An article by Revd Will Gibbs for the Redbourn Common Round
Since I wrote my article last month, our day to day lives have changed beyond all recognition. The Coronavirus was a very real threat then, as it still is now, but several sets of Government announcements and guidelines later and we are in a state of lock-down. Our church has been locked, many shops, pubs and businesses are closed and all but the most essential journeys are prohibited. We have been urged to play our part with a very simple but important request: ‘Stay at Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives’.
Our key workers are continuing to work incredibly hard, often in the most difficult and dangerous of situations and with worrying degrees of personal risk, whilst many others are trying, with varying degrees of success, to work from home as best they can. And yet others have been furloughed (a term that is now common parlance when we only knew it in Redbourn because of the missionaries staying in Harding Close in between postings) or others who have had to cease their business and are just hoping and praying that there will be a business to go back to when all of this is over. As a community, I can say with some degree of confidence, that the people of Redbourn will come out in force to support our local pubs and shops and businesses and help them back on their feet. We must do that, and we will.
A few weeks ago all of this would have been unimaginable and yet this is the daily reality we currently face, and whilst timescales and exit strategies are discussed and argued over, most of us are fairly sure that this situation and the restrictions to our daily lives, really hard as they are, are going to continue for quite a long time to come.
So, what have we learned about ourselves and society during this time?
1. People are longing to get ‘back to normal’ and yet many are rightly asking whether that is what we should want anyway. ‘Normal’ wasn’t working and so perhaps this is a chance for us to take stock and consider how we might be different and do things differently after this. As somebody I spoke to recently put it, “It’s like Mother Nature has sent us to our rooms to have a good long think about things”. And it has been wonderful to hear of pollution levels dropping around the world, of Dolphins swimming in Venice and the amazing birdsong and proliferation of wildflowers in our countryside. And no traffic and few planes. Perhaps this is yet another way in which we’re being pulled up short and asked to think about our use and abuse of the planet and its resources. Please don’t let us be in too much of a rush to go ‘back to normal’.
2. I love the way in which people are genuinely looking out for their neighbours. Not just in that casual way we ask ‘How are you?’ and then never bother to listen to the answer, but with genuine concern about each other’s welfare: ‘Is there anything you need?’ or ‘Can I get you anything when I go to the shops?’ When all of this is over perhaps one of the greatest legacies could be that we recalibrate our sense of compassion and care for each other. If we were going to be holed up anywhere, I can’t honestly think of a better place than Redbourn for that to happen. I’ve been privileged to be a small part of the team coordinating the community response and the Redbourn Care Group, the hundreds of community volunteers via Facebook, the Neighbourhood Watch network, the surgery, our pharmacy and many others have been amazing in working together during this time. With these incredible people in place we were always going to be in a strong position to cope and withstand the challenges. But nonetheless, care and compassion are never static entities or givens and, even in Redbourn, we have the chance to ensure these values are even stronger than they already are.
3. I think as a society we have been reminded of the staggering blessing of the NHS and its dedicated and talented staff compared to other healthcare systems around the world. We stand on our doorsteps and clap their efforts each Thursday night, and rightly so. But perhaps we might reflect on how we support them after all of this in the way we vote and how we seek sufficient funding for the NHS in the future. And alongside these undoubted heroes, we now recognise with fresh eyes the importance and value we place on social workers, teachers, refuse collectors, parcel couriers and posties. I hope we never forget the amazing job they do even when they can hopefully start to do it in less challenging conditions.
4. We have been reminded that most of us are social creatures and that human company is really important. We’ve been streaming our services online and despite the very steep learning curve as I grappled with video editing and technology, we’ve had some lovely comments of appreciation about how much the services have been valued. And our congregation has grown with people getting in touch from| Canada, Germany, Portsmouth, Dorset, Brighton and Nottingham to name a few! But it isn’t the same and I long for the time when we can be together for services and socialising. I know that some people in the lock-down are busier than they’ve ever been and yet for others the days are long and lonely. Only half-jokingly, I suggested that the only person who hasn’t really been affected by all of this is Olivia, our 17-year-old daughter. As a teenager and a bit of shy introvert she spends all her time in her room anyway!
But for most of us it has affected us greatly and we thank God that most people are doing the right things and keeping themselves and us all safe and well. We long for that day when we can celebrate and give thanks that this unprecedented period in our nations’ history has passed. And I hope that, despite the great pains and sacrifices, we will emerge as a stronger and better community at the end of all of this.
In the meantime, if there is anything I can do to support or help or reassure you – please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
01582 791 669