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Thinking through a pandemic…

Blog — 20th April 2020

Thinking through a pandemic…

Like a lot of us, I’ve been learning how to think Christianly for years! Decades even. And, like many, some of the things I’d spent time carefully learning about have had to be pushed, reshaped, and navigated newly. My little list keeps growing:

–       I’ve always thought it was an important Christian virtue to cross the road towards people. The Good Samaritan and faithful responses to need made me (make me) think that Christians should be those willing to walk into a space where danger has been and help the most vulnerable. Where we do all we can to defy our stereotypes, reject our impulses of pure and impure, touchable and untouchable – and be those who touch – in the right way – the most bloody and battered of travellers. And yet, here we are in a space where the kindest action, the most just, the most right, is, in many cases, to cross the road away from people…

–       I’ve always admired the notion of the courage of Christians continuing faithfully to meet – in spite of all instructions against that. Christian heroes met at 4am in secret, slinking through back streets in defiance of the empire and its alternative rules…Christians meeting in underground churches, early morning or late-night rituals of faithfulness – expressions of gathering in Jesus’ name, of being fearless, of resistance, of knowing that death is not our worst defeat. And, YET here I am in a space where the most courageous display of our faith is to express solidarity differently and NOT gather, in secret or otherwise, and KEEP worship in physical distance from a community of bodies who follow Jesus.

I’ve always felt that the Christian call to be in places of margin, edge, edge of edge, meant BEING in spite of all the advice to the contrary… And yet, here we are. By BEING amongst we might be carriers of hidden death – virulent. Creating harm in communities of vulnerable people… 

–       I’ve always felt that accompanying people into death through ritual is one of the richest and most defiant acts that the church can offer people. Places to pray, reflect, grieve, say farewell. Even here, even now, we are also denied that. People cremated without prayers of faith; buried without the Psalms. Dying without unction; rite; presence.

–       Like others, I’ve always believed that loving people on the marginalised means being with, amongst, for – being defiant of spaces that would say ‘danger’ and courageous in the face of people whose values are strong – and different than mine. I’ve always felt that the Christian call to be in places of margin, edge, edge of edge, meant BEING in spite of all the advice to the contrary… And yet, here we are. By BEING amongst we might be carriers of hidden death – virulent. Creating harm in communities of vulnerable people…

I could go on…

In all of this it seems there is a stripping away, like stripping altars, stripping clothes, stripping of being. Everything extra, everything gathered, everything ritual, gone. Many things that brought us meaning, gave us life, framed our days, gone. Many relationships that made us smile or fret, helped or helper, gone. In these times of stripping us bare, bringing us into our own walls and spaces, face to face with the truth of our lives, we are discovering newly something of who we are: And who are we? And what are we to do with this?

We are brought to a place of learning for ourselves the nature of sacrifice – and the grace and hope of it.

In Holy Week it seems to me that we are Christians wrestling with sacrifice, stripping away, pouring out, being dislocated, and carried and taken to spaces we do not want to go. We recognise being brought to places against our will and desire, praying prayers of ‘not my will but yours’; feeling worn down by governments, battered by life, despised perhaps for faith, oppressed by being unable to Do or in other ways, even, and sharing in the burdens of violence, death and final breath. In this week, our Holy Week journey, which is itself the end of a long wilderness for our Saviour, we are called somehow to wrestle together with what truest sacrifice means: for the sake of the Other. We are called to grapple together with what genuine solidarity looks like at a time of physical distance: suffering alongside each other, interdependence, the dignity of others, their worth and ours magnified. We are brought to a place of learning for ourselves the nature of sacrifice – and the grace and hope of it. We are called to find our own existence shaped by the one who understood the depths of human pain and suffering; we are to find our own solidarity with a wounded bloody Saviour, in a dying gasp, in a deep and cool grave – and then, in a wild and mysterious resurrection.

In Holy Week – of all weeks – we find ourselves bonded to Jesus – who understood descent, aloneness, bowels of hell, willing embrace of whatever God had in story – we find ourselves with Jesus in places of sacrifice, solidarity and truest trust… That God is redeeming. Even now. Even so.

God be with us…


Revd Deirdre Brower Latz BA, MA, PhD (Manchester) Principal and Senior Lecturer in Pastoral and Social Theology