It seems a long time since I last posted here, but it's just a week - a week in which so much has changed that it's hard to quite believe or understand what is happening.
We are the same people, and yet we're not. Things we took for granted, like gathering for social occasions or work meetings - or worship - have gone, probably for a good while. And so we're discovering how to do things differently. And, perhaps, discovering that nothing is to be taken for granted.
I'm not sure how much wisdom I can offer. Like you, I'm trying to make sense of it all - and, like a judo player trying to overcome a stronger opponent, I'm looking for the hold that will enable me to flip this scenario over and turn its dystopian overtones - isolation, suffering, deprivation, uncertainty - into something good. Here are a couple of thoughts for starters:
- Some people, of course, will be busier than ever as this crisis deepens. Prayerful support for all healthcare workers is a given. But, for those of us who are having to slow down, might this be a God-given opportunity to do less rushing around and instead be still? A chance to no longer define ourselves exclusively by what we do, what we achieve? As well as flagging up the power of poetry to soothe and heal us in these times, the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, has suggested there's a message to be drawn "about taking things easy and being patient and trusting to the earth, and maybe having to come through this slightly slower, and wiser, at the other end, given that one thing that's accelerated the problem is our hectic lives and our proximities and the frantic way we go about things." The question is - when this is all over, will we go straight back into headless-chicken mode, or will things have really changed for good?
- And in similar vein: what lessons will we draw, from a time when economic activity has slowed (with beneficial short-term effects on the environment), about how we should in the future adapt all our activities to the deeper needs of our planet?
- And: we can see already that one possible benefit of this crisis is a greater attentiveness (albeit at a distance!) to the needs of our neighbours, especially the elderly and the housebound. Examples of a caring community spirit already abound; will we be encouraged to keep this spirit alive, once we are free to come and go again?
- And finally, one for the Church. On one level, we are atomised now, split apart by the impossibility of meeting. What can the Body of Christ mean, when we are all sealed off from one another in our private spaces? One sketchy answer: we may be able to discover something deeper about our communion with God and one another, now that we are apart. We have always been part of a wider communion, with God and with those we can't see as well as those alongside us - or rather, those we can't see (like God) have always been alongside us. We've just been too busy with what's in front of our eyes to notice them, to sense the invisible web of love by which we are all bound together. But now we can.