Many people in Britain are revelling in the restoration of social freedoms which have been dramatically curtailed over the last 15 months. While the same joy is yet to be felt in many parts of the world, where new waves of Covid-19 infections are leaving some countries reeling, people in the UK are confident that the devastating storm of Covid-19 will soon be behind them.
In our hope and haste to ‘get back to normal’, let’s not be too quick to consign this tragic and turbulent year to history. As I’ve reflected on how the world has changed since the start of 2020, three questions have been running through my mind.
What lessons should we remember from the Covid-19 year? Two stand out for me; the first is the power of collaboration. The extraordinary speed of designing and building ventilators and the development, testing and approval of Covid-19 vaccines are two examples of the remarkably creative power of people working in unison. It reminds me of God’s comment about the builders of Babel in Genesis 11, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” The Babylonians’ efforts, motivated by pride, were thwarted; the concerted efforts to save lives from Covid-19 were rooted in compassion and were blessed, and we are right to thank God for these vaccines.
The second lesson is our ability to adapt quickly to dramatically changed circumstances, in particular by using digital technologies. Who could have imagined that around half of the working population could ‘pivot to online’ in a matter of weeks and work full time from home? The lesson here is that we can respond to major challenges creatively and successfully.
What treasures have we found to carry into the future? In times of great difficulty and loss, the promise in Isaiah 45:3 brings hope: “I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places.” The pandemic has yielded treasures we may not otherwise have found. Chief among them is the greater connection many have built with those living around them; through responding to the practical challenges of the lockdown, strangers have become neighbours and neighbours have become friends. Our lives have become far more local and we feel a greater connection to the places where we live – so we’re more likely to volunteer for community initiatives, support local businesses, and look after our immediate environment.
Paradoxically, this doesn’t mean that we must be less connected with distant places; indeed, we can relate to people struggling with Covid-19 and lockdowns anywhere in the world. The coronavirus is a shared global experience and an indiscriminate leveller between rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, the famous and the unknown. It underscores our common humanity and reminds us how much we have in common with others around the planet.
With these lessons in mind and treasures in our hearts, what priorities should shape our outlook on the decade ahead? Some are talking about a new ‘roaring 20s’, in which people throw off the restrictions of the pandemic and indulge in all manner of pleasures. Instead, I would love to see the Church throw off our timidity and insularity and build on the confidence we have found during the pandemic in serving our communities and loving our neighbours. As followers of Jesus and ambassadors for his kingdom, let us take more opportunities to share our faith and hope by contributing to civil society, seeking collaboration between our churches and local councils, and keeping our focus on the marginalised, the poor, the isolated and the vulnerable. Let’s nurture a vision for the ‘20s in which we make known God’s kindness, justice and righteousness through our words, our work and our witness.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
2 Corinthians 2:14
Credit: Image by Michelle Raponi on Pixabay