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Dear Friends

I started this year full of hope that we had seen the worst that Covid had to throw at us. How wrong l was, as a new, virulent strain seems to be making matters worse, not helped by the cavalier attitude exhibited by a minority, who are flouting the restrictions by congregating in ever greater numbers, refusing to wear facema"ks, etc. lt seems that 2021 may prove to be yet another year to "write off” as far as normality is concerned.

In this parish we have had to take the step of foregoing church services as both l and Fr Roger are over 70 and, in addition, l am obliged to "shield" due to a range of underlying conditions. For both of us, this goes against the grain, but it seems that we must be patient and wait to be vaccinated, and then for the vaccinations to take effect, which may mean we shall not be able to resume public worship before Easter. I am, as ever, deeply grateful to our Churchwardens and PCC for their support in this matter, and the church remains open daily for private prayer.

By mid-February, we shall be in Lent (Ash Wednesday falls on 17 February) and I am reminded of the words of St Benedict who, in his Rule for religious communities, suggests that "the life of the monk should be a continuous Lent" - "few . . . have the strength for this". For many of us, it may seem that our lives recently have consisted of a "continuous Lent", subject to deprivations of various sorts, and it’s hard not to become discouraged and gloomy. Some have likened our current situation with the early part of the Second World War ~ but at least we do not have bombers overhead!

At Christmas, I was given an interesting book, written by Robert Matzen, on Audrey llepburn’s wartime experiences (Audrey Hepburn and World War II: Dutch Girl). lt recounts how Audrey’s Dutch mother, initially a supporter of Hitler, soon changed her mind once neutral Holland was invaded, and a relative, Uncle Otto, was taken into a wood with four others and shot in reprisal for a bombing in Rotterdam by the Resistance. Being half-English and half-Dutch, Audrey was removed from her school in Kent and taken to Arnhem which, at the time, was thought to be safer - apparently, prior to the War, it had been a beautiful town, but, by the time of the Arnhem parachute offensive by the Allies, it was practically flattened. Audrey was only a teenager during this period but she played her part in the fight against Nazism by helping British airmen evade capture and sharing her own meagre rations with them — actions which foreshadowed her future humanitarian work, when she used the fame and fortune she later acquired through film acting to help others, and especially children.

Such examples help us, perhaps, to take heart at this time, and to make whatever small offering we can (even if this consists simply in ‘staying at home’ and doing our part to protect our NHS) in the current fight against an invisible, but deadly, enemy.

Stephen