Church of England Diocese of Leeds Clapham-with-Keasden

Through acts of collective will, we have created a new sort of world: a coronavirus reflection

Revd John Davies: Austwick Village Newsletter May 2020

In the space of a few short weeks, through acts of collective will, we have created a new sort of world. It is a world where hedgehogs safely meander across our roads; a world where armaments engineers now make medical equipment; a world where homeless people are gifted a room of their own; a world where rare wildflowers colourfully multiply on uncut verges; a world where neighbourly acts are flourishing; a world in which we stop once a week to applaud the low-paid, high-stressed workers whose care, skill and sheer hard graft saves and sustains our lives.

Yes, it’s true that this bright new world has only been created in reaction to the dark threat of a virus we have yet the knowledge to understand or the means to inoculate against. But whilst many of these world-changing decisions have been taken by government, it has nevertheless been our willingness to accede to them, to cooperate for the common good, which has made the difference.

By acts of collective will, we can change the world for the better. I write this in Easter Week, with its stories about ordinary people inspired by a man who showed them a new and brighter way, and who threw themselves together to form a movement with mutual accord and the common good at its heart. The vision that they followed was hard-won. For Jesus’ adherence to a new ‘way’ of being, which he often called ‘the Kingdom of God’, brought him head-to-head with elites whose power he challenged and who - in the course of a week of protest and confrontation - collaborated to have him executed not as a common criminal but as a threat to the state (for the Romans reserved crucifixion solely as a punishment for political rebels).

His entry into Jerusalem on a donkey and his rumpus in the Temple were what we’d call ‘direct actions’, symbolic, provocative statements challenging in the first instance the Roman emperor’s incorporation of military power and divine right, and in the latter the corruption of the high-priestly Temple rulers. Because of this, he had it coming, his crucifixion. But belief in his resurrection has inspired countless people throughout the centuries to create new sorts of worlds in unpromising places.

Even in the midst of this terrible coronavirus, if we have been thrilled by these glimpses of how a better world could be, then we may not want to stop here. We may want to ensure that those wildflowers flourish even after this lockdown is over; we may want to guarantee that every homeless person will always be housed. We may want the arms makers to continue their transformation as suppliers of life-saving equipment. We may want to protest the relative poverty of those key workers who ought to be better rewarded; to change the rules on housing, debt and welfare which so oppress the low-paid and the unemployed. We may want to secure ways to keep our new-found neighbourliness going.

Changing the world may sound like a childlike, simplistic dream. But in the face of a desperate situation, in the space of a few short weeks, through acts of collective will, we have created a new sort of world. Why not push for more? Why not carry on?

Revd John Davies