Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by borders. Early memories include regular train travel up the East Coast mainline to see various relatives and my dad helped the journey pass by pointing out many sights along the way as well as key boundaries that we crossed. First, Nottinghamshire (his county of birth) into Yorkshire (my mother’s) just south of Doncaster, then crossing the River Tees into County Durham (Land of the Prince Bishops) and swiftly followed by the Tyne to reach Newcastle. The big ‘I Spy’ spot was the Royal Border Bridge at Berwick upon Tweed, although we knew the real border with Scotland was a couple of miles further north. Passing Ayton Castle, all red stone and Scottish Baronial in architectural style, confirmed you were in a very different part of the UK.
400 metres from my home which now finds itself in Tier 3, London gives way to Surrey, in Tier 2 for the moment. You know you have crossed the boundary as the road surface changes and there is a sign that welcomes you to the District council. But otherwise nothing much changes but from tonight a lot does. Our church is in Tier 2 and so we should not go to the Carol Service. We have agreed to deliver Christmas cards but I think this is a voluntary commitment that can be honoured later this week. Like millions in other parts of the country, we in London are having to adjust to further limits on what we can do and where we can go. One of my regular walking routes takes me into a nature reserve in Tier 2. Shall I stop at the border and turn around?
Like many others I greeted the inevitable news yesterday with a mixture of resignation and a fair degree of frustration – there had even been the possibility of heading to SE25 to see Liverpool play on Saturday. Not being able to play in the Carol Service worship band is a sadness. But in the scheme of things these are not critically important.
What is very important though is the news published by the NSPCC last week about the huge increase in the number of calls they have received from children who are scared at home as a result of lockdown. The report cited a range of contributory factors including family frustration and the inherent tension this can cause. The key issue for us as church, as ever, is to keep our eyes and ears open as best we are able and share any concerns we spot with our safeguarding officers.
We need to respect our borders when this will help to keep us safe. But equally we also need to think how we can cross them safely to support and protect others.