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April 2020 - Interesting Times

Friends,

Brexit, floods and now COVID-19; it is fair to say that we live in interesting times. As I write, Italy is in lockdown, hand gel is as rare as hens teeth, and ASDA's toilet roll shelves are empty (what a very British response to a crisis!), and who knows what will be the state of affairs next month, or even next week? As one situation pushes another from the headlines, there will be an understandable rise in anxiety, not especially helped by the stirring of the tabloid press with their lurid headlines.

As is perhaps always the case, what we fear most is the unknown – the sense of something lurking in the shadows that we can not control or predict. Unpredictable feels like uncontainable, and our imagination makes monsters in the flickers. But what is known, when facts are presented, feels a whole lot less overwhelming. Perhaps it also feels as though the virus, novel in its virulence, is close at hand.

Distance is a great relief, in many ways. The ebola virus was terrible, but far away, and relatively well contained, with between 10-15,000 deaths in Africa. Seasonal flu takes hundreds of thousands of lives each year, but for some reason that seems normal. To date, in our country, coronavirus is responsible for a relatively limited number of deaths, though that will surely be out of date in the next few days, and yet there is a rising sense of panic. Each day, around the world, around 25,000 people die of hunger or hunger-related disease, and yet governments are not rallying, newspapers are not reporting, economies are not being re-engineered to combat such a terrible reality.

And yet coronavirus does present a threat – not to the majority of us directly, but to those most at risk, and through pressure on the system as a whole. So we do our part with good hand hygiene, containment of our own coughs and sneezes, and a measured response to the toilet roll crisis (or other goods that seem urgently necessary in the circumstances).

However, there is something about the local – we are understandably parochial. What we can see and touch, we care more deeply about. So perhaps we can harness this. In these trying and uncertain times, when we can do a thousand different things, let us choose to be kind, to look after one another, to keep an eye on an elderly or vulnerable neighbour, to care for our community. Perhaps make sure that someone you know who has no family near by, or who lives alone, has your phone number. Develop a network along your street, enquire as to people's wellbeing, use this opportunity to connect.

Eighty years ago, all it took to bring our country together was one Messerschmitt. Today, if we were to find a way to embrace the uninvited gift, and, though we can not change the world on our own, we can care for one another as a community, introduce ourselves, serve each other, and look after the needs of those most vulnerable before we see to our own. The contagion of kindness might be the result that endures.

Nick Bird

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the April 2020 issue of The Grapevine