Corona Year

The first lockdown began 12 months ago and the third is still in place. It behoves us to look back and note lessons learned. 

There have been some remarkable, if superficial, changes. In 2021, bank staff get upset if you are not wearing a mask when you enter their premises. Assuming they open at all, that is. We are all now relative experts in video conferencing. It was a fairly useful skill to have before 2020, but now it is an essential part of life, unlikely to disappear when the restrictions lift. I still prefer ‘real’ fellowship, but the technology has allowed more people to attend our mid-week Bible study, for example, than may have attended in real life.

People who lurked on the peripheries have found it even easier to remain apart (or even more difficult to commit, whichever your perspective). Having missed all worship now for 12 months, they may never return. The lockdown might have killed off what little spiritual life they had, or it simply confirmed there was nothing there to begin with. Time shall tell. Believers whose attendance at public worship was sporadic and non-committal in 2019 remained so throughout the lockdown, and those who attended regularly continued to be as faithful. Those too too lazy or lifeless to drive to a church were not more energised to click a mouse and watch a screen.

Some churches came close to splitting regarding their respective leadership’s levels of cooperation with the state. Some felt closing meant they had sold their souls to Caesar; others felt that by daring to open, even when it was tentatively allowed, elders and deacons were endangering God’s people. An interesting example is singing. With the exception of one Sunday, we have engaged in congregational singing at each service. I am still being instructed by people that it is illegal, which it is not. The government advises against it, but never forbade it. It is surprising that so many churches allowed their worship to be so altered when the state never even demanded it. I have no particular insistence that congregations sing- a church that determines it is safer not to, might be doing the right thing. But to do it because ‘the government says so’ appears excessive and somewhat ignorant of the law.

I, too, have learned a great deal about me. I have learned that not leaving the house each day, to go for a walk, for example, has not been good for me. I have been given a (slight) foretaste of what our persecuted brethren experience: a powerful state wishing to curtail worship. I have learned that not everyone can be kept happy all the time, that leaders leading will not always be popular. We have faced criticism for closing, and then criticism for opening. As I shall answer to the Lord for my conduct, so our critics will answer for theirs. Thankfully, our regulars have proved supportive and obliging.

Finally, I have learned how kind people are. When I was ill 12 months ago, almost certainly with Corona, I had trays of hot food left on my doorstep and bags of shopping brought. It was Irenaeus who argued that one of the reasons that God permits evil is its ability to draw virtues from us: kindness, brotherly love and patience.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay