from St Anne's

Dean Reflects – Clapping for Carers

Standing in our street, I along with tens of thousands of others, joined in the nationwide “Clap for Carers”. With two family members working for the NHS, a daughter on the front line in Dublin, and a son-in-law instructed to self-isolate for underlying health reasons, this coronavirus epidemic is not something distant or remote. Every family is affected.

For anyone over the age of 70, there are strict regulations requiring people to remain at home. Food deliveries must be made at a distance, and even the invitation to come in for a cup of tea, has to be declined. It makes the risk of loneliness acute among our senior family members, and even more so for those whose family is far away, and those who have no family at all.

Schools are closed, probably until September. Offices are closed. Many are getting used to “home working” and “home tutoring” and video conferencing all at the same time. Who said men can’t multitask? They were right! Even our Cathedral building is closed for all the public services of Holy Week and Easter.

But more worrying for many, are the long term impacts. Many employees have been “furloughed”, including all our own Cathedral employees. The government has promised to guarantee 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month. But many companies and even charities have lost almost all their income with the lockdown. Company owners and business people are fearful for the future. And the situation for the self-employed or those who fall outside the government’s schemes can seem even more desperate.

Most worrying of all is the steady rising in the rate of those who are taken acutely ill, and those who have lost their lives to this disease. This has included those who are frontline carers and medics in the NHS. As ministers of the church, we too have received our government guidelines. Even funerals must be conducted out of doors, with only a maximum of 10 people permitted to attend, and then at 2 metres distance from each other.

Not since 1939 have our nations and world faced such a threat to everything we know and thought was permanent.

There have been some silver linings to the clouds which overshadow us. The bird song and blossoms of spring mean all the more when you take that 30-minute walk once a day. Rainbows of support and encouragement have been drawn by children across the city and taped to front windows. Neighbours really are looking out for those who are on their own, and furloughed workers have volunteered their free time by the tens of thousands.

But let us make no mistake, as a community and as people of faith we will be challenged by what lies ahead. We are just 10 days into a partial lockdown. However, the people of Italy and Spain know what it is to be confined to home for weeks at a time, and the heartbreak of hospitals overwhelmed and family members who have died alone.

As we hold them in our prayers, and as we face our own uncertain future, let us know that the God who is at the heart of everything our Cathedral exists for, will not abandon us. The promise of Easter is not more chocolate (and this year that may be in short supply). The promise of Easter is that the Son of God, who cried out to his Father on Good Friday “My God, why have you forgotten me?” found his own answer on that same cross of Calvary “Into thy hands I commit my spirit”. It is the answer that was confirmed by the empty tomb of Easter morning, and the risen presence of Christ with his disciples ever since.

Our Christianity is never about escapism from a harsh reality. It is never about an other-worldly piety which pretends that our dangers can be wished away with fairy tale magic. Instead, the faith we stand for and pray into today, challenges us to find God most present in the dark places. We are to discover the hidden good in those who will sacrifice themselves to serve others, as Jesus did. And through the promises of God, we are to discover that when we commit our lives and our spirit into God’s hands, even in the place of our own Calvaries, resurrection hope is God’s surprising, unbelievable gift. Daily may we learn to pray: “Into your hands, O Lord, this day I commit my spirit, my family and this community, for all that lies ahead”.