I often write angry letters and emails and never send them. A while back I remember getting my secretary to type a letter (immediately you know that really was a long time ago). I had scribbled it out in fury after been treated very badly. The indignation spilled out of me and I squeezed every bit of venom out of my pen. When she gave me the draft, she just looked at me and uncharacteristically offered some advice “That’s a really good letter” she said “It’s well written and totally justified .. and … you should bin it.” It was a snatch of wisdom I haven’t forgotten. It is always a good practice to leave something you have written in a kind of quarantine for a while before you send it. Because, as we all know, it is too late afterwards. It can’t be unsent.
I have been holding fire on a letter (one of many) to our first minister for over a week now and it was about to be dropped in the bin, but on hearing the daily briefing yesterday and hearing of the distress to a very good friend, I caught it just before it fell.
She is a dear friend and is quite distraught because she is prohibited from being at the funeral of a family member because of the ridiculous and wholly arbitrary cap of 20 persons. Because of these cruel regulations she is unable to be physically there to support her own daughter at this critical moment. The moment when a physical presence is so important. It is so cruel and it is so unnecessary. It points up how serious this whole thing is and there is no end to the folly of it.
Anyway, this was my letter and I suppose, in journalist parlance, it is now an “open letter”
Dear First Minister
I am sorry to add to your inbox with yet another letter. I guess you may not have the time to reply or perhaps even read it, but I am writing out of sheer desperation and not a little anger when I see the continuing and needless destruction of so much of our national life in the fixation and obsession with this virus and the folly (for that is clearly what it is) of the continuing and re-introduction of lockdowns and all the associated restrictions on the business of living.
This is not about me or my family or my grandchildren but the health of our people, physical, psychological, mental, social and spiritual, which has been severely damaged by this obsession and the ugly business of the state interfering in our own personal lives, treating us like children and scolding us on our behaviour. I can tell you it is a painful and embarrassing business listening to the daily reprimands and the patronising and condescending encouragements to be subservient.
Is this what an independent Scotland is going to look like? Will this be the new normal?
My particular responsibility, as an elder in our local church, is for the care of our people and the community around us. From the start we have obediently followed all the rules and the guidance and have shut up our building depriving the people from coming together to worship God, to pray together, to sing and to hear the Gospel and all the unseen pastoral work that goes along with that, for almost half a year now. The damage that has been done and continues to be done to the lives of so many, some who are very vulnerable people, and to our society as a whole, is uncalculatable. It is difficult to put into words what a terrible thing this is. The trouble is that it is not seen. It does not register in hospital admissions or Covid positive cases. It does not directly impact on the economy. So, it is extremely galling that we are still under the burden of these quite ridiculous regulations.
Really, First Minister, if anyone actually thought about it for a moment, they would realise that it is wholly unjust and discriminatory and does not make sense at all. To allow pubs and cafes and restaurants to open almost as normal yet impose insane restrictions on churches is quite bizarre. You can have a glass of wine and a pack of crisps in a pub but you cannot share in a communion service. Children can return to school but cannot go to Sunday School.
I wonder if anyone in your advisory team actually knows what happens in churches or how it works? The church is not a club of people with a niche interest, people who like and are helped by that kind of thing or a fringe group weirdly concerned with airy fairy spiritual things. People don’t go to church, like they would to dancing classes, yoga or meditation or because it works for them. It is something quite different. The church is the people gathered from all walks of life and backgrounds, languages and cultures to worship God. And It is a family. It is understandable that people who are not involved in church perhaps do not realise this. We are a family made up of old and young, singles, married, young families, internationals, professionals, tradespeople, unemployed, students, confident and vulnerable. It is anathema to expect our church family to que at the door, wear a mask, be shown to a seat, arbitrarily distance from others, not to talk, mingle, speak before during or after the service, not share a cup of tea not sing, to have their details recorded and to leave without the chance to share fellowship, problems, worries, struggles, happiness, joys and every human experience. We would be exchanging an atmosphere of welcome to one of suspicion, instead of inclusion, exclusion, instead of help and support, distance and cold detachment, instead of comfort, a cold glass of water. It would be like treating people as lepers. People who might have a terrible disease and might infect us, or we them. We can’t do that. We can’t live in fear. We have to follow Jesus who touched lepers when no one else would.
Meeting like this, whatever you might call it, is not a Worship service. A family would not exist or function under these restrictions. It is like saying the pubs can reopen but no one is allowed to drink, or the shops, but you must not purchase anything.
Today, a dear friend of ours explained how she would not be allowed to be at a family funeral and not able to be present and support her grieving daughter at this most critical time, and all because of an arbitrary cap on numbers at funeral services. She is distraught. We can hardly believe it and are saddened and quite appalled.
Please, please, this has gone for far far too long. The risks are so negligible. What people lose over this time cannot be recovered. The lives of our people are so much more important than not losing face or doing another Uturn. Continuing with these restrictions is completely disproportionate to the risk . Please, please, lift all these restrictions now.
Yours most sincerely