Well, the long-awaited moment has arrived and this Sunday we can sing again in church. Freedom though has come with more of a whimper than a bang and although we travel hopefully, we know that it’s not all over yet.
I am telling my children to remember this because in fifty years’ time their local primary school will be asking them to come in and tell the children of the day all about the great COVID lockdown of 2020 and how it went on into 2021 and the terrible shortage of eggs and flour and how Amazon and Zoom
between them took over the world. And yet, even as I note the A to Z inherent in that flippant statement, I am reminded that it is God who said: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
As we seek to find God in COVID and in these days through which we live, we are reminded that the faithful have lived through plague and war, fear and triumph for two thousand years and will likely do so again. I was fascinated to read in Jean Kirkwood’s wonderful little book “The Centenary Story” that “…throughout the country, the non-conformist churches lost ground in the early 1850’s and membership of the Wesleyan church slumped particularly. 100,000 members had been lost in the five years 1850 to 1855 and the Home Missions Department was created in 1856 to meet the challenge. Various reasons have been suggested why this might have happened ranging from emigration to the poverty caused by the Crimean War and in Wesleyan Methodism following unfortunate internal wrangling, but there was also an increasingly secular use of the Sabbath.” Jean goes on to speak of thousands of people on excursion trains to London and shops open and tradesmen doing business and all of these things that were concerning the churches in the 1850s continue and have their impact today. There is truly nothing new under the sun. The penultimate paragraph of Jean’s book says this: “Our church still stands on the corner of Alma Road …the symbol that in his strong compassion, God stoops from his everywhere down to our here. Because there were always men and women who did not lose heart when the going was tough and did not become slack when the going was easy.” May it be so for us in our time.