I wouldn’t be making too much of a bold claim if I said the last couple of weeks have been quite intense. As London put in place measures to combat the spread of Covid-19, I found it very interesting to observe people leaving London in a rush to get to their family home either abroad or elsewhere in the UK before the lockdown.
We first saw all the students leave. But soon after, many young professionals decided to go back home too – and those two groups constitute most of our church demography. What’s even more interesting is that the phrase used was ‘to go back home’, when many of them would normally have considered London their home.
There is something about uncertain times that make us put all our priorities and values into perspective. Under normal circumstances, many of us would rather be in London in the beginning of Spring. We could enjoy the infinite entertainment options the city has to offer – cinema, theatre, parks, trendy coffee shops for Saturday brunches, etc. City life is so desirable, it is free and independent!
When the prospect of a lockdown looms over us and those endless possibilities are reduced to nothing, our priorities immediately shift. When we face social distancing in London, we quickly turn our minds to how much more desirable it would be to be with our loved ones.
I hope I’m not only speaking for myself. My parents are in Spain and quite early on, it became quite obvious that Spain wasn’t the best place to go back to if things got more serious in London. While working from my flat these past couple of weeks, I have been thinking about my family and loved ones far more than usual. That’s not surprising. But it has made me think about why we want the security of our family home when everything around us seems to have gone crazy. We are desperate for some sort of stability, stepping into the unknown alone is scary.
I know many of us in London are usually far away from family members. Church has been the closest to a home we have found. This is certainly my case, too. In church, I have found a family that cares for me, where I can love and be loved, help and be helped. But this doesn’t make my blood relatives less important. On the contrary, it allows me to deeply understand what it means to be part of God’s family.
This natural pull to church shows us that Christian life isn’t meant to happen in solitude. And what coronavirus has taught us so far is that in general, living in isolation is hard. The so-called independence and freedom that this city tried to sell us turned out to be individualism.
I was struck by this quote in a recent article in the Guardian: “We choose modern loneliness because we want to be free. But […] when the freedoms of modern life are removed, what’s left but loneliness?”
What a joy to know that the message of the gospel is not individualistic and lonely! As Christians, we look forward to a city in heaven which will have people from every nation, tribe and tongue as one big family that will never be distanced again.
In light of all this, can I invite you to take heart in this season where you are away from your church family and maybe also from your blood relatives? And let’s seize the opportunity to reach out to those who are missing home or grieving the loss of loved ones, especially if they haven’t yet found their place in God’s family!
*The banner is the painting Cape Cod Morning by Edward Hopper, taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/gandalfsgallery/6799824380