What’s curious about the Coronavirus pandemic is the way it has brought a certain silence and stillness to parts of our world which normally thrum with activity. When my father, a man in his seventies, recounted what he had seen at the local shops a few days previously, the only words he could use which adequately described the eery quiet were: it’s like Sundays used to be. I can’t help but feel there’s a significance here which we, as people of faith, ought not to miss.
I spent much of 2018 teaching English abroad: first in Spain, then in Germany. Continental Europe isn’t necessarily more religious than the United Kingdom, but I was, nevertheless, struck by the way that Sundays are still very much held as sacred there, with the vast majority of cafés, shops and restaurants closed. In places like Barcelona, the difference is palpable, and the whole pace and volume of the city comes down a good few notches on a Sunday. It’s a time to rest, reflect, spend time with loved ones and, if you’re of a Christian persuasion, enjoy the intimacy with God which flourishes in the quiet.
Back in Blighty, though, this is no longer the case, and hasn’t been since I was a teenager, or perhaps even earlier than that. More and more we are finding ourselves living in a ‘twenty-four hour society’ where access to shopping, services and entertainment is expected round the clock, regardless of the day. It is estimated that under ten percent of British adults attend Church regularly, so Sunday, for a great deal of us, has become very much like any other day. It’s yet another symptom of a world which no longer has time for its Creator.
As Christians, we are privileged to have for our Father a God who can bring everything from nothing, life from death, and joy from even the most sorrowful circumstances. We ought not to be surprised, then, to see Him working miracles and bringing something positive out of the current crisis. Perhaps one such positive element might be that now, and quite unexpectedly, all of our Sundays seem to have come at once.
What effect might this have on our society? With so many amusements normally competing for our attention, there’s apparently little need to stop and think about the important questions in life, such as where we came from or where we might be going, how far away the stars are or Who might have put them there. For people of a certain generation, this will be the first time in their lives they’ve actually had the chance to pause and reflect for an extended period of time. For others, it might take them back to a simpler way of life which they remember but thought they’d forgotten. It might just be that the silence and stillness, unwelcome as it might be for so many of us, is finally going to give God’s voice the chance to be heard, for it is in silence that the Lord speaks, as the prophet Elijah found:
And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19: 11-12)
How is God speaking to you in our current circumstances? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
By Lucy Stothard