Easter Reflections: A New World is Possible

I tested positive for Covid-19 on Good Friday. As a doctor it’s always tough to be off sick – you feel a mixture of guilt (because you know how hard your colleagues are working), frustration (because you want to be back out there serving your community) and helplessness (because there’s nothing you can do about it). I knew I had the virus before my result came through – I felt like I’d been hit by a bus – like all the energy had been knocked out of me and I was very achey. This, along with the cough and other symptoms has made me stop. I am forced to rest. I can’t just continue. I need to let my body recover. Covid-19 hasn’t only shown us the fragility of human life, but of the way we have constructed our systems together – the vast injustices afforded to more than half the world’s population and the damage we are doing to the planet itself. This virus has created an enforced rest for the majority of us and made us stop. And whilst we do so, the earth itself is regenerating – perhaps we are too.

 

This weekend, along with millions of people across the globe, our family will be celebrating Easter. During this rest there is time for me to reflect again on that incredible story and think about its implications for the world. Easter, I believe, perhaps more than any other time, gives us space to pause and ask ourselves what life is really about – what is it that we’re really living for?

 

Easter can be thought of in many ways. It seems to me that we have entered a new space in recent years to be able to discuss issues of spirituality much more openly again. Here are a few ways that I see Easter, if you’re interested (!):

 

1) Easter is about new beginnings. The chance to start over, to see the world radically differently in the light of what God reveals to us about his own self-giving, others-empowering love. It’s an opportunity for us to press the reset button and find the grace and hope for the world to be made new. In the midst of the pain and complexities of the global lockdown of COVID-19, multiple voices are beginning to call for a reimagined world. Jeremy Lent writes powerfully about the reality that everything has changed. He states that the ‘neo-liberal era’ is potentially over and therefore we have an opportunity to reset the foundations upon which we build our lives together on planet earth, whilst working for its regeneration. It’s well worth making yourself a cup of tea and pausing to read his reflections.

 

2) Easter is about a new economy. Easter is about debts being forgiven and a resetting of our priorities. Never, in all of human history, has there been such stark inequality between rich and poor, nor has the climate ever faced such an emergency. Our economic systems are entirely defunct for the needs of the global population and the environment in which we live. The old lie that ‘there is no such thing as society’ is exposed for what it is and the story of ‘self-centred, selfish man’ as the basis on which to build economic theory is broken. In its place new experiments are emerging around economies of wellbeing. This week Amsterdam declared it is going to be the first ‘doughnut city’ in the world – read this and let your heart leap – we’re talking about the kind of economy that is regenerative and distributive by design! The world made new! Jesus proclaimed the economics of Jubilee – a forgiving of all debts and the chance for the people and the land to rest. So radical it was never adopted, but his manifesto has never changed. We have an opportunity together to embrace a much more loving and radical economics if we want to. We don’t have to continue as we were…..In fact there are fresh global calls to cancel the debt of developing nations – now that would be a reset!

 

3) Easter is about a new politics. Bishop Tom Wright calls resurrection ‘THE political act’. In other words, he’s saying that the ultimate power of the world is not that held together by the likes of Trump and Putin, but the life-laid-down-love of the cross – no power can overcome this love – it is the ultimate force in the universe and it is legitimated in the resurrection of the son of God, who lives this way and overcomes death itself and empire in all its forms. This politics of love is non-violent, enemy-loving and full of peace. It does not erect walls, it builds bridges. It is full of compassion and mercy. It always hopes, always trusts and always perseveres. Russell Brand and Brad Evans have a fascinating conversation about a new politics of love – something we have been actively exploring in Morecambe Bay (See Roger Mitchell’s brilliant talk). They discuss how this is anything but ‘airy-fairy’. Love, rather, as the ultimate foundation of how we build our lives together gives us an alternative reality on which to build a fairer and kinder society. Brand is not everybody’s cup of tea, but I like his ability to ask good questions and provoke our ability to think as we challenge our own presuppositions. Some people are now coining the term ‘glocalisation’ to think about how we become more locally focused, whilst remaining globally connected and concerned about the plight of others around the world. In other words, glocalisation enables a much more relational, loving, connected politics and economics whilst also enabling us to learn from other great ideas and initiatives around the world and care about our fellow human brothers and sisters more. The politics of Jesus is seen throughout his life and ministry and his death and resurrection makes it even more possible: prioritise the poor, put children in the centre, instate women, free prisoners, heal the sick, welcome strangers, renew the creation….not a bad starting point for a new world.

 

4) Easter is about healing. As we behold the wounds inflicted on God himself, we find one who is truly with us in our own suffering. His therapeutic healing is one which draws alongside to be with us in our pain and distress, washing our feet, bearing and carrying our infirmities with Him – sometimes that results in incredible miracles but often it’s just the knowing that he is with us in it that is enough. We see this kind of incredible healing at work through our health and care workers across the globe right now and in countless tales of lives poured out in service to others. The whole point of healing is to bring wholeness. I wonder what our health and care systems would really be like if we put wellbeing and wholeness at the heart of the design process.

 

5) Easter is about salvation and redemption. I personally cannot align myself with a theology of penal substitution. I don’t have time or space in this blog to say why, but would recommend ‘A More Christlike God’ by my friend Brad Jersak, or this blog to explore the issue further, if you’re interested. As we look upon the crucified Christ, we don’t look upon someone appeasing an angry Father, rather we see God himself, misunderstood and rejected, nailed to a cross, breathing out forgiveness and revealing to humanity that this way of life-poured-out-love is stronger than death itself. This way of life saves us from our own selfishness, greed and ego-promotion and invites us into something far greater and more beautiful. The invitation of Easter is to reset our relationships with each other, the earth and God himself; to discover that God IS love, not at all like an Imperial Sovereign, and the very nature of the Trinity is self-giving, others-empowering love! The truth is that unless we’re willing to deal with our own internal mess, our own ego-mechanisms and projections, then we will never heal the mess of the world together. The invitation from Christ through the ages is for each of us to take up our own cross, to crucify our own selfish nature, which fights against the way of love and put on the ‘new self’, to be made into new creatures and partake in the new creation.

 

I believe we have an opportunity in this time to rest, reflect, reimagine and reset. If we dare to ask ourselves some deeper questions and become uncomfortable with the answers we are discovering; if we can allow ourselves to feel some of the discord about the way things have been, but also recognise the fear we have of stepping into a different way of being together and the grief cycle we must enter to let it go; if we can embrace the inconvenient truth that the earth and the global poor are speaking to us about the unsustainable nature of our neo-liberal world, then perhaps we have enough critical yeast to change us and inspire us towards a new world together. I take great comfort in the idea that God is with us in this struggle and works through us, by his Spirit, to bring reconciliation to a broken society. Over the last few days I have heard my favourite childhood bible verse, from the prophet Isaiah, a number of times. I leave it with you as food for thought:

 

Isaiah 43v1

”Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.“

 

 

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Staying Well During Lockdown

This time of Lockdown and Social Distancing, due to COVID-19 is not easy. It can have a significantly negative impact on our mental, physical, and emotional health and wellbeing. Difficult conversations are being had, isolation and loneliness are really tough and it’s particularly hard that we don’t know how long this period may last.

 

In this video, I share some ideas of the kind of things that can help us stay well. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully helps us think about how we can stay well individually whilst also looking out for our neighbours. None of this is easy, but whilst we’re staying home to suppress the virus, stop the spread and give our health (and other front line) services the best chance of caring for people, we need to ensure we stay healthy and well, whilst building our strength and resilience. Together we can!

 

 

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Updated COVID19 Advice for UK Teachers, TAs and Childminders, 31st March 2020.

We live in unprecedented times and are walking over unfamiliar terrain. I posted a video last week to express gratitude and offer advice to teachers and TAs, based on the World Health Organisation’s situation report of March 6th 2020. The evidence in the WHO publication suggested that children become much less unwell than adults with COVID19 and are lower transmitters of the virus. Here is some text from the article: “Children are important drivers of influenza virus transmission in the community. For COVID-19 virus, initial data indicates that children are less affected than adults and that clinical attack rates in the 0-19 age group are low. Further preliminary data from household transmission studies in China suggest that children are infected from adults, rather than vice versa.“

 

Since that time, some fresh evidence from a small study in China has emerged in Science Daily and The Lancet to suggest that although children are at less risk from the virus overall, they may be important carriers of it (though it is stated that this is still poorly understood and needs more research). The Lancet article concludes: The most important finding to come from the present analysis is the clear evidence that children are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, but frequently do not have notable disease, raising the possibility that children could be facilitators of viral transmission. If children are important in viral transmission and amplification, social and public health policies (eg, avoiding interaction with elderly people) could be established to slow transmission and protect vulnerable populations. There is an urgent need to for further investigation of the role children have in the chain of transmission.

 

As a result of this, I’ve updated my video and also highly recommend reading the latest and incredibly helpful advice from Public Health England for schools and those caring for children and young people.

 

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Metamorphosis

I was thinking over the weekend about isolation and this time of lockdown that we find ourselves in as a result of COVID-19 and I started to reflect on the word ‘cocooned’. When we shut ourselves in and button down the hatches, during a storm, we often talk about it as a cocoon-like experience. But what happens in a cocoon is absolutely remarkable.

 

My four key words for this time are: REST, REFLECT, REIMAGINE and RESET. All of those four things happen within a cocoon, and during the process, absolute transformation or METAMORPHOSIS occurs.

 

Before the caterpillar enters the cocoon, it has consumed a great deal. It has pretty much eaten whatever it wanted to and lived however it pleased. But when it enters the cocoon, it is entirely undone. Literally, it becomes a bit like gloop! It feels to me like many people are having the feeling of being ‘undone’ during this time. And not only individuals, whole ways that we have built our world together are being called into question. This enforced REST is causing us to REFLECT and as we do so, we are beginning to see the world around us differently. We are recognising how separated we have become from the world we live in – we are learning that it is not a commodity to be consumed, but a living, breathing Planet with which we are supposed to have a truly symbiotic relationship. We are learning just how disconnected we have become from our neighbours and are beginning to discover a new interconnectedness across the fragile family of humanity. We are learning just how much time we spend serving our dysfunctional systems and are allowing ourselves to question the validity of the way we are living and indeed the story which we have bought into. We are being individually and corporately undone, just like the caterpillar in the cocoon.

 

For the caterpillar, it must feel incredibly destabilising. Everything it has become up until this point is brought into question. As it starts to unravel within the cocoon, I wonder if it feels deeply insecure, anxious, unsafe, wishing it could stop the process and go back to the familiar ways of being a caterpillar. But the journey of metamorphosis is not an easy one, but it is absolutely vital if the caterpillar is to become what it is destined to be. Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar is broken down into ‘IMAGINAL CELLS’ – these begin to form the caterpillar into something altogether different. The caterpillar can no longer remain as it was, it is being REIMAGINED into something far more beautiful in which it can become a true gift to the world – in beauty, in pollination, in the very story that it tells of transformation and redemption.

 

And so, everything is changing within the cocoon. I wonder what is being reimagined in us, in me, in you, in our shared experience. What are we becoming? Can we really go back to such destruction of the earth we live in – such disconnectedness from the world and the people we live with? Can we really continue to fight one another, hate each other or build walls between us? Are we going to continue to allow our children to be fodder for the machine? Will we ongoingly live with such injustice, caused by our hoarding, rooted in our insecurity? Will our approach to healthcare continue to be so reactionary? Will our politics remain so removed and unrelational? Does our economics have to be so destructive to the planet and so unjust for humanity? Surely, we ourselves are potentially being formed into something altogether more beautiful. We cannot crawl back out of our cocoons as caterpillars wanting to eat ever more leaves. We have an opportunity to leave that all behind, to RESET together and refuse to go back to our old ways. That means things cannot remain the same! Everything must change! Our old ways and means simply won’t cut it any more.

 

If there were any of the old biblical prophets around these days, they would be using another R word. They would be standing on the social media corners, shouting REPENT, REPENT! Repentance. It literally means to utterly change ones mind, or turn around completely, to change your mind about walking one way and walk in another way. In Ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament writings, the word repent is METANOIA. It has a similar root to it as the word for transformation, METAMORPHOO, from which we get our word Metamorphosis – the same process as happens in the cocoon. If we are to be transformed, then we have to be willing to go through the process of repentance, to stop thinking and acting in the ways of the past and to embrace the newness of the future that is coming towards us. God, who is LOVE (and who is not interested in the building of big things which look impressive, but in the renewal of all things), promises to walk with us, to uphold us and to be part of the journey of transformation with us. We are not alone in this. The planet is literally groaning for it, our hearts are longing for it and the Spirit of God is calling for it……Does it feel scary? Yes! Is this time full of pressure and insecurity? Absolutely! But when you stop and consider what we are learning, don’t we owe it to future generations and the planet to be transformed by the renewing of our minds? Currently we are in the cocoon, and we’re being undone. But a day is coming when we will spread our wings again for an altogether reimagined future. Let us hope and take action to ensure that it is one full of love, kindness, wellbeing, compassion, and peace! In the rest and reflection, let us take time to reimagine and get ready to reset!

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A Difficult Conversation About COVID-19 – Care Planning

For those of us more at risk from Corona Virus, over the next few days and weeks, your GP will be in touch to have a difficult conversation with you about care planning. That means a conversation about what your wishes would be, if you become very unwell from COVID-19. We find ourselves in unchartered waters and unprecedented times. Conversations about what might happen if we become seriously unwell, or have to face death are never easy, but they are really important. Here, I invite us to start having those conversations and to think about what really matters to us.

 

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Why Lockdown?!

It seems that not everyone is too sure about this ‘Lockdown’ business. Some people are insinuating that the government advice isn’t trustworthy, and others plainly don’t believe it or perhaps don’t understand the rationale. In this vlog, I try and explain why scientists and medics are uniting with one voice to ask us all to take it really seriously…..without this, the NHS will be brought to it’s knees and many more people will die unnecessarily. Don’t think it only affects those who are more elderly or vulnerable – it does not!

 

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COVID19 Advice for TEACHERS and TAs!

We’ve had loads of questions in the last few days from many of our brilliant teachers and TAs around COVID19 and how they can stay safe whilst they remain in school, looking after the children of ‘Key Workers’. I am SO grateful for everything that is being done – here is some advice that I hope is helpful! As with ANY of my videos and due to the changing nature of evidence, as we learn more….if anything changes, I will post an update. If that happens I will delete this video and do another on. The evidence is a bit conflicting currently. This video is based on evidence from the World Health Organisation:

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200306-sitrep-46-covid-19.pdf?sfvrsn=96b04adf_2

Page 2 of WHO report: Children are important drivers of influenza virus transmission in the community. For COVID-19 virus, initial data indicates that children are less affected than adults and that clinical attack rates in the 0-19 age group are low. Further preliminary data from household transmission studies in China suggest that children are infected from adults, rather than vice versa.

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A Message to Our NHS & Public Sector Staff & Community Volunteers

This is my message to NHS & Public Sector staff, and all our community volunteers, during this Corona Virus Pandemic – so grateful for all you are doing. Let’s look after each other.

 

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4 Things to Do If You Are ‘Isolated’ at Home Because of Corona Virus

I’ve been thinking about how people can best use their time, if they are stuck at home during this Corona Virus, Covid-19 Pandemic. Some people will be asked to ‘self-isolate’, along with their household for 14 days because they have symptoms of a high temperature and/or a persistent and troubling cough. Others will be asked to do the same for 12 weeks if they are pregnant, over 70, or usually receive a flu-jab on the NHS (due to having an underlying health condition or on medication that suppresses their immune system). The reason for all of this is to try and suppress the spread of this virus, and maintain health in the wider community until we are sure we have better treatments and a vaccine that we can use across the population. Obviously, if you’re unwell, the first priority is to give your body time to recuperate by taking plenty of fluids (2-3 litres of water per day), eating well, sleeping and letting your immune system do it’s job, whilst you take paracetamol (at the recommended dose) to control your temperature and levels of pain. For many people, however, this time may feel frustrating, because symptoms will be mild or absent and some will be wondering what to do with the time they have been ‘gifted’.

 

There are 4 things, which I believe we can all do during this time, if we find ourselves in the situation of being in isolation, but not actually feeling too unwell.

 

  1. REST
  2. REFLECT
  3. RE-IMAGINE
  4. RESET

 

REST

This is something which we tend to not be very good at. However, we have been given the opportunity to step back from the fast-paced, consumerist-approach that we have adopted in society and take some time to just BE. Learning to accept that we are where we are and deliberately slowing down will enable us to find new strength and reconnect with that which is most important. Deliberately slowing down our breathing, our pace of walking and learning to calm our racing thoughts allows us to enter into a different mindset. Choosing to turn off our screens and disconnect from social media for good portions of the day allows us to create space in our heads and our hearts for another way of being. I know that social media can be a really important and safe space for many people to continue to connect and feel part of community, breaking down a sense of isolation and loneliness, but if we’re on there all the time, it can really fill our heads with unhelpful traffic and noise, which stops us being able to enter rest. As we rest, we are invited to spend our time differently – to do things that are good for the soul. You could take time to create, write, read, sing, dance, pray, go for a gentle walk, cook, sit round a table and build Lego or do jigsaws with others or on your own. There is no need to accumulate new things, what can you make do with or mend? What old or new hobbies might you rediscover or pick up? How about deliberately choosing not to get a thousand and one jobs done around the house or not rushing into a new decorating project. Just stop for a while, slow-down and rest.

 

REFLECT

When we consider the far reaching potential effects of a global pandemic, like the one we find ourselves in, it causes us to pause, notice more the interconnectedness of human life across the world and the utter fragility of our systems. It should cause us to notice more deeply the injustices upon which we build our society, the insecurity of work and the implications of global capitalism on the poorest in our communities and indeed our environment. During this time, we do well to reflect on what we are learning together. Birds are heard singing for the first time in years in Wuhan – a city usually thick with smog. Destructive air pollution has reduced by over 25% in China and Italy. The canals are cleaner than ever in Venice and global air travel has decreased significantly. Of course, we notice some of the worst bits of our humanity – driven by fear – and some selfishness. But we also see the indomitable human spirit at work – huge acts of love, courage, kindness and generosity. There are amazing offers to help and support with home schooling and teachers are going above and beyond their usual brilliance, thinking creatively about how best to enable their students to thrive. Healthcare workers continue to put themselves at risk and pour themselves into the work of healing. Voluntary food clubs to feed the hungry, delivery services for shopping and medication, community support schemes and the ongoing service of the most vulnerable in our society – it’s amazing. This ability to re-organise ourselves, to connect together differently, to make wider political and economic decisions and find a way to be that feels more wholesome should give us plenty not only to be grateful for but to reflect on about why we put so much energy into maintaining the usual status quo. What good things are we noticing and learning?

 

RE-IMAGINE

What might be possible together? Can we imagine a world with less commutes and more digital connection? Doesn’t it seem more possible to cut global emissions a great deal more quickly, when we’re forced to focus our attention? Could we work and earn differently and be more generous with wages and leave, so that we don’t see so many people left in such a vulnerable state. If we can find the ability to be so kind to each other at such a time as this – why not more so all the time? As we’ve recognised the fragility of our lives and existence, are the grudges we hold worthwhile? Are we able to forgive and reconnect? Might we adopt a way of life that is more about sharing and regenerating than grabbing all we can? Isn’t community one of the most delicious and richest of experiences? How can we build more of it? Can you sniff an economics that is more about wellbeing than profit and a politics that is more about connection and participation in our life together than centralised sovereignty? How about an education system that doesn’t treat our children like fodder for the machine, but invests in their ability to build a beautiful future. Have you seen how relationship really could be the foundation of our public services? So how might we think differently about our governance structures and the way we organise ourselves – think ‘Radical Help’ (Hilary Cottam), ‘Doughnut Economics’ (Kate Raworth) and ‘All Our Welfare’ (Peter Beresford) – plus many more. Can you imagine a society in which we really put the wellbeing of all people and the planet at the heart of what we do? If so….why would we continue with a way of being together which is so detrimental to both?

 

RESET

Our invitation, therefore, is to reset. This invitation comes from the earth itself, from our deepest longings, and from the source of all love and life itself. We don’t have to continue living in the story of selfishness and scarcity. We have shown ourselves that there is a more ancient and wonderful story of connectedness, restoration and hope, to which we all belong. We don’t have to go back to how it has been. Step by step, we can use this ‘kairos’ moment to walk into a new future together. A future in which we heal our divides and regenerate our planet, forgive our deep, historical wrongdoings, rebuild our ruins and restore our relationships; do away with injustice and create reconciliation. It’s time to reset. Are you ready to press the button?

 

Here is a beautiful poem, by Kitty O’Meara, to help us rest, reflect, re-imagine and rest.

 

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Corona Virus Update

As the national guidance changes, here in the UK, I’m updating my advice and practical suggestions of what we can do to be prepared, stay well, support each other and be good neighbours. I hope you find this next instalment helpful!

 

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