First, apologies for the long silence. As some of you already know, I have been rather unwell these last weeks, culminating in what was a really bad week-end and an even worse first few days of this one. The good news is that I appear to have shaken it off and am back (well I hope it’s good news that I am back!).

No, it wasn’t Covid, so far, thank goodness, we have escaped it, but the number of people we know who have had it this time round has now reached double figures; back in lockdown 1 we knew of people who knew people who had it. We are told this variant is more infectious – which matches our experience. Is it more deadly? Again, it is starting to look that way. The vaccine is a way off for those of us in our thirties, though those, like me, with underlying health issues, may not wait quite so long.

Our church here, like so many in the diocese, remain closed, not by decree, but through common sense. The infection rate here remains high, and so Zoom church it is. We are getting used to it again, though of course, for those of us who believe the the Lord is truly present in the consecrated elements, there remains the huge sadness of the deprivation of that sacrament. It feels as though Lent started just after Christmas and will continue into Easter, if not longer. We are still, here, digesting the new instructions about how to do Ash Wednesday and Easter preparation, though confirmations look as though they will have to wait. It’s the little details which wear one down; or is that just me?

One thing which is certainly true is that for some, like my other half, who usually commute to London or to other urban centres, the locality which usually operates like a dormitory, is becoming more important. When the first lockdown ended, the first place we went out to dinner was a local pub which we’d always “meant to try”, but never quite managed to. Local shops, when open, have also received more of our patronage, and one of my hopes is that when this ordeal ends, we will find that the local community will be re-energised, not least by those former commuters who will stay doing more of their work from home. My other half is clear that working from here will become a new norm. From the personal point of view, that’s an utter delight.

I was reading something yesterday saying that on-line dating and the divorce rate are both going up during this prolonged period of crisis; the reasons are not far to seek.

I am well aware, despite my own delight at having my other half here, that for some the experience has been less fruitful. For those who, like us, had constructed an existence where the days would be spent at work with us regrouping in the evening, interspersed with socials and the like, the experience of being always in the same spaces, and with no social life or anything to leaven the experience, the enforced intimacy has posed an examination. Those annoying little habits can become something more than irritating, not least when the prolonged stress takes its toll on everyone’s nerves. I am glad we have become even closer, and I pray for those differently situated.

For those who are single and dating, the on-line world has become vital, though quite how they cope with the advice about social distancing, I can’t quite imagine.

Someone on the radio commented that we were “all in this together”. I am not sure that, beyond the banal truth that Covid could hot any of us, that is true. Those who lack outdoor spaces, or live in cramped conditions, those who are home-schooling children while juggling the demands of work, work which may in some cases now be in danger, are having a much worse time than those of us facing none of those challenges. Our work here with the foodbank is even more critical. The demands on us are rising.

I would like to think that when this comes to an end, that we will reflect on what we have learned. If the Church can help us change direction, that would be good. The world has been sold the belief that economic growth and prosperity are the same as a good life. They may be means to that end, but they are not that end, and the cost of the former is already clear. Our Christian faith tells us that the Good Life is not to be found apart from Christ. As we approach Lent, which comes remarkably soon, the experiences through which we have passed and are passing, remind us that, as St Paul almost put it, somethings that are lawful may not be desirable.

God bless!