PCN Newsletter 23rd April 2020
In the fifth of our weekly newsletters we ask 'what next?'
I want to start this week with an apology; firstly, to Nigel Jones and secondly, to many of our members. It was evident from the contents of my inbox that I had not made it sufficiently clear that Nigel’s thoughts, included in last week’s newsletter, related to an excursion prior to the lockdown instruction. This has not only made people think badly of Nigel through no fault of his own, but it has also caused genuine upset to some PCN members.
Sarah, PCN Administrator
‘We will meet again’ said the Queen in her message to the nation, echoing of course the wartime sentiments sung by Vera Lynn. In this fourth week of national lockdown it seems at times difficult to imagine that we will ever return to life as it was. We long to meet again with our families and friends, to cuddle our grandchildren, to socialise (not at a distance!) with friends in our various associations, be it a PCN group, a choir, Sunday worship, a pub quiz night!
But do we really want life to resume as normal as if nothing has happened, no lessons learnt? Many commentators, be it in the media or in political circles, are clear that this pandemic has highlighted both the bad, the good and the ugly in our national life. Perhaps we have learnt about which workers we have rather taken for granted. Perhaps the lack of traffic has allowed us to breath more fresh air, allowed us to hear more clearly the birdsongs of Spring. Maybe working from home has for some been preferable to the daily commute. As we struggle to teach our children at home, maybe we have learnt afresh how skilful ‘real’ teachers are.
The pandemic and its tragic death toll has made people angry as well as fearful. And so the big question we might ask each other is this: What changes do we want to see in our country as a result of this awful experience of the coronavirus? I would like PCN members who read this newsletter to take the opportunity to tell us what changes you would wish to see happen in the UK, if, for example, you happened to be Prime Minister! Whatever aspect of our social, economic and political life you choose, be it national or international, we would love to hear from you.
Would you send a (very brief and succinct please) email to Sarah naming up to three changes (no more than three please!) which you would want to see as a result of lessons learnt in a pandemic world? We will collate all these responses and fashion them into a positive resolve for our life together in a post-pandemic society. More importantly let’s join together with others in a big conversation with our political, community and religious leaders to work for a world more attuned to the dream of a godly world glimpsed in the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
We look forward to your responses!
Adrian Alker, chair of PCN trustees.
What can we learn?
This time last year few, if any, would have imagined that the world would ‘lock down’ in fear of an invisible enemy. That so many have complied is testimony to the seriousness of the threat. “It’s an ill wind…..” ; although there is much sadness and frustration there are also benefits. We see, via the media and personal experience, many acts of kindness, much altruism, donations and much more, the community spirit bursting out, often in the most unlikely places.
The reduction in transport has led to cities without air pollution and less noise. People report hearing birds for the first time for many years and are able to breathe more easily. Our lifestyles have created conditions that mask out the natural world like the clouds mask the sun. We know it is always there but cannot experience it.
This reminds me of the story of Martha and Mary. They may have been two women, but I think of them as two sides of each of us. We have our busy side, always on the go attending meetings, tidying up, going to work, doing good and so much more. There is also the quiet, meditative, spiritual, contemplative side of each one; this is often crowded out by our idea of ‘getting on with things’. Both sides are important but only effective when they are in balance. This will probably differ from person to person but the total dominance of one over the other will distort the quality of our lives.
I hope that, when the present situation ends we will not return to the old ways but consider how we can alter our lifestyles to adjust the balance.
David Kemp, PCN member. April 2020
Adrian mentioned in his article (newsletter 26th March) ‘did the Lord create the coronavirus?’ Thinking about Adrian’s question made me ponder more widely.
Forgetting a theological wrangle on creation; perhaps we should look to nature. In 2004 the tsunami which hit (mainly) S.E. Asia, killed many, many people and made countless homeless. My GCSE class to whom I was teaching some basic geophysics at this time, were asking why? My reply was, ‘why does Japan suffer few deaths and casualties compared to (parts of) Indonesia and Sri Lanka’? [It is also true of Chile I learned later on; they also have few deaths due to tsunamis].
My response was that Japan is a rich country with a sophisticated warning system; other countries had no such access to warning systems.
It is a question of wealth! And the lack of a fair system between nations.
Without an Earth with tectonic plates (hence earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes) there would be no life. Without bacteria, viruses and blue green algae, life would not have evolved on our planet. (I am not a biologist so don’t ask me how RNA/DNA came about in the first place).
So instead of blaming ‘God’ or ‘nature’ or a nation why not ask why some countries will do better than others? In the West we have the ultra stupid system of ‘just in time’; a capitalist ploy to make profit and NOT to help the consumer. That is why there are shortages and lack of testing for the Covid-19 virus.
So taking a non-literalist view of Genesis – after creation the planet was very good. Who messed up and continues to mess up our planet? Will we learn from this pandemic and apply some collective effect to avoid the worst ravages of climate change? Will some of the collective good will, the spirit of God, be heeded in the coming years? Will we learn that economic growth, growth, growth is not a ‘god’ but a ‘devil’?
Martin Bassant, PCN Trustee
I’ve learned a lot through my life by doing the laundry. Occasionally, when pegging out a pair of jeans, or pre-soaking a grubby rugby shirt, I get an epiphany. That happened to me while I was hanging out some hankies on the line the other day.
Coming back into the kitchen, I saw one of my daughters, and decided to bless her with my new found insight. “I tell you who would have been really good at ‘lock down’, cowboys would.” She turned to face me with a world weary look that I have come to know well. “Cowboys?” She said. “Cow-people…” I attempted, although the words didn’t sound right. “Cowboys would have been terrible at lockdown.” She said, as though I were a small child. “No no, think about it” I replied, they already have the masks, they like being on their own…” She regarded me with a look that I interpreted as her questioning my sanity.
“Cowboys don’t like being locked down.” She said. “They like being able to roam. Out on the prairie. Roaming.”
“Oh yeah.” I said. “I forgot about the roaming.” I looked at the ground for a moment. “What about highwaymen?” I asked. She looked at me with a long cold stare. My wife walked in to the room. “What’s going on in here?” She asked. “Dad thinks highwaymen and cowboys would be good at lockdown.” Two pairs of eyes are focussed on me. I struggle to explain my thinking. “is it because of the masks?” My wife asks. “Umm, yeah.” “Highwaymen wear masks over their eyes, not their mouths.” “Oh… yes.”
I suppose everyone copes with lockdown in their own way.
Simon Cross, PCN Trustee and laundry slave