Love and Leadership during the Outbreak

March 17, 2020

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Preached by Canon Andy Trenier using Amos 7.10-17 & 2 Corinthians 1.1-11 at Mattins on Sunday 15 March 2020, the Third Sunday of Lent. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4who consoles us in all our affliction,  so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

On Friday I went walking around the village of Wellow in the New Forest, with a Christian friend of mine who had just come off shift  as the head of ER at Southampton General Hospital.

After a long and tiring shift, consoling people in their various afflictions looked pretty tired.

His role, operating a makeshift triage  for dozens and dozens of respiratory patients    all anxious about whether they had contracted COVID19 is very much in the front line of our national struggle against Coronavirus, which, we know, is just beginning.

We talked about his role and mine and then, with the wry reflection of someone who has just come back from the front line, my friend pointed to his rather isolated church- and said:

            “you lot’ll be fine of course- you’ve come through far worse”

And he was right- as I followed his finger I say the parish church St Margaret of Antioch Wellow standing apart in a field on its own

In in the middle ages- the last time we had 2 Popes and a plague the plague ridden village, which once surrounded St Margaret’s was burned down and rebuilt across the fields.

But the church remained as it was … and as we walked home I began to ask myselfld what kind of Church do we need to be today?

What kind of Christian faithfulness, steadfastness, wisdom, care, and service do we need today, next week, and beyond. Not just that we might endure but that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

I don’t know what you would say but here are two things, I think, we can’t live without-

LEADERSHIP  and LOVE

In today’s situation, we need people – not just people in positions of leadership- but people in homes, schools, and families who can remain calm and show wise and courageous leadership.We could do worse than follow the example of

Wellow’s most famous daughter – Florence Nightingale

I imagine she probably asked herself that same question as she walked faithful miles to matins week after week to her church across the fields.

Her own example was one of self-less and courageous leadership, taking hard choices to – yes- follow the science – to other people’s needs was such that it bordered on self-abandonment yet she tempered with a steely pragmatism and self-discipline.

Now more likely to call it ‘Blitz Spirit’ or something similar but it is actually the outworking of Christian call to LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR AS THYSELF.

We need that kind of leadership but we also need good followership  and for each of us to follow our leaders faithfully.

I’m afraid it doesn’t do to second guess and circumvent the advice we are being given and plot our own course.

The temptation to do so, and to shoot the messenger, is all too obvious already- especially if you look online.

But remember out OT lesson.

Why not, instead, spare a thought for those making difficult choices –

Dean Catherine and Canon Roly, Mr Burden at the school.

The Prime Minister, the Chief Medical Officer, and the Chief Scientific Advisor.

On a smaller scale we are highly likely to have to radically alter our pattern of services and reduce what we are able to do in the days to come.

Probably in the week to come.

When that happens please remember what our OT Lesson counsels and not to shoot this messenger either ‘I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am merely the precentor, and a dresser of sycamore trees’.

I was so grateful to read a message sent by one of our Choir parents – which recognised the hard task that leaders are facing and doing a very simple thing:

Saying THANK YOU.

Well – thank you too Richard.

  1. LOVE

Along with leadership- the other thing I think we need is LOVE. In particular COMPASSIO- the root meaning of which is ‘to suffer-with’.

There may be more contemporary examples of this but I think of those famous clergy and Christians in the late C17th plague villages, such as Eyam in Derbyshire, who saved so many lives outside their villages by quarantining themselves within.

They applied their Christian faith with steadfast devotion and grim unselfish determination.

And it reminds me that we must- as ST Peter counsels us – to think of the COMMON GOOD rather than the good of our own institution or our own personal or family interests.

So – let’s think like that:

When you wash your hands- think not of yourself- but pray for others- whom your discipline is going to safeguard.

What of your neighbours?  What of the single mum next door or in the flat upstairs?  When you’re stocking up- who is panic buying for them?

What of the elderly- whose doing their online shop or getting the best hand wash deals on e-bay for them?

What of your employees?  Who is reassuring them?

What of your carer, or vicar?  Who is caring for them?

It is going to be hard to do I know- both Canon Mark and I already have children isolating- that but it is THAT- COMPASSIONATE LOVE  that will mark out the CHRISTIAN response above all else.

Friends- the times we are living in are anxiety-inducing.

Such times can bring out the worst in people: selfishness, panic, ignoring the needs of others,  spreading fear and misinformation.

But they can also bring out the best in people. And the best in all of us is our faith in Jesus Christ.

LET YOUR FAITH SHINE OUT IN GOOD LEADING, GOOD FOLLOWING, GOOD CHRISTIAN COMPASSION.

 And as St Paul writes:

“He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us;  For on him we have set our hope- that he will rescue us again”

 AMEN