Each Sunday during the current Covid-19 lockdown, while churches and places of worship have been forced put a halt to congregational worship, The Reverend Paul Hunt, priest-in-charge in Hastings Old Town, has offered some words of support and an opportunity for the community to reflect on the challenges we face. Next Sunday congregational worship will resume and we thank Paul for his input over the last four weeks.
Several parishioners have commented that 2020 has felt like a ‘year on hold’. It has certainly felt like a year of waiting, not least waiting for lockdowns and restrictions to end and for news of a vaccine that will work.
My visit to the Emirates Stadium on March 7th feels like an eternity ago. There I was, having returned from Naples earlier that week, in a crowd of 60,000 watching Arsenal hammer West Ham 1-0. This followed an excellent lunch in a crowded Italian restaurant in which the space between tables was minimal.
That day seems like a lost world and I have waited for its return since we went into the first lockdown just over a week later.
The wait for the return of my lost world continues but I now wait in expectant hope. We now know that there at least three effective vaccines and 2021 looks as though it will be a much better year for the world. Such is my hope for the future that I have even booked tickets for a Wagner festival in Leipzig next June – I appreciate that a choice between ten hours of Wagner and lockdown might be difficult for some.
Today is Advent Sunday, the beginning of the Church year. Sadly, we are not allowed to meet for worship, we need to wait until next Sunday for that.
But Advent is all about waiting. It’s not simply about preparation and waiting for Christmas, although that is what it has become in many minds. For Christians, it is about waiting for the restoration of God’s rule of justice and peace – sometimes referred to as ‘the Second Coming’ – in a lost or fallen world. Christmas celebrates God’s initiative towards that restoration in the birth of Jesus. Easter celebrates the event which makes that restoration possible.
Christians or not, we all need hope. Hope comes in different ways; There can be a hope of desperation, a waiting for something to happen when we actually have little expectation. I hope that Arsenal will win the Premier League this season but, on the evidence of the season thus far, it’s not exactly the ‘living hope’ of which the Bible speaks.
Our hope that 2021 will be a better year is more of a true and living hope because of the recent news about the vaccines.
Easter Day in 2020 was strange. The churches were shut and the impact of Covid-19 was increasingly disheartening. Easter 2021 really will be very different as the roll-out of vaccines begins to have its effect. Some might even call it resurrection.
Wagner in Leipzig in June? I can’t wait.
The Reverend Paul Hunt is the part-time priest-in-charge of St. Clement’s and All Saints in the Old Town. St. Clement’s is open from 11.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. every day during lockdown for anyone who wants to pray or simply be quiet and reflect or meditate.