In my June/July Comment, I mentioned that because of the major events and changes we are currently going through, we will in due course look back to mention life as either having been BC ‘Before Coronavirus’ or AC ‘After Coronavirus’. However, in this comment, I want to talk about the time that is in between…..that transition time when things are still happening and changing, but it might be two steps forward and one step back until we get from where we are and to where we might want to be.
Recently I was in a webinar (a seminar, but online!) with someone who led a large NGO in response to the Haiti earthquake, who was telling us that in any major crisis we need to think of there being three phases to such a time and not just two.
First, there is the Response stage, to the immediate needs which is of course crucial, and we have all been doing our best to respond to the needs we have seen. For example, providing immediate medical help and food to people in need, and support and finance for businesses.
After responding, we very naturally to want to get to the third stage of Reconstruction, life in the ‘new normal’ of having back good health e.g., a vaccine for the virus; everyone have their physical needs met e.g., all having enough food; and businesses back up and running e.g., people being back in employment.
These are important stages, but in our rush to move away from response to getting things re-constructed, we must be careful not to miss out the crucial second stage of Recovery.
And what is involved in this Recovery stage? Recovery is about taking time with each other to listen, process, understand and come to terms with (in body, mind and soul) the trauma we have all been through in various ways and to a greater or lesser extent. To name a number: the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, the loss freedoms (stuck at home), the loss of education; the loss of a business, the loss of time; the loss of security, the loss of control, the loss of activities, the loss of fitness, the loss of money, the loss of being with members of our wider family, and the loss of a future that will no longer be what we might have imagined or hoped for.
Covid-19 has been a life changing challenge itself and equally the big issues it has brought to the surface for example: inequality, racism, the environment, our broken economic system and the divisions in our society over values and beliefs.
I am of course raising things I cannot possibly answer in this comment– but that is my point – we need to face the issues that have happened and that cannot be easily resolved, take time with each other, and seek the help and support we all need from each other and from God. The truth is, we are all suffering loss and are bereaved where we will go through the very normal stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then acceptance.
In the bible, this recovery stage is called a time to Lament for all that has happened, a time to call out to each other and to God, to face what has happened, to find help and strength, and then begin to find hope that we might be able to move into the future.
In the coming weeks and months, my prayer is that we will find the time with each other to listen, support and help each other to a point of recovery……so that we might then be able to re-construct.
As we lament, grieve and recover, there is lots in the bible to help us, but best of all are the Psalms. I have put two below and which I hope you might find helpful as you grieve and lament for a past which is gone and a future which is not yet certain:
Psalm 137 1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. 7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. 9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks
Psalm 13 1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? 3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, 4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
When we are having to lament, we wonder when such a time will end, but when we have been through a time of recovery we can hear words of hope, as Psalm 13 promises: “5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. These last words of Psalm 13 point to where we can find hope to lift us out of our lament to recovery – a trust is God’s unfailing love, the God who can saves us and who offers a new kingdom in the future.”
With my prayers for August and September
Revd James Hunt – Rector St Peter’s Bishop’s Waltham with Blessed Mary, Upham
2nd July 2020