The glory of God is people who are fully alive.

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I was reflecting with a friend on the experience of lockdown and said it is a bit like stage fright, having feelings that need to be dealt with. Standing in front of a company of people and being the centre of attention can be daunting. The sense of an uncomfortable feeling rises and it must be quelled so that you can get on with the task in hand. The actor Ian Holm died recently and it was reported that he had to give up his stage career because the stage fright got too much. Our feelings can be so powerful.
I remember conducting a wedding rehearsal. The groom and best man were both very anxious and kept pacing up and down. The remarkable thing was that these men were soldiers. The courage to face the enemy is different from the courage to speak of your love for the person most dear to you in front of family and friends. One of the purposes of a rehearsal is for people to face how they feel about being public property. It is usually very helpful in settling the participants for the ceremony.
Making a comparison between the discomfort of lockdown and stage fright is only a metaphor. After all it
has been the least public time of our lives! But anxiety and emotional distress have been widely reported.
Is it sufficient just to seek to quell the unwelcome feelings?
We have been brought face to face with how we are social people by being isolated. Contact with people
is not just pleasant but crucial to our humanity. We have sorely missed those most dear to us. It is also
true that the means of communication we have had have been good but only a partial expression of being
together. For instance video conferencing has been very valuable. But I have found in some meetings just
being presented with faces, negotiating when to speak and when to listen and not having the more relaxed
chit-chat before and after are, all quite draining.
Someone reflected with me about the funeral that they had had for a parent. They were not allowed to
have a time of gathering and refreshments after the service. They felt as if they had not been able to
grieve fully because of this. We are people who need both formal ritual and relaxed gatherings to express
the realities of our lives. Coffee after church is a crucial dimension of a church community. A work party
enables us to be together, to mix casually and contribute with our small talk and physical activity.
Could I say that that it is not stage fright that I was experiencing but seeking to be fully alive? The
meaning of my discomfort is not just noticing it and and quelling it but exploring who I am more deeply.
I was walking between church house and the church building and a couple of people came from the
Garden of Remembrance to walk down the main path to the road. I thought ‘oh I don’t know them’ but I
still called out and we had a brief conversation. When I am out for a walk and encounter people I made a
point of saying ‘good afternoon’. I am surprised how many people are not expecting it. As I was walking
along I saw a friend start to walk down a side road. I waved enthusiastically, they looked worried and
doubled their pace away from me. It was not the ‘Dave’ I thought it was. I felt momentarily silly, but did
it matter? He could have turned to me and said ‘who do you think I am?’ We could have had a laugh
about it. As they say, you only meet a stranger once.
Many people hope the experience of Covid-19 will have taught us lessons. I have been so pleased to see
how the homeless have been taken into accommodation. I hope that this compassion continues and makes
us as a society care for other disadvantaged people. The Black Lives Matters protests have shown how
racism continues to affect many people. We need great equality in our society.
How wonderful it will be to see ourselves in new ways and be able to be more fully alive. To relate to
each other more openly and creating ways to meet that are richer than we have been used to. It may take
courage but let us not quell the impulse.
Best wishes
Alan Keeler