On one of my pre-Christmas walks around the Parish I met and chatted with a parishioner, as often happens, and during the conversation she said that, although it wasn’t a good idea to wish time away, she would be very glad to see the back of 2020! I can only imagine that her sentiments will have been shared with countless others throughout our Parish, communities and country! I have resisted the impulse to go back to the Parish Magazines of December 2019 and January 2020 to see what I had written, suspecting rather harmless generalities and so on, before just about everything changed – but in my defence, could any of us have seen Coronavirus and lockdowns and everything else coming?
What a year it has been, and it is true to say that Covid-19 has affected all of us and every aspect and area of life as we know it in a way that has simply not happened before, at least not in our lifetimes. In different ways we have all had to get to grips with and get our heads around what has been an unprecedented time in the life of the country, and of course the Church. I’m sure I don’t need to remind readers that the last time churches were closed for public worship (as far as I know) was at the beginning of the 13th Century, during the dispute between King John and the Pope!
We have of course learnt to adapt, to change and to cope as best we can with the challenges and demands of the pandemic and, in spite of the suffering and loss and pain that we have all been through (and continue to go through) I think we have, as individuals, as communities and as members of the Church, emerged stronger and more resilient and adaptable than we perhaps ever thought we were capable of doing.
We enter then this new year with all sorts of emotions and feelings and thoughts – of sadness for the past of course but also of thanksgiving for all the positives of the last year (an elderly veteran, a certain footballer and Thursday night claps come to mind straight away), as well as <span style="font-size: 1rem;">hope for the future in relation to the development of the Coronavirus vaccine. But also I think of a quiet confidence and trust in God’s providential care and love, and in God’s great faithfulness towards us, even and perhaps especially in the darkest of times. You will I’m sure all be familiar with that beautiful story entitled “Footprints” – in the most difficult of times, when we may have felt abandoned by God, yet we were in fact being carried by God. The message of the angels, celebrated by us all at Christmas in the birth of the Messiah, is as powerful and hopeful now as it was 20 centuries ago – Emmanuel – God with us – now and always.</span>
May God bless each one of us in this coming month and in this New Year, whatever it brings!
The Revd Alec Brown.