Opinion: ‘Lockdown has been a strange combination of loss and hope’

Cathedral view from Canon Missioner Sarah Brown:
Canon Missioner Sarah BrownCanon Missioner Sarah Brown
Canon Missioner Sarah Brown

I don’t know how you are feeling as this tough time continues but I suspect that you would like it to stop now. Many of us are tired, fearful and full of blame.

24/7 news stokes our anxieties – no need for me to spell out what those are.

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Quite apart from anything else, we cannot touch each other and every transaction is mediated by three layers of fabric.

Look out for the new trail at Peterborough CathedralLook out for the new trail at Peterborough Cathedral
Look out for the new trail at Peterborough Cathedral

However witty, pretty or downright twitty it may be, a mask is a mask is a mask.

Incidentally, am I the only one over-compensating for an invisible nose and mouth by doing mad exaggerated eye-movements like an intoxicated mime artist? I don’t think so. You might want to check a mirror. But frankly, how else is one supposed to communicate beyond the basically transactional?

To be honest I had no idea before covid that my eyebrows could even go this high!

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What, I ask in all seriousness, are the evolutionary implications for the shape of our upper faces if this goes on much longer? We may all end up looking like very surprised seals (and sooner rather than later if the wind changes, if my old granny was to be believed.)

On the subject of mask wearing there is a silver lining. I’m so pleased I haven’t just spent a fortune having my lips filled and my face botoxed. How galling would that be?

I’m also pleased, even though Wales is a favourite holiday destination of mine, that Peterborough is not in it and that I live in a country that still considers items of feminine hygiene to be a non-frivolous purchase.

One must count one’s blessings.

I’m being silly, of course, but there are also real grounds for joy and hope and we need that too – not false hope based on wishful thinking – not magic which changes everything in a sparkly trice to the land of make believe. To have hope we need to be honest about where we are and to look forward from there.

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As a person of faith I completely trust that God will bring us through this and in this season of apparent darkness it is my job to remember and to remind the world that the darkness will not prevail.

I’m getting ahead of myself – that is the message of Christmas – but it works now too. The light to come doesn’t change what we see right now but it can inform our response.

It strikes me that in society today we make little room for lament. We get cross with what we perceive to be other people’s failures yet grief is private, even though every single person you pass on the street will have been through bereavement or illness or loss of work or home or love.

We have such fracture lines in our society that we sometimes completely miss the fact that there is much that we can rejoice in, or lament, together.

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Lockdown has been a strange combination of loss and hope – so many good signs of love but also so much loss – death of course, but also security, innocence, educational opportunities, faith in authority, freedom, sense of identity – the list is a long one and people have a lot to think about and much to share.

There’s no doubt that we will talk about this time for the rest of our lives. In the midst of all this loss we have a chance to go deep together. Depth is being forced on us by great suffering. Our feelings of devastation are not exaggerated, so we have to allow these feelings and invite God’s presence to hold and sustain us in a time of collective prayer and lament. 

The cathedral is opening a November-long exhibition to help us reflect on these things. It is called “Covid-19: All we have lost. A prayer trail of lament and hope.”

Ten locations around the building highlight our losses and grounds for hope. We hope you will come in for a think and a pray, and maybe some anticipation of what will be.

Don’t forget your mask.