Letter from Canon Michael Irving

June Magazine Letter from Canon Michael Irving

In these strange and challenging weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic, I am grateful that I am a hopeful person by nature and conviction.   These last weeks that hopefulness has been strengthened by Captain Sir Tom Moore’s effect on our nation.   His determination at 99 years of age to raise funds for the NHS by walking with his support frame around his garden 100 times has captured the imagination and involvement of the nation.   What an inspiration he is and what a sum he has raised -  £35,000,000! Thank you indeed!

Captain Tom is also a man of hope.   I quote him, “I’m seen as a hopeful person and it is true I have never despaired even in wartime.   I’ve always known things would get better.   Just like now, we are going through a dark patch but things will improve.”   He has lifted our spirits and enabled us to be positive and full of help and hope for those working on the front line of our medical and caring services. 

Captain Tom brings to mind someone else from our nation, but in a different age - the 14th century - who was full of hope in another time of pandemic.   The person is Mother Julian of Norwich, a recluse and mystic whose Festival Day is 8th May.   She wrote “Revelations of Divine Love” in 1373 and a longer version in 1393.   These record her 15 visions of Christ which she had at the age of 30.   Through these visions she articulates her conviction that “All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”   Now this was written when the country had been ravaged by the Black Death.   40% of the population of Bristol died and the population of England is estimated to have fallen from 5.5 million to 4 million and yet still Mother Julian is rightly full of hope for the future.

I believe that both Captain Tom and Mother Julian are right.   Whatever befalls us we must be ‘prisoners of hope’.   This is powerfully expressed in the Rogers and Hammerstein song 'You’ll Never Walk Alone' that Captain Tom and Michael Ball sang with the virtual NHS choir.Their rendition was so moving and it  took them to Number One in the charts!   As the lyrics say, whatever befalls us, with hope in our hearts, we will never walk alone.....

In these very strange and testing times when many are struggling by themselves, lots have discovered how much community spirit flourishes in our villages.   We are so grateful for this.   For many there will be a sense that God is not only with us, but within us, helping to bare, to share and to carry that we find so difficult to carry alone.

However long we will be living in this present way we do not know, but let us sustain hope in our hearts and continue to be grateful for the Toms and Julians in our world.   At this time we remember especially those who are keeping our society functioning as normally as possible, some of whom do so at risk to their own lives. We are indebted to so many and give them the assurance of our thanks and prayers.
Michael Irving