It’s been one of those weeks where you kept your eye on the news, because there’s been a lot of ‘telegrams and anger’ as E.M. Forster called it.
The omicron variant splits our head from our heart. In our heart we can’t bear it, we’d almost thought the pandemic was mostly over, we’re in denial that we’re looking at graphs and ‘next slide please’ again; it feels like the ghost of Christmas last. In our heads we know that new variants were always probable, that it’s too early to say how significant this one is, that vaccination and basic precautions make a big difference, but that there’s no law that says a pandemic has to let up before it reaches its second Christmas.
Between the panic that says we’re back in the mire, and the weary casualness that insists there’s nothing to see, lies a practical approach that takes straightforward precautions gladly and without complaint. At St Martin’s we already have in place the basic procedures that we’ve maintained for many months now. Members of staff who can work from home will do so, but the rest of our life – in worship, concerts, café and elsewhere – will carry on as before, unless there are new developments and regulations. The principle, as ever, is love your neighbour as you love yourself: we accept constraints on our lives not simply because they reduce the likelihood of our contracting the virus, but just as much because they reduce the risk of others doing so. Solidarity was the greatest gift of the initial response to covid-19, and it’s the dismantling of that solidarity that has made the story of the 2020 Christmas events in Downing Street so damaging.
Christmas means God saying to the world ‘You are not alone.’ In the end my problem with the individual freedom arguments of covid libertarians is that they assume we are all, in the end, alone. The gospel is that we are never alone; the call to the church is to affirm, in word and action, in good times and bad, that we are one body, and will one day forever be together in the presence of God.
Revd Dr Sam Wells