It is hard to avoid the headlines this week. Hard not to acknowledge the fact that our nation has now lost over 100,000 people to the COVID pandemic. For those keen Manchester United fans out there that is a full to capacity stadium + another 25,000 people. The number is even larger than a full Wembley (90,000) people and each of those people hold a story. Each of those people are more than a number. As we come out of this week I want us to think about the importance of their stories and think about a way we could respond.
Something I’ve read
This week the Archbishops (C of E) wrote to the church. The letter included this:
100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God( Church of England Website, 2020).
The whole letter can be accessed here. The letter is a helpful read and one which encourages those with faith to put aside time every evening in February to pray. From the 1st of February our archbishops ask us to pray. But, is pray enough?
Is pray enough if you have lost a loved one? Is pray enough if you know someone who has died? The archbishops write this about prayer:
Prayer is an expression of love.
As we cannot gather, or see each other, at the moment maybe prayer is one way that we can remember others. As we name those we know who are ill, or who grieve, or who suffer we offer an expression of love. An expression of hope and a desire for change.
Both the letter, and the call to prayer, are something I would like to attempt in February as a demonstration, and expression, of God’s love.
Something I’ve heard
Well, this week, it is more something I’ve watched. A recent Panorama Documentary (BBC) told the story of those people behind the numbers. For 30 minutes families tell of their pain and suffering. The explain the effects that coronavirus have had on their lives and they tell the stories of some wonderful people who have been lost because of the pandemic.
For those, like me, who struggle to comprehend the number. For those for whom the number is too great then this documentary goes behind the number. As one family member says:
I don’t want to talk about number because they are all people and people we care about.
Even the loss of one life is too many and by listening to the stories of others it helps to understand and appreciate the need for the current guidance. It moved me from numbers to story and stories are always more hard hitting than facts.
An interesting idea
As I have already mentioned our archbishops have asked us to dedicate time to prayer. It may feel that you cannot do a lot at the moment. That you cannot support people in the usual ways so why not pray? Why not do something you can rather than something you can’t.
As we face the truth about the impact of COVID on our communities and loved ones why not reach out to God. If you feel angry; shout. If you feel sad; cry. If you have hope; pray. God is there to listen. To come close and offer hope.
Not just hope for today, but hope for tomorrow. Through the lens of the resurrection we have a deeper hope. A hope which stretches further. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness (Archbishops Letter, 2021). How powerful is it to know that God suffers with us. That God suffered for us. And that because of all that God offers us hope.
As you hear stories of those who have died why not simply pray for their families. If you hear of someone who is lonely why not reach out to them and offer to pray. If you see someone in need why not ask God to show you a way to help. For we are all connected by the love of God and we can connect to that love through prayer.
Let us enter February in prayer. Let us pray not just for ourselves but for others. Let us remember that we are all part of a bigger story and let us put our hope in God.