After the great celebration of Easter Day, the Church calendar carries on through the seven weeks of the Easter season to Pentecost, each Sunday gospel witnessing to the experience of the first disciples of the risen Lord, through the Ascension to St Luke’s story of the gift of the Spirit. Together, the disciples are gifted with the resurrection appearances, with his ascension into heaven, and with the Spirit.
The Church’s celebrations are celebrations in community, in congregations, in gatherings. This year, throughout the world, the cycle of the year and the continuity of traditional observance have been broken. The trauma we Christians are experiencing is echoed in their own traditions by Jews celebrating Passover and Muslims observing Ramadan – the gatherings that are a vital part of faith identity have been made impossible by the risks of passing on COVID-19.
It’s not surprising that we feel traumatised and confused – and that’s before we begin to address the great stresses to which the global economy and institutions such as the World Health Organisation are subjected, and the tragedies of countless individual lives. People talk about “getting back to normal” but, for a great proportion of the world’s population, there will never be a return to what was “normal” just a couple of months ago.
Yet while we are denied activity in community – worship, sport, weddings, funerals, and family gatherings, even “non-essential” work – in some ways we are more aware of community, of our interdependence (the Thursday night clap!), local, national, global, of the need to act together if the effects of the virus are to be minimised and eventual protection found. Is it too much to hope for, that COVID-19 will have brought us back to the message of Scripture, that our way of living must always take account of the needs of others and the well-being of the natural environment on which all life depends?
Revd Canon John Wood