Vicar's letter

Dear Friends,

I can’t quite believe that we are already at the December-January edition of our parish magazine.  At the risk of sounding clichéd, it really does feel like it is only five minutes ago that we were at the end of 2020.

At the beginning of this year, I am not sure any of us knew what to expect after the events of 2020.  With a new lockdown in January, the first few months of 2021 seemed to be mirroring 2020 with us yet again retreating to our homes and waiting for the virus rates to decline.  With the fast rollout and effectiveness of the vaccines, we are all well aware that this has largely ‘unlocked’ us from the full power of this virus.  Yet at the end of 2021 we know that we are not out of the woods yet; at the time of writing, extremely high rates of Covid in Europe remind us of this.   

The end then of 2021 and looking into 2022 sees us caught almost between two worlds, and therefore two ways of thinking about the way forward: some cry a return to normal others cry caution going forward and talk about adapting to a ‘new normal.’  Yet there surely needs to be an awareness when having this debate that for many people and indeed entire nations, there is and will be nothing ‘normal’ about how they live for some time.  For reasons of health and medical treatments, many people still find themselves having to shield and keep away from others and they will be doing this for the foreseeable future.

For other countries, particularly low-income countries, the percentage of Covid vaccine doses that have been administered, is shockingly low.  So, whilst the UK has 68% of the population fully vaccinated, the figure in South Sudan is 0.6% and 1.3% in Sudan.  Whilst the USA has 59% of its population fully vaccinated, in Yemen it is 1.2%.  Yet should we be surprised to read this? According to statistics from Duke University, the United States paid for enough vaccines for twice its population, the UK for four times its population and Canada five times its population.  In short then: ‘even though the world will have created 11 billion total doses by the end of this year, almost 9.9 billion of those doses have already been promised to higher and upper middle-income countries.’  (Raka Banerjee, Project Coordinator in the Development Data Group at the World Bank).

At Christmas time, the Church proclaims that ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us.’  God in Christ comes into the world to proclaim God’s love to all, to show that no-one is beyond the reach of God’s love and to call us to show this same love to one another.  In his birth a new Kingdom, God’s Kingdom has ‘come near.’  Our calling then is to live, not caught between two worlds and ways of thinking about the future and Covid, but to live as people who have the light of the Christ-child in their midst; to live as people of God’s Kingdom where we look beyond ourselves and call the world to do the same.  This means that we don’t forget, overlook or leave behind those who still live in the darkest shadow of Covid – those who are still shielding from this virus and those who are lonely or anxious as a result.  It means that we don’t forget those in countries which have few vaccines to administer but instead call the richest nations of the world, including our own, to share what they have, recognising that there will be no ‘normal’ until everyone is protected.  For this is what it is to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ and this is what it is to live as citizens of God’s Kingdom.

With every blessing for a holy Christmas and a very happy New Year,