Yesterday was a day of assessing how we should adapt the churches to the restrictions of the new lockdown, and I have worded a news item this morning for the website, indicating how we are going to manage for at least the next couple of months, unless tied down further.
It is interesting that places of worship have been allowed to stay open this time, even though the transferability of the virus is greater. Some people have expressed considerable surprise at this, as hospitals are filled to capacity and the numbers of new infections are rocketing.
My own ‘take’ on this is that the Government has been persuaded, or has come to realise, that the access to places of worship and what they provide for the spiritual, emotional and mental health of those who go to them, is another one of the great unseens of this whole experience of pandemic. No one is pretending that the only worry that we have is for physical health, vital and foremost though that may be. The inner consequences of life without physical contact go well beyond the hug and kiss, though they are perhaps the most obvious symbols of our love for one another. Weighing this consideration against the risk of transmission of a deadly virus is the crucial matter.
We cannot ‘see’ love, or touch it, as we cannot ‘see’ prayer, or, go for that, ‘see’ God. Yet, and this is surely the point at issue, we see all of these things by their effect. So it is that the opposite is true, as, what we are unable to fulfil physically, we find increasingly difficult to imagine within. We describe this as heartache, or, in a very real sense, loss or sorrow. Our love for someone we cannot see is no less than when we can see them. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also drives the anguish a little deeper - and so it goes on.
So, thinking along the same lines about how we express ourselves spiritually, I feel that it is right for the Government to single out places of worship into their own category this time, and leave the decision as to how they are used for local consideration. Church, as I was reminded yesterday, is the people, not the building, yes indeed, but the places where we live out our lives are vital to our health and well-being, and, when it comes to our spiritual well-being, where we meet as Church does actually matter to most of us.
All our churches remain open, and, even if you are unable to go to them, I hope and pray that just the thought that the door is open, and a place of prayer accessible and set aside for worship, may bring you comfort and hope for the eternity of joy and life that is ours in Christ to share.