Lockdown Reflection: Lost Time
We are delighted that our friend and neighbour, the Revd Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, Team Rector at St Andrew's and St Margaret's, has shared with us this reflection for lockdown:
In St Andrew’s Church, the hymn board is deliberately stuck in time. The hymn numbers from the last time we sang in church, March 15th, the Third Sunday of Lent remain in place – and will do so until singing can resume.
It isn’t laziness that has left them there, it is a deliberate decision to mark, or honour even, the huge disruption that all society including the church has endured. The loss of a significant period of time is not something we have encountered before and it constitutes yet one more unsettling factor to these disorienting days.
Amidst all the observations about the impact of the lockdown, the changed pattern of working, the attention given to the natural world, the endless hours spent in front of a screen, disrupted sleep and strange dreams, perhaps it is the tricks that time has played which we most need to try and make sense of.
Where has time gone? I know that I am not alone in being simultaneously quite well occupied yet immensely unproductive. Some days seem to have dragged yet the weeks pass and we’re not sure what we have achieved. Despite the most beautiful spring and early summer we have probably ever had, it is difficult to distinguish and remember one day from another.
This is a reminder of the extent to which it is people and places that mark out our lives, make them distinctive and give us roots. Lockdown has been a removal of that essential part of our humanity.
But for all this, one of the striking things is how adaptable we are and the way that so many of us (though certainly not all) have adjusted to the bewildering circumstances we have found ourselves in. Churches everywhere have had to do so and probably surprised themselves with how well they have responded.
Even as the lockdown eases and some of the restrictions are lifted, we won’t find ourselves returning to where we were. The habits and mores of time Before Coronavirus (BC) will seem an alien world from the perspective of After Coronavirus (AC). We find ourselves in the middle of these two periods of time but remain unsure of how long there is still to go. We know that life is likely to be very different in the future, but we don’t know exactly what we will lose; we are anticipating grief without knowing exactly what it is that we mourn. Such uncertainty, which saps our energy and raises anxiety, contributes to the restless and febrile mood of the times.
It seems to me that we have to accept such anxiety rather than fight it and that our faith should help us do so. Let us return to the hymn board for the Third Sunday of Lent.
We have ‘lost’ a significant chunk of time, but on such a scale that we can’t ‘make up for lost time’; we cannot squeeze into the remaining months of the year all the things we were hoping to do! But time lost to us, is not lost to God. Time is still time and ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13.8). Furthermore, both Scripture and history remind us that the people of God have been here before. Indeed, they have endured exile and uncertainty on a scale we cannot imagine. None of this lessens the challenge we face but it does offer perspective, and at a fractious moment for our nation we need to renew our dependency on God who holds all time and all people in his hands.
GK Chesterton’s poem/hymn, O God of earth and altar, was written in 1906 but resonates with the peculiar year 2020 in which we find ourselves. As ‘walls of gold’ entomb some people and ‘swords of scorn’ divide others, so the request that God might bind our lives together and ‘lift up a living nation’ seems a prayer for us all.
O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry, our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die; the walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide, take not thy thunder from us, but take away our pride. From all that terror teaches, from lies of tongue and pen, from all the easy speeches that comfort cruel men, from sale and profanation of honour, and the sword, from sleep and from damnation, deliver us, good Lord! Tie in a living tether the prince and priest and thrall, bind all our lives together, smite us and save us all; in ire and exultation aflame with faith, and free, lift up a living nation, a single sword to thee.