Four weeks ago, I wasn't in the service but was helping out in Sparks, our group for the under 5s. Coffee was forbidden, so by the time I'd finished helping to clear up, the church hall was empty, deserted.
And just like that, that was the end of church as we know it.
Easter Sunday today. And the church building silent. Our service streamed from assorted houses across the parish; a huge amount of work and top marks to the technical team as well as everyone in front of the cameras. A simple service, church together across all the congregations, encouragement to break bread together apart in our own homes, and the pleasure of sharing bread with Amana, when she refuses communion at church.
I should stop there. It all sounds positive. But the truth is, it was church through tears. I can make a victory cry about all of us singing separately in our own homes, raising the roofs together to make a joyful noise heard all over the town. But oh, it hurts. To know that our church is empty, to listen to the silence and know that no bells are ringing out across the town and across the country. Our church is very young. But bells which have tolled for centuries are silent. Churches with flagstones worn low by hundreds of years of faithful worshippers are today home only to their mice. This virus has accomplished what world wars did not, what civil wars and reformation and dissolution could not, and has emptied every church and every chapel in the land.
And I know I should be rejoicing that it is Easter, Resurrection Sunday. I should be standing firm in the hope and promise we have in our Lord Jesus. And I do stand amazed at what He has done, and I am so deeply thankful that we live in this Sunday world, not the bleakness of Good Friday nor the waiting of the Saturday in-between. But I can't fully rejoice today. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with my friends and my family, raising the roof together as we sing our victory songs. I want to kneel at the altar and drink wine from the common cup, the same cup from which I received my first communion, and from which I have sipped faithfully for the last 31 years. I want to touch another adult human.
And I know, compared with many people, I have nothing to complain about. All we have to do is stay home, and we are being supported by a small army of friends and professionals to do just that. Frontline friends are facing hideous things, all day long. People are suffering loss, unthinkable loss, financial hardship, destitution and desperation. And I get to complain that I can't go to church properly, and I can't have a hug. Readers, I am that petty. Today, it matters, and it hurts. And the children are in bed, and I can allow myself to feel it.
Tomorrow I get to pick myself up again, pick them up again, and spend the day jollying everyone along through another day. We will find things to laugh at, things to appreciate, things to celebrate. We will connect again with Zoom and facebook, and be deeply thankful for the technology which makes this bearable. We will smile at people through our windows and wave at neighbours as they move their bins and walk their dogs. But just for this evening, let me drown in what we are missing.