Read Canon Neal's blog post for the National Day of Reflection, Tuesday, 23 March, 2021.
Empty roads – a tangible sign of the weirdest year in living memory. Even before the landmark broadcast by the Prime-Minister on the evening of Monday 23rd March 2020, our public spaces were eerily silent. A portent of what was to come in the PM’s directive: “Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives” with its stark black writing on a bright yellow background fringed with red and yellow hatching. In nature, black and bright yellow signal danger. Even if one could not read the text, the message was clear; we were in for a tottering time.
A few weeks later, I snapped a couple of pictures of the Queen’s Walk car-park outside the Cathedral on a sunny Saturday afternoon. In a space where it was common for the ‘Full’ sign to be out by the middle of the day, there were just a couple of cars! Astonishing. It made me think: as many folk across our nation were grieving as the death toll rose exponentially, all of us were in a state of grief – for a way of life that it seemed had suddenly been consigned to the archives.
Little did I know that, within a couple of months of the PM’s announcement, I would have lost my Uncle Keith to Covid. Suffering with advanced dementia, his last, lonely days were in pain, distress and confusion in a Bedford hospital. Awful. A scenario which has played out too many thousands of times across our nation, let alone our world. Nor that, two months on, my father would have lost his struggle with an aggressive asbestos-related cancer. Covid restrictions prevented me from visiting him as he spent his last weeks at home. Thank goodness for WhatsApp and FaceTime.
There have been hilarious moments too in the last year, as we have sought to get to grips with the (to me) new technology! Thank goodness for it, I have to say. And it has opened up more opportunities too. As far as I know, none of my colleagues at the Cathedral has ended up on a ‘Zoom’ or ‘Teams’ call upside down, resembling a cat, or looking like a gangster sporting a fedora and shades!
We know that we are not quite out of the woods just yet but, on this first anniversary of the lockdown officially starting, the National Day of Reflection on Tuesday 23rd March 2021 does ring true for me. Although the current advice from the Government is to stay at home, we know that some people will want to take advantage of the ‘private prayer’ space that many churches are offering, including the Cathedral. So, just today, we are open from 11am to 3pm if you wish to do that. In a Covid-secure environment, you can light a candle or two for anyone or anything you would like to pray for and keep a moment of silence – often the only appropriate response when speech leaves us short-changed. Or you can join us on-line, via our FaceBook page. At Midday we will, with the nation, pause for a minute’s silence to take a communal deep breath. And then to join in a simple celebration of the Eucharist. Eucharist means ‘Thanksgiving’. Within it, we also remember. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’ said Jesus just before he died, as he took the bread and wine and shared it with his dearest friends. At 2pm, we will read out a list of all the names that people have submitted via our virtual ‘prayer wall’, names of those who have been lost to us in the past year, whether from Covid-19 or other causes. You can submit a name if you wish; please go to our Liverpool Cathedral ‘Home’ page and you will see the button for ‘Prayer Requests’. The link is: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/requests.html if that is easier.
However you choose to mark this day, I hope that you will encounter the love of God somewhere within it. That may be in someone or something you remember, something you do, or something that someone says to you, in-person or on-line. Our human history is one of change and upheaval – and we have seen plenty of that in this last year-like-no-other. The God who we worship is the one who does not change. Even in the darkest and toughest places of human existence, we can rely on God’s hesed, a Hebrew word which is hard to translate but has the sense of his steadfast love and loving-kindness. Truly his faithfulness is great. And his mercies new every morning. We certainly need them, especially today, and in the days to come!
With good wishes
While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.