Revd Gary's Pastoral Letter February 2022

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Vicar’s Pastoral Letter - February 2022

Dear Friends,

I can’t quite believe that we are already into a new year. As I try and sort my last year’s diary, into this year’s, I still feel that I am between two worlds.   

At the beginning of this year, I am not sure any of us knew what to expect after the events of 2021.  With the fast rollout and effectiveness of the boosters and vaccines, we are all well aware that this has largely ‘unlocked’ us from the full power of this virus even in its new mutant form.  Yet, we know that we are not out of the woods yet; at the time of writing, extremely high rates of Covid still persist locally and nationally and it is affecting how our public services can respond to our need.   Let’s be careful out there.

As 2022 entered mildly without the expected chill of winter, we have been caught almost between two worlds, and therefore two ways of thinking about the way forward: some cry a return to normal others cry caution going forward and talk about adapting to a ‘new normal.’  Yet there surely needs to be an awareness when having this debate that for many people and indeed entire nations, there is and will be nothing ‘normal’ about how they live for some time.  For reasons of health and medical treatments, many people still find themselves having to shield and keep away from others and they will be doing this for some time.  There are some members of our church community I haven’t seen in church for two years now - hopefully for that reason rather than my poor choice of aftershave or length of sermons!

For other countries, particularly low-income countries, the percentage of Covid vaccine doses that have been administered, is shockingly low.  So, whilst the UK has 70% of the population fully vaccinated, the figure in Tanzania is 2.1% (of the population having received two doses).  At their current rate of vaccination, it will take Tanzania 349 days to vaccinate 10% of their population (Source – Reuters).  Yet should we be surprised to read this? According to statistics from Duke University, the United States paid for enough vaccines for twice its population, the UK for four times its population and Canada five times its population.  In short then: ‘even though the world will have created 11 billion total doses by the end of 2021, almost 9.9 billion of those doses have already been promised to higher and upper middle-income countries.’  (Source- World Bank).

At Christmas time, the Church proclaimed that ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us.’ (John1:14) Christmas is not just a day - it’s a way of faithful living. God in Christ comes into the world to proclaim God’s love to all, to show that no-one is beyond the reach of God’s love and to call us to show this same love to one another.  In his birth a new Kingdom, God’s Kingdom has ‘come near.’  Our calling then is to live, not caught between two worlds and ways of thinking about the future and Covid, but to live as people who have the light of the Christ-child in their midst; to live as people of God’s Kingdom where we look beyond ourselves and call the world to do the same.  This means that we don’t forget, overlook or leave behind those who still live in the darkest shadow of Covid – those who are still shielding from this virus and those who are lonely or anxious as a result. Where are all the volunteers that used to run errands?  There is still need out there even though most, I assume, have gone back to a normal existence of work, living a life and stocking up on Lateral Flow Tests.   

It also means that we don’t forget those in countries which have few vaccines to administer but instead call the richest nations of the world, including our own, to share what they have, recognising that there will be no ‘normal’ until everyone is protected.  For this is what it is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:31) and this is what it is to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom.

And with Valentine’s this month, what a great Valentine’s gift that would be?

Every blessing.  Rev Gary