I used to enjoy this time of year. Like the blank sheets of paper in the brand new notebooks bought for the return to school, it seemed full of possibility, a chance to start afresh.
This year, like many of us I imagine, my feelings are altogether heavier. It is hard to know what to look forward to: a new school year, yes, but under the shadow both of Covid-19 and of arguments about the best way to respond to it; the ordination of a Curate to the Priesthood (see below), emphatically so, but with a tinge of sadness about the impact of the pandemic on the journey to this point and on the form this celebration now has to take.
All in all, I suspect that it will be hard to remember the academic year 2019-20 without some lingering regret. And while we ought to restrain ourselves from wallowing in what John Bunyan memorably called ‘the slough of despond’, we ought also to tell the truth, to ourselves and to each other, about what has happened and how we feel about it. That is the only way in which we can begin to lay the past to rest and move on.
In our lives of Christian faith, this drama occupies a larger stage. Coming to a recognition of what has gone wrong in the past, including our own complicity and culpability in it, is part of what is meant by the word ‘repentance’. In fact, it’s the more important part of what is meant by that word. Feeling sorry and ashamed may well result, but that won’t do us any good unless we really face up to the truth.
This much might be perfectly commonplace on any therapist’s couch. But then comes the uniquely Christian bit, the realisation that God in Christ takes away the old notebooks, full of mistakes and scribblings out, disappointing grades and embarrassing marginal notes, and hands us a brand new one with clean pages and an invitation to start afresh.
My hope, and my prayer, is that this coming season of mist and mellow fruitfulness will be one of healing and refreshment for us all.
May God make it so, and may God bless you all,