Just as this latest lockdown started, the clergy of Newport Archdeaconry received an email entitled “Time for a Break” from the Archdeacon, who had this to say:
Just as we were settling into the “new normal” we find ourselves with a looming two week firebreak embracing three Sundays. … I do regret that our churches are having to close again but believe we must comply with what the Welsh Government asks of us for the greater good.
I know some of you have found the last seven months exhausting and you are long overdue a proper holiday. So can I please encourage you to take some time for yourselves over this two week break. Slow down, work less and find time to recharge your batteries in whatever way works for you. Some of you will want to continue live streaming services but maybe don’t do too much and give yourselves a few days break.
The run up to Christmas is going to feel very odd and we don’t know what restrictions will be in place beyond the next two weeks. We will all need more energy to get through these next couple of months which is why I believe it is important to take time out while we can.
Please know that I am here for you and will help in any way I can.
At this stage, I simply want to echo that thought for us all; it need not apply solely to clergy. The truth of the matter is that I have watched with great thanksgiving as so many of our parishioners and church officers have truly stepped up to make church work relatively smoothly in a profoundly abnormal, restricted situation. In some ways, as I have preached several times recently, it has been immensely gratifying to see, both in myself and in others, how little we take our worship for granted these days. There is certainly something about the present days that focus the mind on how vital our collective Christian life is to the well-being of our individual spirits.
That does not mean, however, that we are not tired. We have all been living with heavy restrictions since March; only the degree of heaviness has varied. We have all been waiting for a day when we may (perhaps literally) breathe more easily. Our routines are different. Our emotional and physical interactions with our families and friends are different. The ever-changing norms of what is and what isn’t allowed on a given week or month are exhausting.
That is why Archdeacon Jonathan’s letter came to me as such a profound relief. Chances are, if I’m completely honest, I’d have used these two weeks to slow down a bit in any case. But to see that I have permission and indeed active encouragement from my supervisors brings with it a sense of lightness and freedom that I might not otherwise have had. No, I can’t go on vacation just now. But that doesn’t mean I can’t spend a few moments engaged in the self-care that will fit me for the work that is no doubt yet to come.
And, so, for that very reason, I pass along the Archdeacon’s encouragement to you, my friends. Since there is little we can do to change the fact of a new lockdown, I urge you to use the time well. Rest. Breathe. Learn something new. Pray … and in that prayer, may we all ask God to comfort our spirits and grant us the healing that we long for. Whatever around you will bring you joy, do that and don’t wait for the time to be right.
In the days to come, I shall look forward to seeing your faces again in church — masked or otherwise! And then the good work can begin afresh. But today, as Jesus once urged his disciples, “let tomorrow worry about itself”, for today is enough for today. Be well, my friends, and allow the space for God to make us well. And please know that I am here for you and will help in any way I can.