How nice it is to be able to turn on the TV, open the newspaper or log-on to the internet and there be news other than news about COVID. As I write the news is full of the happier subject of the Tokyo Olympics - and before that was Euro 2020 and Wimbledon. Our horizons are opening up again. It's not just the international sporting calendar but also our new freedom to visit friends and family. We are all gradually beginning to feel a bit more comfortable with getting out and about.
I have been in several meetings and training events where I have been urged to think about what good things from the time of lockdown I'd like to continue into the 'new normal'. And I think this is a good question to ponder. Reflecting on this, my mind immediately went back to the early days of lockdown. It was so wonderful how so many people offered to help those who were shielding, isolating or lonely. We had the Witney Land Army, the NHS Volunteer Responders and many other organisations set up. We were helping our neighbours with shopping and prescriptions, making regular contact with the lonely and isolating. Personally, I greatly appreciated other people's help - we were in isolation as a family for over 60 days in 2020! And in turn, we enjoyed helping our neighbours and regularly calling around the lonely and shielding. That sense of local neighbourhoods and communities getting together to support each other was so good and encouraging.
And of course, South Leigh has been no different - the last newsletter started with celebrating the wonderful community spirit of the village in help with transport, shopping, and prescriptions and so on. There were other creative community events, projects and the ever changing bus shelter. The church has been blessed with projects to refurbish the bell tower and manage the churchyard biodiversity - we are very grateful to everyone who is involved.
As the different lockdowns passed, the needs have changed, and the community spirit has taken different forms. And now, as our horizons open again post-lockdown, this community spirit seems like a great aspect of lockdown to take into the new normal.
In our online services for South Leigh and Cogges we recently looked at some of the hundred or so 'one another' sayings in the Bible and the first one we looked at was from the mouth of Jesus:
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
It has been a real challenge for me, and I am sure for others too, to think through how to continue to put this command of Jesus into practice. To love one another takes time and effort - indeed later Jesus links this charge to him laying down his life for his friends. There is more need than we can hope to address as a community. But in lockdown, we saw this love lived out in real and meaningful ways in our local streets and villages. There has been (and still is) a real outpouring of generous love. Long may this continue as we adjust to the next season of life and our love spreads wider as our horizons continue to widen.
David Spence, Associate Minister of St. James the Great, South Leigh & St Mary's Cogges (August 2021)