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A number of factors are fuelling renewed hope, says Bishop Martin Seeley

Quite a number of us are daring to look forward. I imagine even most of us are starting to begin to wonder about something we might do, or a place we might go, at some point in the future.

We have been living with a horizon, sometimes during this pandemic, of just a few days, maybe a week.

There have even been times when a day at a time has been just enough to manage.

Bishop Martin Seeley (44006401)
Bishop Martin Seeley (44006401)

But now, with the surging vaccination programme, and the declining numbers of infections – even though they are still high, and even though in some parts of the country they are on the increase – we are just beginning to imagine what life might be like beyond next week.

Maybe what you have been looking forward to has already happened – the schools are back. But then maybe that is what you have been dreading. We are still in confusing and uncertain times.

We still have to be careful. My son is about to return to school, but his sister has yet to return to university, and she is wary – as I am – about what may be brought home from school.

But still, we are looking forward. Maybe to meeting face to face with family members or friends we have not seen face to face for months.

Maybe to a visit to the beach.

Maybe to a holiday, even a holiday abroad.

And there is more than the Covid numbers and the vaccination programme that is fuelling our hope.

Spring is coming, and we can feel the sense of expectation in the air. We see it with the snowdrops, the crocuses and the first daffodils. We see it with the first buds showing on shrubs and trees.

And even on the coldest days, the length of the day increasing conveys that sense that spring is on it’s way.

Within the the Christian faith, Lent comes from an old English word that also means spring.

Daffodils herald the arrival of spring
Daffodils herald the arrival of spring

Lent started early this year, on February 17th, though the earliest it could start is actually February 4th – the last time that happened was 1818 and the next time 2285!

So imagine how that would be in 12th century England, for example, to start Lent in the cold middle of February – and calling it Lent which you knew meant spring.

However bad the winter, you were in Lent, and you knew every time you used the word that you were looking forward to spring.

And you were looking forward to Easter, the end of Lent, and Easter is a word whose own origins mean something like spring or dawn.

Our Christian story, and the natural seasons, weave together to give a powerful foundation to look forward even in the darkest of times.

I am looking forward, hopeful with the change in Covid statistics, and the vaccination roll-out.

I am looking forward too because spring is showing every sign of being on the way.

And I am looking forward because Easter beckons.

Whatever the challenges of the next stage of this pandemic, whatever the profound impact is of the virus that we have to respond to for decades to come, my faith gives me confidence and hope, not only that together we can face them, but that there is something better yet to look forward to.

- Bishop Martin Seeley is the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and is writing a weekly article for readers while church services are disrupted by the pandemic

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