It has been six months since our lives were turned upside down and new forms of language — ‘lockdown’, ‘R number’, ‘social distancing’ and ‘bubbling’ — entered our collective vocabulary.
Undoubtedly, the benefit of hindsight will help us evaluate the decisions that have been made by the Government and others, but let us not forget that ‘unprecedented’ has perhaps been the only suitable word to describe what we are living through.
It will do us good to pause and reflect on all that has happened.
This pandemic has exposed our utter helplessness, and reminded us that even our best-laid plans can be turned on their head in the blink of an eye.
I hear stories of genuine fear, loneliness and even desperation from people in congregations, thankfully being supported by their ministers and others.
With the untimely loss of loved ones, this has been a period of much tragedy and heartache. Yet these months have also unveiled our capacity for generosity, putting others first and looking out for our neighbour. This has been uplifting to watch.
Many have adapted to working from home and juggling childcare, schooling and other caring responsibilities.
It has been humbling to witness thousands of people in churches and community and voluntary organisations working alongside each other, sometimes crossing traditional boundaries, to look out for people who are shielding and those living alone.
While the majority of us locked down, many more kept going at the height of the pandemic. I salute our healthcare workers and everyone who continued to ensure our supermarkets were well-stocked.
Care home workers have gone the extra mile to ensure our loved ones remain as safe as possible, and we clapped them, and the others on the front line, each Thursday evening. This was a good thing to do.
The media has taken seriously its responsibility to provide clear and concise information, whilst also taking time to acknowlede the lives of those people who sadly succumbed to the virus.
It has also brightened our days with stories of neighbourliness, while holding those in authority to account.
While it hasn’t all been plain sailing, the fact that we have a working Executive to make local decisions in response to this crisis should not be taken for granted.
Many challenges remain and more difficult decisions lie ahead for all of us.
For those planning for their futures together, and who have had to reschedule weddings, one of the most familiar Bible passages used is 1 Corinthians chapter 13.
It says that while many things will pass away, these three — faith, hope and love — will remain.
This simple message is, I believe, relevant to all of us.
It is a reminder that loving each other requires us to do things that might be inconvenient, like wearing a mask.
Hope reminds us that work is continuing to find a coronvirus vaccine, while faith calls us to recognise that in our utter helplessness there is One who is not shaken by pandemics, or world events, in whom we can place our trust.
Let this be the backdrop for strong civic and political leadership and for courageous decision-making; for seeking the best in our schools and in our workplaces; for taking the opportunity to consider new ways of living and being; and, as we all do our best to stay safe, for selflessly looking to the needs of others, over and above our own.