Up close and personal

The utter stupidity of the idiotic continuation of the “social distancing” mantra is laid bare each day and it is hard to believe that this can continue for very much longer. After a five hours masked train journey in almost deserted carriages, the sleepy Yorkshire town, I visited with my client, was like normal, with lively closed packed pubs and restaurants, open inside and out and not a mask in sight. Something has to give, before the whole thing ends in total farce.

One of the most revealing things is the importance given to certain activities over others. This was clear from the beginning of the lock-down fiasco,when the retail outlets considered essential, not only included food and medication, but bike shops, pet shops and off licences. It had, as others have said before, all the marks of a prison regime, so food, medicine, a time in the exercise yard and a blind eye turned to alcohol and drugs to keep the lid on the thing, was the way to go. But it has also been clear in the areas where the best efforts are made to bring things back to a level of normality. The economy of course was first, getting people back to work, which may not be easy as we think. But then there was sport and the continuation of the English premier league which could not be allowed to fail. Then the pubs and restaurants, hair dressers and tattoo artists and most recently the tourism industry, with special financial help. Today I read that, under new guidelines, actors, apparently, can now be filmed kissing in intimate scenes where touching will be allowed. The relaxation was introduced after it became clear that social distancing filming would ruin such scenes. So, there we have it. The two-dimensional fantasy world, it turns out, is more important that the real world of relationships between real people, real families, real friends, real communities.

In our local church we have been agonising, for some time now, over when and how we can return to meeting together, to worship God and sing and pray and share fellowship, uncluttered by all the rules and regulations. The loss of this life-giving activity is sorely felt and we may not know for some time what the cost of this deprivation on the lives of so many will be. The technological innovations have, of course, helped but nothing replaces incarnation.  How can you welcome, share, empathise, listen, get near, encourage, challenge, show sympathy,concern and all the things that go in a living fellowship of people, at two metres distance? How can you feel one when you are divided? How can you feel together when you are physically separated   It is very divisive subject, as there are some who, with every good reason, are extremely anxious and others who are quite sceptical about the whole thing.  The issue is not over cleanliness, hand sanitising, deep cleaning of premises, surfaces, books etc but over this horrible anti-social prohibition.

Now I know that it is unlikely that a secular government would see or know this. Why should they? “People of faith” as they call them are seen as a wee bit odd anyway and it is unlikely that they would have any idea of what goes on a church. But the church’s passivity over it is disappointing as it is troubling.

Crawford Mackenzie


[1] Which should properly be called the English premier league as there was a premier league in Scotland before the English one.

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