Hereford Times Article - 02/07/2020

Published on: 2nd July 2020

Bishop Richard

As the restrictions begin to lift post COVID and we emerge blinking into the light, I am encountering a huge range of emotions.For some, lockdown has been rather a nice break.For others, it’s been a time of terrible loss: of loved ones, income and strained and even broken relationships.As people go back to work, there’s the potential tension between those who’ve been furloughed and those who have had to carry an extra burden over the last three months.These difference experiences will inevitably lead to conflict. At this time, more than ever, we need the capacity to empathise, to walk for a while in someone else’s shoes.

When we are under stress or carrying an emotional burden, we get tetchy. We have to be aware that although we live in a country that seems to value tolerance above almost anything else, that tolerance often only extends to those we agree with.Social media is a hotbed of echo chambers which easily lead to caricatures of ‘the other’ and responses we would never dream of making to people if we saw them face to face. There is almost a cottage industry in taking offence.Empathy makes us take a step back before we leap into that sort of reaction.There’s a clue in the phrase. Offence doesn’t have to be a knee jerk reaction.You can choose not to take it.

That shop worker or owner who seems a little distant and unresponsive, may be carrying the anxiety of their livelihood collapsing.That NHS receptionist who felt a bit snappy on the phone or didn’t return your call as quickly as you would have liked, might have been dealing with a post COVID backlog with no end in sight. That work colleague who is a little slow getting back up to speed may be putting on a brave face while they deal with the inner pain of a broken relationship or a lost loved one.

In many ways, community has been enhanced by the time of restriction.It would be great if we carried that with us into this new world. Could we just cut one another a bit more slack? Jesus showed us that we are all a bit broken. None of us really has a moral high ground to stand on. The heart of the Gospel is the offer of forgiveness.Offering that rather than judgement will lead us all to a happier place.

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