Monday, March 30, 2020

After a week of Lockdown

Who would have thought just a few short weeks ago that one would be contemplating the almost total cessation of normal everyday activities? Durham is no metropolis, but as a university town its thoroughfares are usually bustling with students at this time but an eerie silence now hangs over the city, although from my study one can still hear the occasional train still rumble across the viaduct and the Cathedral chimes still mark the passing of the hours though, like other houses of worship, it is denuded both of congregation and visitors. On the night of Friday March 20th we listened to a service involving clergy and choir alone held to observe the feast day of St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne at which the Dean made pointed reference to the storms and vicissitudes to which the Cathedral had been witness over almost one thousand years. "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger," declares the author of Lamentations, but in truth there have been sorrows to equal - and exceed - any that we may be currently experiencing.

What is perhaps most uplifting in this time of uncertainty has been the effect of the pandemic on neighbourhood relationships. Here on Western Hill (just west of the railway station) a community has been revitalized. People who had lived in close proximity to one another but had done no more than exchange the time of day - if that - are suddenly connected and households cut off from the wider world by the need to self-isolate have the assurance that healthier neighbours can collect food and medication. Many are for the first time aware of such local initatives as the REfUSE Cafe in Chester-le-Street (in which two local residents are involved), which is currently devoting itself to the provision of food boxes and cooked meals to the most needy in the region. A small but dedicated prayer group is meeting online three times a week to pray for the needs of the community and the wider world. Only this evening, a single rose was left on doorsteps on our road as a gesture of fellowship. Such acknowledgments of our common humanity are perhaps of little consolation to those losing loved ones before their time ("dying suddenly and unprepared" as the Great Litany of the Book of Common Prayer puts it) but they are things to celebrate. What I sincerely pray is that these are not simply fruits of the present hour, but enduring practices that serve to transcend so much of the recent pettiness found not only in politics but in how so many of our institutions - our universities included - operate. Recently one of my prayer partners reflecting on 1 Corinthians 27-28, remarked how the sentiment that God chooses "what is foolish in the world to shame the wise [and] what is weak in the world to shame the strong" reflects our present-day dependence on those professions (cleaning, for example) that receive little commendation in more 'normal' times. Upon such workers - and, of course, on medical personnel - the burden rests heavily and gratitude not only now but in the years ahead would seem to be a fitting response.             


Alto en chamade said...

I hope you and Jennifer are doing well and keeping safe and healthy.

Jeremy Bonner said...

Thank you. We're hanging in there and, compared with those serving on the NHS frontlines, our lot is a fortunate one.