It's a year since I returned from retreat to Lindisfarne. Back then our little group was discussing the emerging virus, and recognising the things Asian countries have known for years, but which western democracies took months to learn for themselves.
Since then, undoubtedly the strangest year for many of us has passed. For some it will have been painfully slow; anyone living alone and without company, those burdened by the pressures of increased and different workloads, education, healthcare and normality adjusting to a world we never expected.
The island has enjoyed relative safety in that time, and a massive luxury of relative freedom; being able to meet and gather in ways the UK can only imagine (leading to Braddan doing the universe's biggest carol service of 2020!).
In all this, life unfolds at a rate none of us can keep up with. We're wondering daily what tomorrow will hold: more lockdowns? Vaccine rollouts? Snow and bad weather making things more difficult? Uncertainty over jobs and education?
Even churches are not immune to some of these things. We have to assess the future of churches on the island in an ever-decreasing circle of funding. Our opportunities to stay open are limited by health measures, and that means contributions to us remaining open has declined. The lack of TT is a massive concern for those churches who benefit from it, but now face economic hardship like so many businesses.
But, despite all these things, the situation is never as bleak as we first fear or imagine. We have foundations in place which are built not of this world and cannot be shaken by it, or the actions within it.
Were it not for the faith, hope and love of the Church — that body of people known only to God — we may easily be shaken in these times. But nothing which is happening now is any different from the trials and tribulations of centuries past. All generations have their moments in millennia which require them to cast aside darkness and self-interest and instead look to the purpose for our existence. To take that purpose and make it live.
God's life within us keeps us firm in the strangest and most uncertain of times. Even if we struggle to see it, that breath of life rests within us and keeps us walking when our feet feel they can go no further.
But we need to continue, in faith, hope and love, in order to reach the destination God has set for us: a new earth where the weaknesses of this present one are no more. A new time when our searches for justice, truth and freedom in this life are rewarded in the next. A new age, when the communities we build here in the name of Christ become children of a Kingdom which lasts forever.
Despite all the problems the world throws at us, we know the Church is not shaken. We have more candidates coming to confirmation than has happened for years. We have new friendships forming through our community. We have new experiences of church which have opened eyes and ears to God greeting us and speaking to us (café church went down a storm recently!).
The world in all its attacks on our lives cannot overcome us. We are in a season now, leading up to Easter, where Jesus took the world he walked in, shook it up, and overcame it. And though it still has many lessons to learn, it cannot stop us from being God's children. No matter how hard it tries.