How six months at home with illness helped to restore my faith – Bishop of Selby

From: The Right Reverend Dr John Thomson, Bishop of Selby.

The Archbishop of York (left) led a serivce in Selby Abbey in 2016 to rededicate the organ at the place of worship.

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THE Church of England is finding new ways of loving God and our neighbours in these difficult times, meeting the challenge of Covid-19 and in the wake of the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday night.

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We can’t hold public worship, baptisms or weddings, although funerals can still happen with tight restrictions.

Selby Abbey.

However, virtual services are being streamed, pastoral care for the isolated and vulnerable goes on through phone calls and social media, food banks continue to be supported and partnership with other community groups and local authorities is happening.

I was moved by the story a vicar told me of a young boy in his congregation who asked if he “could write some little letters to people that may be lonely or scared and could do them some nice cheerful drawings with nice colours and maybe… write them a prayer”.

We live in extraordinary times when everything is being shaken and we don’t know what the final outcome will be.

Already fear is gripping many, as we see in panic buying. The prospect of being at home for at least three months fills people with anxiety.

We are worried about vulnerable friends and members of our family. Work concerns are very pressing.

About 18 months ago, I found myself confined to home for nearly six months as a result of unexpected illness.

At first I was frustrated, frightened and angry. I wanted to get back to normal. Yet, gradually, I began to see this experience as a Sabbath or a period of rest through which I could meet God in a deeper way.

Instead of being a waste of time, it became one of the most fruitful periods of my life.

I reassessed my faith, priorities and dependence on others and realised again how thankful I am to live in a society with such a remarkable NHS.

Each of us will need to find our way on this new journey in the shadow of Covid-19.

Yet, on the way, we have the opportunity to rediscover our common life, a sense of who and what really matters to us, time to reassess our lives and to 
rediscover what it means to love God and our neighbour better as Jesus taught us.

To help us do this the Archbishop of York – Dr John Sentamu – asks us to say the Lord’s Prayer each time we wash our hands for the required 20 seconds.

That prayer has stood the test of time and it is a prayer that will sustain us as we go into this uncertain future.