March 2020


Dear anyone who reads this and everyone who doesn’t,

The first thing to say about the coronavirus is that it’s a &%^&£%&%$$, $&%$&%$£$*, &*^%$^&&R&, *^$%^*$^R^ addition to all the other things that my family, most of those we know and many, many folks who contact us are already dealing with. Where is God in it? You would have to ask him. I tell myself that if I was God I would not let it happen. However, despite and because of strange but convincing experiences, I am committed to trusting him both in darkness and in light. What is there to say? You will not be surprised to hear that three things occur to myself, and to my wife Bridget.

The first is (for us) one of the more unexpected attributes of love. Bridget and I have always been amazed by the elasticity and unlimited expanding properties of the human capacity for caring. Love can spread exactly as far as it needs to go, however far that turns out to be. This horrible virus is frightening a lot of people, but we are doing our best to remember and draw some hope from the knowledge that all of us, of any faith or none, can still be agents for the spreading of what might be described as a positive virus. The virus of love is powerful beyond belief. It can cover a house or a street or a village or a town or a city or, potentially, the entire world. Superficial? No, there is nothing deeper or more practical in its effects than love.

The second thought is about scaffolding - no, don’t drift off, it might be worth listening. Over the last ten years Bridget and I have known what it means to face dismay and disappointment when bad times come, and the edifice of our faith begins to crack and fall apart under the pressure. We are clearly not alone in this experience. It is as though we have relied on scaffolding that, until now, has held us upright and intact. This temporary support can take many forms including music, religious observance, Bible study, styles of prayer, upbringing or the company of like-minded others. These and a host of other poles and planks that are harmless or even valuable in themselves can, under the dark pressure of something as overwhelming as this ghastly coronavirus, suddenly fall and fail to sustain the house of truth and love we had hoped was at the very centre of who we are.

Perhaps it is possible for this to be a dramatically unusual opportunity to reassess priorities. If you are making snorting noises in response to this I don’t blame you. Snort as much as you like. It’s still true.

The third point is about stockpiling. There’s some fierce stuff going on. Houses stuffed with toilet rolls and bottles of antiseptic handwash. Queues of people like us in the seventy-plus bracket outside the supermarket first thing in the morning, made up of people who are nice, and a few people who are certainly not. What is needed here is decidedly an attitude of mind, a determinedly generous perspective that allows the flowering of generosity and that refuses to countenance the growth of a mean spirit.

The Israelites in the desert were not allowed or able to do any stockpiling. Manna fell from heaven and it was good stuff for twenty-four hours. After that it went off big-time, and there was no point at all in packing snacks for the journey. The whole crowd complained loudly to Moses, but the lesson had to be learned. You get as much as you need for the time when you need it. Take it. Be thankful.

Those are our three thoughts. I don’t suppose they will change much, but if they offer glimmers of light in the present darkness it will be enough.

Much love to those we know and those we don’t,


Click to read the Monthly Letters Archive