When I worked as a school chaplain, for nine years, one of my responsibilities was to run the Royal Navy section of the Combined Cadet Force (which led to some interesting conversations with other staff and also the youngsters).
A requirement of course was to learn to sail. I had been a very keen and good swimmer in my student days and beyond, but sailing caught me out. The water I found, when in a boat, was not my natural habitat (though I did pass the course) – I never really felt safe. One key skill was to learn how to read what the wind was doing and to react and respond.
This all came back to me recently in this second Corona wave, much more so than in the spring. Coming out of the relative calm of the harbour, that the post lockdown weeks felt like, once more into wind and perhaps also the ‘wash’ of bigger ships. Panic is not the answer. Screaming in fear or frustration nobody will hear. What is needed is a clear headed return to what has been taught and learnt, and applying all that.
We have learnt much since first lockdown, in all the nations the St Catherine’s church family hails from. We have learnt much about ourselves also. Our resilience has grown and with it our capacity to help and support those who struggle more than we do, whatever shape or form that help and support might look like. This is as true of the adults as the young people and children.
Now, in the thick of it, I know how to listen better to the ‘wind’ and make the necessary response. To keep safe those who had returned to church-based worship. To keep safe those to whom we have as part of our refugee ministry a duty of care. I keep my eyes and ears tuned to the past – the shared memories of joyful gatherings which go on to sustain us – but also to the present and what can be adapted to nurture and hold us through these times as well as the future. What future will we want that is not the past we can no longer return to, but a future meaningful to each in our individuality and in our commonality?
Not since, possibly, the world wars has ‘our Christmas’ been decided for us by politicians, yet they too have a duty to keep us safe where they can. Some of those decisions will be made locally in the coming two weeks e.g. whether the Weihnachtsmarkt take place this year.
For us with a Christian faith there are aspects of ‘our Christmas’ that continue to be unaffected. The narratives we know so well. The prayers those narratives invite. The music to listen to and the music to sing (even if only at home) that forms part of our worship of the Christ-child. For many others there remain family traditions, even single people have family traditions. But even if Christmas is ‘cancelled’ (Weihnachtsmarkt and attendance at Church) the online Christmas worship will be there and we can share links to it with our English speaking friends, neighbours and colleagues. Some of the St Catherine’s family ‘worship with family’ using the online resources and some ‘facetime’ platform or other and have found it rewarding, bridging the gap to far off family.
The Director of Music, with the Virtual Choir, is hard at work already as are Chaplain and Webmaster. New members of the virtual choir are always welcome, just get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org
We return with a clear mind to the scriptures – ‘Wind’ is present in Genesis and Revelations and most of the books in between. But I think the most helpful image here is that well known story of Jesus asleep in the boat in the raging storm and the verbal abuse the disciples gave. Jesus may not have calmed every storm but he was present in them. As people of faith we hold on to that for comfort and for strength, as messengers of Hope.