Thoughts on the Pandemic

Christ Discovered in the Temple - Simone Martini - 1342

Dear Friends,

It was one year ago that I left Dorchester and the Diocese of Salisbury and I am pleased to be asked to make a guest appearance in the pages of the magazine for September 2020. What a time we have had of it! In the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic many of us drew encouragement and hope from the words of Her Majesty The Queen:

We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.

This first speech was then followed by an Easter message, the first of her reign; and by an address to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day.

In the weeks and months that have followed we have become used to the words – safe, well and alert! We were called to look at our lives in a more essential way, to see what really matters, to ask who the people that sustain and enrich our lives are. A colleague wrote:

We need to be these types of people for others; and of course, we may find time to reflect and reconnect with our spiritual lives. This gives us the knowledge that we are not alone and lost in the world.

All things considered we have managed quite well as a family and we have seen London in a unique way; bathed in sunshine and empty of people!

Each one of us is sustained spiritually in a variety of ways and many of us find joy in the company of other people, with family and friends, with companions at work, on the sports field and in the worshipping community. For those who practise their faith, prayer and worship are important in keeping alive the relationship with God. At my ordination 25 years ago (on the 2nd July) I committed to pray Morning and Evening Prayer every day. Over the years I have found ways of varying the diet and in recent years I have used Reflections for Daily Prayer, as one way in which I can hear the voices of other people, as they commentate on one of the Bible readings said at Morning Prayer.

In the current edition Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Lichfield, reflected on the story of an adolescent Jesus talking with the temple elders in Jerusalem (Luke 2.41- end). Bishop Michael invited the reader to reflect on the fourteenth-century Italian artist Simone Martini’s painting Christ Discovered in the Temple, in Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery. Jesus stands, arms crossed in an attitude of sulky defiance; Mary sits anxiously, not sure whether to be pleased at finding him or furious at his behaviour; and Joseph mediates, “Say sorry!” Martini captures perfectly the bewilderment of parents experiencing strange behaviour in their children. In challenging times, when we all have the capacity to exhibit behaviour which is out of character, it is reassuring to know it has always happened!

We are living through challenging times and many people are experiencing anxiety about the future, we all wonder what the future will look like! In this story of Jesus in the temple, Jesus’ mother Mary ponders what she has seen, heard and experienced. Mary knows in her heart the familiar patterns of life will never be the same. For us too, the familiar is changing; there is pain and loss in that, but there will also be blessings and new opportunities. Through podcasting and prayer, via Zoom, phone, FaceTime and conference call; in company with friends, family and work colleagues we are preparing for that future.

With best wishes,

Thomas M. B. Woodhouse

Chaplain of the Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy within the Duchy of Lancaster, Chaplain of the Royal Victorian Order, Deputy Priest-in-Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.