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May 23rd 2020
From the Vicarage – Ascensiontide (Easter 7) 2020
Many of us have been out on our doorsteps during recent weeks on Thursday evenings to ‘Clap for Carers’ at 8pm. The movement began on Thursday March 26th with the first ‘clap’ to encourage the NHS workers in the face of the rising Covid 19 crisis, when ‘Lockdown’ had first come to the UK. I only became aware of its occurrence in the news reports the following day. However, the following week whilst taking my daily evening walk through the silent streets of Ledbury, the stillness was broken by the sounds of a ‘clip clopping’ on the road behind me. As it grew louder, I stopped on the hill rising up from The Southend to the Deer Park estate and turned to look, expecting to see the unusual sight of a horse taking rare advantage of streets free of traffic, but nothing appeared around the curve in the road behind me. Gradually it dawned on me as I looked at my watch and registered the time as just approaching 8pm, that it was the sounds of many people who were completely invisible to me clapping in the doorways of their homes across the town, and which were being amplified all over Ledbury, and into the extraordinary silence of that beautiful evening. Since then I too have responded to the weekly timekeeping of a neighbour’s wooden spoon and saucepan summoning all out to clap at 8pm!
Yesterday’s news gave us notice that its instigator has called for the final ‘clap’ this coming Thursday citing that it is now timely, after 10 weeks, to go out on a high while still ‘at its peak’. The weekly ‘clapping’ has evolved over time. Initially instigated for NHS staff, it came to embrace all those whose work involves caring in all settings, and key workers in each and every community. The final clap this coming Thursday is not a signal to say that we no longer need to appreciate all those who provide for the basic daily needs of everyone, but having raised their profile and been reminded of what truly has value in life, may it so become part of our DNA, that we continue ever afterwards with a sense of thoughtfulness and appreciation for the many people whose ‘everyday’ presence we can easily overlook in life, and yet whose hidden service gives such depth and value to our own lives.
As the weekly clap approaches its tenth anniversary, so too in our Churches today we mark the tenth Sunday since services were suspended in all Churches (and mosques) in the UK. This passage of time has amazingly already encompassed us from Mothering Sunday through Passiontide, Holy Week, and the forty days of the Easter celebrations, even now reaching into Ascensiontide. Perhaps now many of us, may be feeling wearied by the prolonged limitations of our ‘Lockdown’ experiences, whilst others may relish them as a new and simpler way of living not only for now, but possibly for the future too. Perhaps each of us through this unexpected ‘gift’ of time in the present, may have taken the opportunity alongside altered work schedules, or extra gardening and spring cleaning, to revisit memories from our times past either to bring joy, or reconciliation. Similarly, taking time to look to the future in hope after gaining a new insight or perspective for our lives. and discovering, or encouraging the nurture of, new talents.
One of the heartaches of these weeks has been our long absence from seeing family members and friends ‘in the flesh’, and it is one which will make them all the more precious when we are finally reunited. In today’s reading from St John’s Gospel Chapter 17 verses 1-11, we hear Jesus’ prayer during a final conversation with his disciples before his arrest, trial and death by crucifixion. During his prayer Jesus asks God to protect those with whom he has shared the experiences of his earthly journey. It is a prayer that will doubtless have been universally prayed in recent weeks by millions across the globe. In it we are reminded that we can bring our deepest desires of the heart into the heart of God through prayer, whether in rage, or as request, or an outpouring of thanksgiving for times of hope past, present and future.