I make no apology for reproducing this article from ‘The Times’, written for Good Friday, in full.
The civic contributions of Christians amid lockdown should command gratitude
In her long reign, the Queen has given only one address to mark Easter. It was last year, early in lockdown. To a nation and Commonwealth struggling with a historic crisis, she said that ‘the discovery of the risen Christ on the first Easter Day gave his followers new hope and fresh purpose, and we can all take heart from this’.
Her Majesty could not have foreseen that Christians, then prevented from attending church, would still face tight restrictions at Easter in 2021. Yet the continuing devastation inflicted by the pandemic and the restrictions on liberties required to protect the vulnerable make her message still more vital. When worshippers assemble today to recall the crucifixion of Christ and the atonement, they will still be limited in numbers, required to wear masks and practise social distancing, and unable to sing together.
In an age of pluralism and doubt it is easy to overlook how arduous isolation is for members of a religious community. Worship is a matter not only of private devotion but also of communal identity. Christians have had to draw on deep reserves of faith in the past year to maintain confidence in the future and the hope of redemption. And, across the nation, they have applied that faith by acts of kindness towards their neighbours and communities, by distributing food or communicating by any means possible with those who are lonely, fearful or, especially, grieving.
In the plague year of 1624, the poet and preacher John Donne wrote his famous lines: ‘Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.’ To many of those whom today’s pandemic has claimed, or who have lost loved ones prematurely because of it, the fellowship of the church has provided solace. The sacrifices made by Christians should command the respect and gratitude of their fellow citizens, of all faiths and none.