Go gently

crowds-1red© Andy Nutter

Rev Abi Todd of Holy Trinity Church, South Woodford, encourages the community to ‘go gently’ as we continue with COVID-19 restrictions, and urges us to be mindful of those responding differently to the delay

Our “route out of lockdown” has had twists and turns once again, as now we hope to be released from restrictions on 19 July. I have to confess to feeling deflated once again, not about the restrictions per se, but more about the rollercoaster we have been on.

I wonder how you are feeling about the next phase for our nation? Perhaps you are hoping to see family abroad, go on holiday, or welcome friends from afar again. Perhaps you have secretly enjoyed lockdown – the quietness for you has brought with it a peace and a recalibration of a hectic life. Perhaps you have become more anxious in the past months. Perhaps you cannot wait to embrace all that a British summer has to offer – garden parties, Essex beaches, and being stuck on the Central Line at 6pm.

I want to encourage you to go gently with those who are responding differently to you about the changes that are coming. As an illustration, there is a period in biblical history (in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, in the Old Testament) where the people of Israel are returning to their land after a 70-year exile. The culmination of their return was the reinstatement of their worship. At this event, there was cheering and shouting for joy that could be heard for miles around. At the same time, many people were weeping and wailing aloud, remembering the pain of all that had been lost in exile. It is said in the Bible that “no one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping.” This great cacophony was an authentic reaction to the emotional complexity of the return.

As we embrace the summer, here are four things to hold in mind to remind you to go gently with others, and with yourself.

  • Joy and pain are both legitimate reactions to the lifting of restrictions. It is not strange to feel fearful of things opening up again, and nor is it strange to feel relief.
  • Joy and pain can exist in the same person at the same time, with no contradiction.
  • There will always be ‘someone worse off’, but that doesn’t mean your pain is insignificant. We need to mourn our losses and be real about what we have faced.
  • We have the chance to create a ‘new normal’ in South Woodford. I am so encouraged as I walk local streets and see shops open again and people meeting to chat. We have the chance to focus on our local community in this next season, loving where we live and creating a ‘new normal’ in which everyone is respected and accepted, and where we see our streets bursting with life again.

My prayer for you is that you go gently with yourself in this season, giving yourself time for joy and lightness and time to reflect and lament for all that has been lost.

To contact Reverend Abi Todd, email abi.todd@htsw.org.uk