From the Rectory. Iffley Parish Magazine, August 2020.
I suspect that we’ve all experienced the last few months very differently.
I found that the first phase, lasting two or three weeks, was incredibly intense. I was overwhelmed trying to get everything in place with home and work, friends and family; everything had to be rethought. I was inundated with emails, phone calls, setting up WhatsApp groups, helping people get on to Zoom, ensuring food supplies and medicines and on the first Sunday of lockdown our main morning service went online; by the time you read this we shall have had over twenty Sundays with our morning service online.
The second phase, lasting the best part of three months, were spent in lockdown. My life settled into a pattern and was much less pressured. I could appreciate a whole range of things – the sun shone, the birds sang, the noise from the ring road abated and most days I was able to enjoy a walk. I appreciated my locality so much more and discovered new places. I had a better work/life balance and creation seemed to be breathing more freely with humanity in lockdown; we hardly used the car from one month to the next. It felt to me that we were all in this together, though anxiety and concern were never far away – and I still couldn’t concentrate enough to get those books read as I’d hoped to do.
Then came the third phase, similar in many ways to the first phase; it was all changing and very fast. The simplicity of the lockdown was replaced by much greater complexity, what we could and couldn’t do altered by the day and I kept putting up church notices only to have to replace them a day or two later.
Now it feels to me we have begun to settle into a fourth phase of the pandemic, and it’s a strange land. No longer does it feel that we are all in this together in quite the same way, though we still are. We each have to weigh up the risks involved in each and every situation. It’s not clear what I can and cannot do and with whom, though there are plenty of guidelines to advise me. And no one can tell me how long this phase will last.
I feel very strongly about the importance of the church now being open not only for praying and visiting but also for public worship. The church is a sacred place where generation after generation have touched base with the deepest truths of life and set them in the context of God’s purposes for us.
Philip Larkin wrote in his poem Church Going:
‘A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.’
I am delighted to be able to welcome you to worship with us once again at St Mary’s.
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