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Freedom to be cautious

Last week I joined the army of those that have been pinged. Statistically a fair number of readers of this piece will also have joined, rather unwillingly. I have three days to go before I can emerge from self-isolation. I must confess to spending the first day or so after the ping monitoring every nuanced shift in body functioning but thus far all is well. My ‘encounter’, as it is termed, was on a day when the less safe places I visited were an M1 service station and a Toby Carvery, so I also racked my brain to recall a 15 minute close encounter in either of those venues. But I couldn’t quite see one in my mind. Anyway it’s given me the chance to catch up with some home-based tasks that I’d been putting off. Then the heat came which made me disinclined to do much at all!

So from now on, until the next lockdown, it’s down to personal responsibility and being cautious. Is there a message in there for how we go about our safeguarding business, and perhaps more importantly, how we behave? We are expected to demonstrate a fair degree of altruism by continuing to wear masks in enclosed spaces and keep our distance to protect others. So how will this play out in our church life?

One of the adjustments we have had to make in recent months has been moving away from the physical sharing of the peace, and for some that has been a really helpful development. This is especially the case where unwanted touch has caused earlier distress or discomfort. So how well will we be able to learn lessons from the last 17 months and make a real and sustained change going forward? Enabling people to feel safe as they worship and participate fully in church life is not just about respecting Covid and recognising the damage it can do. It’s also about maintaining a safe emotional space where individuals are respected, free from any anxiety about what might happen, or who might be there.

The lockdown experience will probably mean that nothing will ever again be the same as it was in early March 2020. But it has made us think about so many things we used to do and why we did them in a particular way. So although we may be experiencing some uncertainty about what ‘Freedom Day’ really meant, we do have a chance to re-cast some of our traditions. It won’t be so possible to say ‘well, we’ve always done it this way’ as a block to change.

Speaking personally, as a card carrying double jabbed person, I can’t wait to get back onto the dancefloor, sampling South London’s nightlife in September.

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