Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Leaving lockdown is our opportunity

LITTLE less than an hour after the Prime Minister had announced his roadmap from lockdown, I had the first of several phone calls.

There was an enquiry to book a baptism at the end of May followed by anxious brides seeking to clarify their wedding plans.

My dad died last year and we were restricted to a graveside burial for six persons. Now I can begin to plan the funeral which my family will require to find closure. For these and many other reasons, we can welcome this news.

I write these thoughts at the beginning of Lent, when I have placed voluntary restrictions on my way of life. By abstaining from various pleasurable things, such as chocolate and alcohol, and spending more time in prayer; I seek to increase my love of God and neighbour.

I will give the money I save to our hardship fund, which supports the Churches Together in Henley food bank and other charitable causes.

Throughout the last year all of us have made sacrifices for the good of others, which managed to keep us safer than we would otherwise have been. For me, the previous months have felt as if the whole country has been keeping the observance of Lent.

Christians keep Lent to enable us to celebrate Easter with greater joy. When Lent ends, we hope we will not return to our old bad habits. Indeed, I once gave up sugar and never went back to it again.

In a similar way, a phased exit from lockdown seems to me to offer us the time and the opportunity for reflection upon what this last year has taught us.

I think there will always be hand sanitiser in my church. We will keep our live streaming service and a greater awareness of those in need in Henley and further afield.

I hope we will realise that no one is safe until everyone is safe, that the vaccine will be required equitably in every country in the world amdf that our greater sense of society will shake us from the myopic individualism that has blinkered our sight.

The economic cost is extremely high and many will require support for longer than a few months. However, the economy was made for us, not us for the economy. We are not slaves to this machine, or units of production.

We have not been saved from the pandemic, only to put these shackles back on. I hope we will have a greater sense of our local community, to shop locally and support the life and wellbeing of our town and its environment. That we will use this opportunity for change wisely. It is a gift, like Lent.

We can look upon the phased re-opening as an opportunity for a lively debate about the society and the world in which we want to live. I will read with interest the letter pages in this newspaper.

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