There has been one huge advantage to lockdown for me, assuming I don’t catch the virus I will end up fitter coming out of it than when I went into it! The ‘stay at home’ and ‘only go out for exercise’ mandate was all the incentive I needed to make sure that I went for a walk every day. So, I discovered the hitherto untravelled delights of walking in the woods in Swindon – because for a while, even Himley Park was locked.
I’ve walked through the woods, seen the bluebells come and go, watched the trees come in to leaf and have become quite familiar with the population along Swindon canal as I walked by with my newly purchased walking poles. They doubled up on Good Friday morning to make a cross for my solitary procession. Since then as we have had such glorious weather, life on the canal has seemed idyllic. Boat owners sitting alongside their vessels sipping a chosen beverage in the early evening sunshine has put me in mind of exotic foreign holidays. One resident even called out across the canal (very useful for social distancing) ‘It’s Majorca over here!’ So, yes, I am fitter if not leaner.
Walking rather than driving in a place is different, you see things that are usually missed. For example, on the side of the canal, the stately heron keeping perfectly still waiting for the right moment to swoop in and catch a fish. Walking slows you down giving time to unwind the tangle of thoughts swirling around the mind which can be turned to prayer.
Walking in God’s good creation is grounding and connecting and in lockdown when deprived of the usual distractions there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide from oneself or God.
Our daily walk meant that on the evening of VE Day 75 Ian and I were exchanging pleasantries with socially distanced neighbours sitting in their front gardens. One spoke up and said: ‘It was so good to hear the church bells ring’. Another stopped his cycle ride to express how glad he was to hear the church bells ring again. Only two days earlier we had been given permission for one person to enter church so we decided that at least one VE Day decision could still go ahead as originally planned. The church bell would be rung at 7pm on Friday 8th May 2020, and it was by our faithful churchwarden Keith Lilley. I did not anticipate how much it would mean to people. It seems that in these days of Zoom, Skype and a host of online shopping opportunities, it is still important to have the reminder of something unchanging and eternal; explaining why Swindon residents were so encouraged by hearing one solitary church bell rung once more.
As well as being fitter I am marginally more tech savvy. I have had the chance to join in Morning and Evening Prayer with Top Church Dudley who, because of their gifted team, were able to get going very quickly with Zoom. This gave me the courage to try it out for myself so for a few Sundays I have led a service from my study to which members from Himley and Swindon have been invited. We have enjoyed seeing each other and it has helped us all in our isolation. Things were going so well that I extended the invitation only to find that on the first Sunday with the expanded congregation I had twenty people in the waiting room who I was not able to let in! Panic ensued, pride came before a fall, only discovering later that Zoom had crashed worldwide! Since then we’ve dusted ourselves off and started all over again! So far, so good.
If you would like to join in our Sunday service, please send me a message with your email and I can send you the link. Or if you think you’d like to try it but lack the ‘Zoom know how’, don’t worry we can help you with that too.
In a world that has changed so much it is good to remember the words of this hymn, inspired by Psalm 46:
God is our strength and refuge,
our present help in trouble;
and we therefore will not fear,
though the earth should change!
Though mountains shake and tremble,
though swirling floods are raging,
God the Lord of hosts
is with us evermore.
And, to echo the words of the Queen’s VE Day message ‘Never give up, never despair.’
God Bless, Rev Charmaine
CHURCH OF ST JOHN THE EVANGELIST
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Swindon, DY 4PQ
CHURCH OF ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS