Now that the roadmap out of lockdown and Covid restrictions has been announced, there is a feeling of hope in the country; a feeling that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This was, as many commented, never going to be a sprint, but rather a marathon; and like a marathon it will take time for us all to recover from it. In time there will need to be some serious examination of our national structures and procedures. It will also be important for the Church of England to review its conduct during the pandemic and the part we were able to play in our communities. Out of this great time of trial much good has come, but there have also been many mistakes and wrong turns. As well as a time for remembering and grieving, there will also need to be time for reconciliation and forgiveness. Just as, as Christians, we cling to hope so too we must not forget that we seek to bring God’s reconciling love to our communities and to the world. The pandemic has raised many questions about end of life care, the value of life, and the sanctity of human life. These issues are at the centre of what it is to be Christian, and to believe that each person is created in the loving image of God. Doctors and nurses have, daily, to make decisions about who receives care and indeed the difficult choices about which life to save. There have however been disturbing and distressing reports of people with learning disabilities having ‘do not resuscitate’ orders placed on them in Covid wards. Whilst there will naturally be an investigation into these shocking claims, it is clear that this is not an acceptable way for any health service to behave in a civilised country. Entering into the first national lockdown in 2020 it was clear that we were being asked to curtail our activities precisely because every life, regardless of age, health or social position, mattered. We were encouraged to see that by limiting our activities we would save lives; we would ensure that the health service was not swamped and was able to function. Any policy that targets one group of people in a way that suggests that their lives are ‘worth less’ than those of others must be resisted at all costs. We hope that any commission charged with examining the pandemic will also consider the way in which, as a society, we seek to protect and value all human life.
It is not only our national life that will be under review in the coming months and years. It is clear that the parochial system of the Church of England is coming under scrutiny amidst calls for a major rethink of the way on which we run the church and particularly manage parishes. The parishes of The Society will not be immune from this; there will sadly be some of our own parishes which do not survive the cuts in clergy numbers and parochial ministry. It is important here to pay tribute to the lay people who keep so many of our parishes running during interregna and also to the large numbers of retired clergy who continue minister to our parishes, very often taking on much of the pastoral and sacramental responsibilities for parishes who without them would have little sacramental or pastoral care. There will in the years to come be difficult decisions to be made, some of which will be heart breaking for communities. We can however take some action now. If in your area or diocese there is a stronger Society parish then consider clustering; or joining in partnership with a weaker parish. Perhaps parishes could link together in mission partnerships; this is already happening across the country by sharing resources, experience and, in some cases, financial support. In this way our parishes can get ahead of diocesan plans and when the time comes for difficult discussions and decisions may be able to offer not only solutions but also clear ideas for moving forward in evangelism and mission. We have a very great opportunity to be part of the rebuilding of the life of the church in the coming years. Through the pastoral care and outreach that is so important in our Catholic parishes we can work to reach out to those most in need and to continue to serve our communities. The Catholic Movement in the Church of England has the resources to help shape the future of the church in this land and it is important that we take every opportunity to do this as we seek to continue the work of building up the Kingdom of God.