When I wrote the first draft of this column back at the beginning of March, I used it to reflect on the nature of uncertainty, how we couldn’t be sure what the future might hold. Naturally, I mentioned Covid-19 Coronavirus.

I’ve been through several versions of the column since then, as the situation has changed. (Thank you to the editor, who has been very patient and kind in allowing me to re-write this long after the official copy deadline had passed.) It has become clear that Coronavirus is going to have a significant effect on all of our lives, even if we somehow avoid becoming unwell ourselves. Already, plans are having to be altered, and things are beginning to be postponed or cancelled. However, we still can’t be sure of what the future holds. It’s the middle of March as I write this, and it may be terribly out-of-date by the time you read it.

There is a temptation in an extreme situation like this to despair. It’s important that we don’t succumb to that temptation. Yes, things will need to change for a while. They may need to change very significantly. Life may become rather disrupted. It’s okay to be confused. It’s okay to feel scared. In fact, we will be better to be honest with each other. So I’ll be honest with you. Right now I am somewhat confused, and I’m even a bit scared. Nobody has an instruction book for how to deal with this – not governments, not scientists, and certainly not vicars.

But being scared or confused isn’t the same as despair. There isn’t an instruction book. But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing that we can do.

So – please pay attention to and follow all the public health advice. If you need help, especially if you are having to stay isolated, please ask someone. If you can offer help, please do so. If you don’t know who else to contact, you can contact me and I will try to point you in the right direction. Stay in touch with each other, and look after yourselves and each other. We don’t know exactly what will happen. But whatever does happen, we are all in this together.

Remember too that life continues even in the midst of Coronavirus, and it will continue afterwards. It is the great promise of Easter, the promise that, in God, life overcomes all things, even death itself. Living through and beyond this, however, will come at a cost. It might only be the temporary cost of not being able to do everything which we would like to for a while. But we need to be honest, and recognise that there may be bigger, more profound costs. The glorious new life of Easter Day was not possible without the cross of Good Friday.

God is with us in all things. God is with us through all of this. That means we do not need to despair. But faith in God is not some kind of magic anti-virus forcefield. The biblical book of Nehemiah tells part of the story of the Israelites rebuilding the city of Jerusalem after it had been destroyed. But before they had finished, they saw their enemies coming to attack them. What did the Israelites do? ‘We prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection.’ (Nehemiah 4.9).

In these very uncertain and worrying times, we can follow the example of those Israelites. God will be with us in everything that happens. But we need to play our part, just like the Israelites had the guards on lookout. There are plenty of things we can do which will help to minimise the effects of Coronavirus. That’s why it’s important not to despair, not to just give up all hope – because there are things which we can do, steps we can all take, guards which we can all set.

‘We prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection’. It’s important to do both. So pray – and wash your hands.

Whatever the future holds, may we know the peace and strength of God with us all as we live it together.

Fr David

You will find in and with your Hambledonian details of how you can contribute to the great Bell A-Peal. As the copy date approached our government had just introduced more restrictive virus management strategies. We were concerned that the village may not support an appeal in such circumstances, and maybe we shouldn’t ask.

But wait – this is Hambledon, a village and people of defiance and optimism. We will come out of this difficult period, and when we get back to normal, we want to be able to sound the bells of St Peter and St Paul once again.

If you would like to help make sure that happens, we would be grateful if you could help by giving through any of the various channels suggested. Thank you.