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New vistas

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

On Thursday 15th October 1987, the weather forecaster Michael Fish uttered words he’s not been allowed to forget:

“… a woman rang the BBC and said she’d heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t.”

That night the storm – the Great Storm – wreaked havoc, ripping roofs from houses, bringing down power lines and tearing down trees.

The following morning, here on the Sussex coast, it all looked different from the day before – and not just because there was no electricity. Our elder son, then almost three, was mystified that the greenhouse in the next-door garden, where he had spent many happy hours with our lovely neighbour, had disappeared. He was just old enough to realise that such things don’t normally happen. In Hove Park, trees that had been appreciated by generations were lying on the ground, some blocking the adjacent road. Because the storm had hit at night there were, fortunately, fewer deaths or injuries than might otherwise have been the case.

While insurance companies faced big bills as claims for property damage came in, no insurance could replace the trees which had been lost. Had anyone proposed that some of those trees should be felled, there would have been uproar! However, with time, people began to realise that new vistas had opened up and that, in the wake of the storm, there were opportunities for new planting schemes to be developed.

Once again, we are in a situation which is unexpected and definitely not normal. The consequences of Covid-19 are enormous, wide-ranging and worldwide, with the saddest being the loss of life, whether directly and indirectly as a result of the pandemic.

Just one implication of the lockdown has been the closure of places of worship. For Christians, as for followers of other faiths, this has been very difficult. We are used to these places being a focus for our lives: places where we meet as a community, places from which we reach out to those in need and, most importantly, places of prayer.

As restrictions start to be eased, we start to look forward to the time when we can return to our churches. But let’s not assume that we can just go back to “business as usual”. For the foreseeable future, shielding, self-isolation, social distancing and contact tracing are all terms we’re going to hear often.

All of us will have responded in different ways to the disruption to our normal lives. For some, the challenges of working from home alongside home-schooling children may have stretched ingenuity and patience further than thought possible. For many church communities, the same is true! Some have been able to live-stream Mass, others have had small groups (or even large groups) meeting via video links. Websites have been far more important for spreading information. Above all, the telephone chats between members of the community have kept people in touch with one another, particularly with those who do not have access to the Internet.

After the Great Storm of 1987, the new vistas came to be seen as an unexpected benefit of the storm. So too, I would suggest, it’s important that we see the good things that have come about because of this unprecedented situation. We might also consider what we have most easily been able to manage without.

I’m writing this in the period between Ascension and Pentecost, in the period of waiting for the Holy Spirit. It was the coming of the Holy Spirit that enabled Peter and the other Apostles to spread the Good News of Jesus as they did, starting a church from scratch, as it were.

In Acts 2:42, we read

“[The Believers] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

Let us follow their example and be open to wherever the Holy Spirit may lead us in the time to come.

Helen (member of the Pastoral Team)

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