Too often we seek to look forward and not back. Most of us are glad that 2021 is ended and we hope that 2022 will be a better year. However, if something occurs in a period that changes our lives significantly then we do from time to time reflect upon the joyful and tragic events that we are part of in the journey through this world. What most of us don’t I suspect do is look back at the normal day-to-day business of our lives, which is exactly what I have been asked to do for this article. It has for me been a rewarding exercise, in this season of Epiphany, to reflect on all the ways God continues to be revealed in normal everyday life. One of the incredible privileges of being ordained is the frequency of the instants when you are involved in the life changing events of others. Confirming, marrying, baptizing, and commending the departed into the arms of their loving God are just a few of the times when we can feel incredibly privileged and humbled by the vocation God has given us.
Sometimes, however, one needs to look a little deeper to try and find how God is working through a situation! Just such a situation occurred for me in a meeting with the Society Bishops in London when I received the news that the lateral flow test I had taken a couple of hours earlier was positive. I obviously left the meeting with haste and was glad that I had on this occasion driven and could return home without the chance of infecting others. The drive home was absorbed with all the thoughts of what had to be cancelled and how utterly inconvenient the situation was. My mind also reflected on how ill I might become and who I might have infected. The next few days were full of fatigue and coughing, but what was more acute for me was the removal of all human contact. I take for granted that I can hug my family daily, and whilst I could still talk to my wife and children it did give me a heightened sense of what it must be like to lose a partner or to be so vulnerable or afraid of COVID that you need to shield yourself from the contact of others. The opportunity to stop, read and pray (as well as catching up on some daytime telly; Bangers and Cash in my case) was also valuable. As I recovered a regular zoom meeting with NHS chaplains found me reflecting and giving thanks for all they do both in supporting the hospital staff, and for being there holding the hands of the ill and dying when their loved ones are unable to. Much of the work of chaplaincy can so often go unnoticed by the wider world, but there is much to give thanks for in their work of reflecting the eternal loving light of Christ in the darkness of death and distress. Zoom cannot replace the need to meet in person, but it has become a useful tool to keep connected with clergy groups without the burden of travel.
Once recovered, the diary reverted to its usual busyness with the added responsibilities of covering other members of the senior staff as they self-isolated. My diary is incredibly varied and looking back on a week in November included interviewing candidates to lead a rural benefice, attending an art exhibition and new church café opening in Hove, speaking to those who help us discern vocation in the diocese, meeting clergy to check on their well-being and progress, attending the Friends of Eastbourne Hospital AGM, and presiding at a number of services including the licensing of two clergy, celebrating at two Confirmations, a SSC Requiem and a service highlighting the terrible effects of domestic abuse. When you stop and look back, you realise just how much the Church continues to contribute to society as we each seek to reflect in our own vocation God’s light, hope and love.