One year on: A reflection from our Chaplain
Today we mark the first anniversary of lockdown in England. In a year that has been as challenging and difficult as this, we are faced with a raft of real sadness at all the loss of loved ones. We must stop and reflect. There will be a minute’s silence at 12pm and a doorstep/window light vigil at 8pm.
A first wedding anniversary gift is traditionally made of paper. I have a piece of paper in the shape of a dove pinned to my office wall. It says, ‘Dear Allah, please remove my difficulties and give me peace and happiness.’ I found it on the prayer board in the Chaplaincy and I kept it, because it was the first time anyone had put a prayer there and addressed it to ‘Allah’ (God). I felt it spoke for our inclusive atmosphere. It touched my heart.
More than that I kept it because there’s something wonderfully uncomplicated about asking for the difficult stuff to be taken away and in its place to have peace and happiness. A paper dove. A prayer written in pen. Stuck on a cork board with a pin. Life was simple then.
Now we have distance and estrangement, pastoral care is by text, phone, email, Zoom, social media, MS Teams… there are days when I long to see someone walk into our Chaplaincy ‘Living Room’, write a prayer on a piece of paper and just pin it on the board.
The anniversary of the first lockdown is a time to stop and think. It’s been a year characterised by change, challenge, loss and grief – more grief and loss than we have had in most of our living memories. We will need to take time to process not only the passing of loved ones and friends directly from COVID-19 but also from other circumstances thrown up by the pandemic.
We have lost freedoms, jobs, relationships, the chance to participate fully in rites of passage such as weddings and funerals. Plans have been put on hold, sometimes more than once, or simply cancelled.
Yet we have also lived in a space of innovation and opportunity. There have been some amazing examples of ingenuity and re-ordering of processes that have brought us vaccines, changed the ways we engage socially and at work, changed the ways we live.
We’ve seen so many people volunteer selflessly to do what they can to help others, from making scrubs on their home sewing machines to standing outside in all weathers to steward vaccination centres.
We’ve become a people of reflection: what is it we truly miss? What is it we really value? What must we remember when we start to emerge from the tunnel and into the light again?
I want to talk today of hope. I want to talk about what we have gained. I want us to stop and capture a sense of the positives – what lessons we have learned, what mistakes we might avoid in the future.
When we are finally able to move on from the difficult stuff, I hope we can reach places of peace and happiness. I hope we grasp them and never let them go. I hope we remember our loss and make it our gain.