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November 2020 - Winter is coming

Friends,

The days shorten, the cold grips and, hopefully, 'all is safely gathered in'. Leaves fall, the green recedes and life goes into chilled abeyance. Is it too obvious to say that 'Winter is coming'?

If you were ever a fan of the series Game of Thrones (GoT), then this innocent phrase will take on a slanted meaning. GoT (described – derisively, or appreciatively, I was never sure – as 'boobs and gore') opened with its first episode titled Winter is Coming, as a 'Stark' warning; Stark being the name of the family whose motto is just that. Winter is coming hangs as a threat, a call to constant vigilance, not just of a season of ice, but of ever-present trouble, of calamity that requires averting.

GoT (and here I openly admit to watching at least the first season, and enjoying it) turns out to be just that; a game where thrones are contested, blood flows freely, and loyalty, violence and subterfuge are all virtues to be praised. Not exactly a parable of community, but not dissimilar to the US elections (watch this space). 

For us, here in the UK, winter is coming, but threat, warning and vigilance are also in the wind. The covid-19 statistics are rising and various forms of lockdown will inevitably return. My greatest concern in all this is not simply those who will be included in the numbers of the infected, but those who will find themselves excluded from their community through isolation, shielding and fear. Winter is coming, and it will be a hard one for many. How might we avert the calamity that threatens our spirits and souls?

The Danish have a word that has recently come our way: hygge (pronounced 'hyoo-guh'). Hygge means to give comfort, courage, joy and everyday togetherness, and has been sold to us in terms of comfy blankets, candles and reassuringly stolid stews on cold nights. It may even be the origin of our word 'hug'. In such difficult times we can choose to either fear or embrace that which is to come.

As churches and halls remain closed or limited, and, maybe, households prevented from gathering, we need to invent other ways to create everyday togetherness, to feather our nests, make comfortable spaces, small plans and networks of supportive relationships. The winter of 2020/1 is not one to be ambitious, but to live through, and we can choose to do that under a veil of threat, or as an opportunity to have courage, to take heart. This may feel like a hibernation for many, but that might be the natural state we need to embrace in order for us to rise together again in the spring.

Keep warm, keep safe, and hygge each other, because winter is coming.

Nick Bird
your Rector

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