Message from the Parish by Tim Clapp

This message from Tim Clapp first appeared in the August edition of the Itchen Valley News

I write today fully in the hope that lockdown is lifting next week and that a sense of normality is about to return. Travel to foreign countries now seems possible, facemasks are about to become voluntary, and we finally have light at the end of the tunnel. Many of us have now received two jabs but there also still remains some reticence to fully let go of our cautious approach to life. As we turn the page into a new chapter of this pandemic the question for me is what have we learnt during this period of lockdown? Prior to this disease arriving at our shores few of us would have heard of a zoom call, none of us would have quarantined or even had to shield, and I doubt whether anybody would have even heard of the term “furloughed” or maybe that is just my understanding, and not to forget that frustrating phrase “you are on mute”! In the grand scheme most of these are mild frustrations but for those who have lost friends and family the impact has been much harder. The full impact of this disease I suspect may still be some months or years away to determine but one thing we can all be certain of is the impact on our relationships with friends, family and colleagues. An example of this is the recent publication from the office of national statistics which has noted an increase in loneliness during the pandemic, increasing from 5% to 7% of the adult population (3.7 million) stating they were “often or always lonely”. The mental health foundation found that 24% of people had felt lonely due to COVID with young people representing the highest loneliness group at 44% of their subsect. The foundation determined that feelings of loneliness had doubled during lockdown and warned of “long-term risk to mental health”. Even within our small valley community of 1500 these are sobering numbers and if this is to be believed there will be somebody on a road or village struggling.

Working from home has become the new norm for many of us and whilst we can keep in touch through the digital screen it is no replacement for real human contact. My own teams recent return to the office has been a real boost to all and many have remarked how much they have enjoyed being back together. The opportunity to meet and discuss our work has made such a difference and we look forward to the days we are together. We cannot deny that us humans are social creatures who really benefit from these interactions.

So have there been any positive learnings of this lockdown period? For myself a highlight was attending the alpha course led by Alex Pease at Itchen Valley Churches last autumn. The opportunity to discuss and explore the Christian faith in a calm and relaxed manner was a real pleasure and a moment of sanctuary in a busy life. There were enjoyable and engaging discussions throughout the 12 week course and I have met some great new people.

In conclusion our human connections are more important than ever at this moment. Matthew 22 vs 39 Jesus states “Thou shalt love your neighbour as thyself” as his second commandment which is central to the Christian faith. Perhaps now more than ever is a time to take heed of this, to pop our head over the garden fence and check on our neighbours. They may be one of these statistics who consider themselves “often or always lonely”.

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