Dear Friends,

During this last year, many things we might have done never did get done. For many different reasons. One thing that I didn’t do that in more ‘normal’ times I would have done without thinking was to renew my passport. I imagine there will come a day when I will get round to it, but for now its not very far up my ‘to do’ list. There has been a lot of talk about ‘passports’ this last week. Or to use the proper term, ‘Covid Status Certificates.’ How prepared are any of us to have our activity constrained by having to produce some form of ‘proof’ every time we want to enter a public place? On the other hand, how much safer would each of us feel when among strangers if we knew that everyone present with us had had to produce their CSC, their Covid ‘passport’? But then again, if this rule applied to all public premises, that would include churches, or it should. And so, how would we feel about turning someone away from the door of the church just because they didn’t have the right paperwork?  This is just one illustration of just how difficult it will be to return to any semblance of normality in the near future. Indeed, it may be indicative of the fact that there can never be a ‘return’ to anything. Covid-19 and its aftermath have determined for us that life will have to be lived very differently by all of us, for the sake of all of us. And that will mean church life too. It may be that when we sit down to begin to decide how best to deploy the church’s ‘assets’ in the ‘new normal’ we too will have to accept that we can never just ‘return’ to how it was. That doesn’t have to mean that we will be prevented from doing what we believe we ought to do, but rather that we may have to do it differently. More than that, it may cause us to realise that there are new ways of being church, ways of doing church which we can now embrace as our contribution to the shaping of the ‘new normal’. Anyway, back to (traditional) passports. I’m not so sure we will need them for a while. One senses that travelling abroad will be severely limited for quite some time. There is bound to be a nervousness surrounding such activity as long as infection rates in other countries continue to rise. Neither will we be able to welcome the many overseas tourists that usually flock to London during our summer months. One senses that the streets of the capital may well be eerily quiet again this summer. And what about those Covid passports? The furore that has greeted the suggestion that they be introduced may well cause Govt. to change, or at least to modify its intentions. And of course, being the cynic that I am, if my local supermarket renders itself powerless to confront anyone who refuses to wear a face covering, I can’t see many people being turned away from anywhere for lack of a passport. So, maybe a storm in a teacup, one that will soon pass. But if nothing else the debate does serve to remind us that we have to continue to be careful, very careful. Even when all of us have been vaccinated twice over; it isn’t over. Of course, we can be overly melodramatic about what lies ahead of us, but we should not become so cavalier as to disregard the advice we are given by those who know better. Maybe the text for the ‘new normal’ – ‘Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint’ – is a word in season to us all. Keep focussed.

Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint