being deteriorating through fear, stress and isolation.
We can all make that vital telephone call asking how you are and whether there is something simple I can do. Not everyone interacts by social media but many do, and in these days such communication can be a forceful power for good so long as we use it kindly, thoughtfully and wisely. As churches we are creating ways to support people spiritually through such media, and most especially through streaming worship and prayer.
There is much in the Christian narrative which recognises the fragility of human life and our mortality. However, these parts of our story are only there because the Christian story is ultimately about hope overcoming fear, through a cross that gave way to resurrection. God is in the midst of us every time we demonstrate his virtues of kindness, thoughtfulness, and unselfishness towards another. These bring the living waters of life as we journey through the desert of COVID-19. Be gentle with yourself and each other, and may faith, hope and love sustain you.