The last two years have brought sadness, loss, financial problems and long-term health issues for many, and few have found them a positive experience. But like the flowers growing on the wasteland there have been a few things brought about by the lockdown that have actually improved our lives. The most radical impact on our church life has been the use of technology. It’s difficult to believe that we have only had livestreamed services, recorded music and readings in Lent and Advent and morning prayer and compline, for two years – they have become so much part of our lives. People who are ill, or are carers that cannot go out, can access our services and feel part of our community. Someone new to the area can check out recordings to take a look at what we offer before they join us for the first time. Conversely, people moving away can still stay in touch. Many of us came to loathe zoom when it was the only way to meet, but nevertheless without it, meetings in lockdown would not have been possible. Now it remains useful for short meetings as it saves travelling time and the heating of buildings. For families, too, it is possible to see and hear those who live too far away to easily visit.
I write this on a Sunday afternoon, just having conducted a prayer book evening service in church. Only 3 people came, but the service was also watched by others in their own homes. I started the service streaming from home and was surprised by the number of people who joined me. Without lockdown I don’t think I would have ever thought about doing it! And I am well aware of the irony, that I use my iPad to read the 1662 service on an app that automatically gives me the whole service complete with the correct psalms and readings, and I play beautifully sung music composed centuries ago which I have downloaded via the internet.
But there is one other way that has nothing to do with technology that I believe my life has improved. I no longer take my health and that of the people I love for granted. It had never occurred to me before that the freedom to go out and spend time with friends is a gift, and I appreciate far more the beauty of the area close to my home. Anxiety about the loss of these things is not helpful – but a healthy sense of gratitude is much better than complacency. Let us pray for better times, but that the lessons we have learnt will stay with us.