There is still a time for everything, even in a pandemic
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Food for Thought column by Rev James Currall, the Episcopal priest in charge of congregations at Dornoch, Tain, Brora, Lairg and Tongue.
Autumn is well and truly with us, even though on the odd day over the past week or two you could be forgiven for thinking that summer hadn’t completely given up. I like autumn because it is a very colourful reminder of the passage of the seasons, but I like each of the seasons for different reasons, even though I don’t much like the very short days that we have from November through to January.
A popular and very appropriate passage of Scripture often requested at funerals is Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, which starts: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…”
This passage reminds us that nothing in life lasts for ever and that every season brings new opportunities but at the same time brings some things to an end. New beginnings often bring joy even if also a little nervousness, but endings are often tinged with sadness or regret, as we adjust to new realities without people and things that we have come to rely on.
During the pandemic, which we have been living through for eight months now, we have become used to not being able to do many things that we have been used to doing, having to do things in different ways and not being able to meet up face-to-face with friends and family.
Recently we have become grandparents for the first time and there is joy and much to be thankful for in that – a new life, proud parents (and grandparents). We can celebrate all this, but we can only do so at a distance, and no phone or internet contact can make up for being able to be physically present, to touch, to hold or to embrace. For the time being at least, Hertfordshire might as well be on another planet rather than a short plane or rather longer train journey away.
We are by no means alone in this estrangement. Many people have elderly relatives or friends in care homes or in places far away, who they can’t meet up with, to hold hands or to speak with face-to-face. As human beings we like to celebrate ‘rites-of-passage’, births and welcoming new lives into our families and marriages with the creation of new households, but we also like to celebrate the lives of people that we have known and loved when they come to the end of their lives.
These things are all still happening, even though we can’t always experience them in the ways we might wish to or have planned to.
I have been at a number of very moving funerals over the past eight months, including that of a member of the family.
I am in conversation with a number of couples who are planning to get married, no matter what the restrictions may be come the time. And births, well there isn’t much you can do to stop them happening is there?
Even in these times, there is a time for all these things, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says:
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.
Everything will have its time.