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During this period, where we are unable to meet together in church, Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday Sunday 10th May 2020.

In view of the VE Day celebrations on Friday, I am prompted to reflect today on the subject of ‘Peace’. On 8 May 1945 the whole nation celebrated the end of war in Europe, and after six difficult years everybody was looking forward to a prolonged period of peace, a time when things would get back to normal.

I was born two years after the war ended. I can remember as a very small boy becoming aware of the war, and innocently asking my father, “Who won the war, Dad?”. My father stared ahead of him into space in deep thought, and after a long pause said simply, “Nobody won.”

As a small boy, his reply didn’t make much sense. How could both sides lose? But when I was older I understood. Both sides lost hundreds of thousands of lives; still more people suffered terrible injuries; towns and cities were destroyed; it took a long time for the country to recover economically, and for many individuals to recover financially, and for life to get back to ‘normal’, whatever ‘normal’ meant. For many, life was very different after the war. For some it was life without the main bread-winner, or without another member of the family who didn’t return.

Whenever there is a war, even though there might be a victor, there is always a negative impact on both sides. I am sure that in due time we will win the war against the coronavirus, but at great cost: thousands losing their lives, many more thousands suffering, the nation suffering economically, individuals suffering financially, and so on.

And when we return to ‘normal’, it will be a different ‘normal’. But we will have learned lessons, like the need to pull together and support each other in good times as well as in difficult times, and a greater appreciation of life and the many blessings we should be thankful for.

‘Peace’ can mean different things to different people, not just an absence of war. It can mean a state of mind where there is freedom from worry, doubts and fears. Things that can militate against peace of mind include:

· Fear of oppression, persecution or abuse. For example, there are countries in Africa where minority Christian communities live in constant fear of attacks by extremist groups. Nearer home we hear about increases in domestic abuse due to the frustrations of lockdown.

· Fear about losing a job or managing financially.

· People with serious health issues worrying in the current crisis when or whether they will get the vital medical treatment they need.

· Fear of infection.

· Anxiety amongst the elderly living alone and having to manage with health issues.

There are very many who will not be experiencing peace of mind at the moment. We are all going to have to suffer privations to some extent until the battle against the virus is won. But we will win. There will come a time when our fears and anxieties are relieved. In the meantime, we need to encourage each other to be positive. There is a saying, ‘no gain without pain’. Even Jesus himself had to suffer pain in order to gain a victory over death.

In recent weeks I must have telephoned over 40 parishioners and personal friends each week to enquire how they are. There have been a few grumblers, complaining that they are fed up with the lockdown and the fact that they can’t do what they want. But the majority have been philosophical and positive, finding new ways to fill their time. I expect there will be many people with far better gardens this year than they have had. And judging by what several people have told me they are doing, the jigsaw manufacturers must be doing well. A couple of people I know have started making hospital scrubs and masks. And others have come up with very imaginative things to do. Many younger people have been helping the elderly with shopping. And lots of us have learned how to keep in touch with Zoom and other social media, which I am sure we will continue to use to keep in touch more than we ever did before the pandemic.

So let’s use our imaginations to fight the enemies of Fear and Boredom until the crisis is over. We will get over it, we will recover, and I am sure that we will learn lessons and be better people and better neighbours as a result of it. And at the end of the dark tunnel we will return to some sense of peace. So have faith!

In the tender compassion of our God

the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

(Luke, Ch. 1, verses 78-79)

The Peace of the Lord be always with you.

God bless you all.

Fr. Ray