New Monkland and Greengairs Parish Church


Covid-19 and 2020:
Opportunities and blessings
(Count Yours)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Charles Dickens.
(“A Tale of Two Cities. 1859)
How very odd life can be! In this very cruel year of 2020 we experienced the pain, loss, uncertainty, isolation, anxiety and unemployment caused by the scourge of Covid-19. Yet, somehow, these last five months also seem to have been one of the best years ever experienced in terms of community, compassion, neighbourliness, sacrifice, service, solidarity and support. Try counting your blessings then; how many are there? Here’s my quick and messy starter for ten:

1. We are still here together! The Church is still resolutely the Church!

2. We took the Word of God (living and written) into people’s homes using technology (am I the only one to go, “Oooh, technology!” (in a Homer Simpson voice)? Services were “streamed” every week of the twenty-five weeks of the lockdown. (First time I’ve ever met people’s expectations to be in two places at the same time!).

3. We got to “stream” funerals and be creative with ways in which people are encouraged and supported to mourn.

4. We rediscovered that Care Homes truly are places where people are professionally, diligently and gently Cared for - in Homes.

5. We got to shop for people (which we’re still doing); Started supplying drugs (prescription only) honest Officer!

6. We had the challenge of four funerals in four locations in one day (two burials in different cemeteries, two different crematoria). April 2020, you are never to be forgiven! I will always resent and loathe you in equal measure! You were the cruellest and darkest month of my near thirty year ministry.

7. We were part of an active, pastorally-engaged and effective Church which catered for feelings of bereaved and brokenness of our communities.

8. We worked with two Reopening Committees who took on the complex and herculean task of returning two congregations safely back to their Church buildings - and succeeded!

9. We looked on with awe and wonder as so many of you discovered and conducted your own magnificent front-line ministries in this challenging time.

10. We served with key frontline workers of many and varied designations on a regular basis - we must recognise and value those unseen heroes - lest we forget.

The world has become so very different and complex over the past five months and I think it is an invitation to blessing and service to me and others around me. I’m so desperately sad at the loss, the fear, the uncertainty, the anxiety, the unemployment and the lack of consideration for others as people fail to protect those around them. These five months of global pandemic have been a profoundly humbling and exhausting experience, which continues to challenge and inspire in equal measure.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Charles Dickens.
(“A Tale of Two Cities. 1859)


The Peace of Wild Things

Wendell Berry
from New Collected Poems (Counterpoint, 2012)
With the incredible level of stress in our country (and the whole world) due to trying to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic, we all need some time to reflect and just “be”. I’ve recently found a lot of comfort in this wonderful little poem by the American novelist, poet, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer, Wendell Berry. It’s titled, “The Peace of Wild Things”, and it’s about the fear of the unknown getting you down and how getting out into nature and having a walk can be tremendously reassuring. I’ve been sending it to everyone feeling overwhelmed this year and I hope that it helps them as much as it does me.
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives
with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.


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