Letters from Lockdown – Number 4

The fourth in our series of Letters from Lockdown, written each week for our e-newsletter, is from Brian Lowe, Churchwarden of St Giles’, Horspath. This letter was originally published on Friday, 26th June 2020.

Writing this on a very sunny afternoon in the newly experienced silence brought on by the effect of Covid-19, it is very hard to accept that we are actually in a crisis; that word so beloved by the press together with “chaos” and “panic” – but the calm surrounding us belies the fact that there are many thousands not that far away who are grievously and totally affected by this pandemic. The familiarity of our daily life has been, for the present, utterly changed, yet there is scant evidence when we look at, hear, or even feel things around us. It first hit me when I entered St. Giles to move everything out of reach, put up cordons and notices, when I realised, alone in the cool silence there that I was most likely undertaking a venture that was unprecedented, possibly unique, in that Church during its long history of being the centre of village life. But then, it may well have happened before; possibly in the plagues of the 14th Century, or during the Civil War, or even the 19th Century outbreaks of scarlet fever and diptheria? Considering this, it came into perspective, and in comparing it with our more recent experience of how the villages reacted in the two World Wars, when the new phrase “press on regardless,” was coined together with a shrug and a smile –  has been resurrected. We learn once again of all those who are visiting, helping out, organising, deputising and going the extra mile in sacrifices made for others. Dare I say it, but this pandemic has in many situations brought out the best in us, quite squarely in the face of adversity, and that can only be good….and “good” is the very watchword at this time.

And where does good come from? From that all-encompassing source of love, and that is the one emotion that, if adopted by each and every one of us, will get us through this and beyond. Love is not the prerogative of the Christian; all faiths profess or claim it – but the love shown to us by the sacrifice on the cross is ultimate and complete, and we need to believe it in our current situation. Belief its very self can be problematic, and I am reminded of an occasion when I told Christopher Butler (our vicar in the 1980s) that at that time in our church I found it difficult to believe. His reply was like a beacon…“You do not have to believe…but it is very necessary to want to believe”. That reply reassured me, and I have never forgotten it – what might be called Blessed Reassurance!

That helped me, and I hope, many of you, to tread our unfamiliar path through Holy Week and Easter; it was indeed strange for many people with no companions to be alone at what should have been a joyous time…instead we celebrated by way of the Web, which has in itself become a novel and rewarding experience. We know only too well the saying, “You never appreciate the value of something until you lose it”,  and in this I hope we are of singular mind, having temporarily lost our lovely churches: but we have continued to share our worship, and which in turn has brought us more together within our Benefice.  That is the seizing of an opportunity for good which the pandemic unwittingly provided, and it will endure.

Last week, Robert wrote convincingly of prayer, and that is something we can all do anywhere – so in addition to all your good social works engendered by Covid-19, pray for all those we know who suffer and have lost loved ones, and for all those who care, and those who work to find a solution to this disease; and of course, for our Benefice and its three churches.