As I write this, I’m coming to the end of 10 days of Covid isolation. To start with, I was frustrated that my placement at a school was going to be disrupted and rearranged.
I did, however, try to think positively about the fact that I would have plenty of time to read. But then I started thinking about how I was being forced to give up on certain things.
We are, of course, entering the season of Lent, when each year people tend to give something up. It made me think about the difference between choosing to give something up and having to give something up.
I had to give up contact with people. Fortunately, technology meant I could have remote contact. But I discovered that what affected me most was not being able to interact with people in the way I normally would.
Yes, there was the social side of things that I missed: coffee in the local shop on my day off, bellringing with friends, chatting with people on the school run. But I missed being “at work”.
For much of the time, because I wasn’t actually unwell with the virus, I was still working; I was just working from home. But I wasn’t doing all the parts of my role that I normally would.
It wasn’t until I started preparing a sermon for my first Sunday back after isolation that I realised what had been missing and what had been bothering me. It was service.
I had been reflecting on the Queen’s life of service and how Christians live lives of service. That’s when I realised that while I had been working from home and may have been completing tasks, I didn’t feel that I had really been serving.
I wasn’t serving my family, as I was shut away. I wasn’t serving the community or the Church. The tasks I was completing weren’t leaving me fulfilled because I didn’t feel as if I was serving anyone.
In recent years, I’ve noticed that many people take up something new rather than give something up during Lent. Perhaps this is a good thing, and you can see our benefice website for details of groups and activities that might help you think of something to take up (although I think the idea of giving something up shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly).
Maybe this year the thing to do is give something up but also commit to some kind of ongoing service. It doesn’t matter how small that act of service is, because every act of service to another has the potential to make the world a better place.
Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these… you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).
Acts of service are at the heart of a life focused on loving one’s neighbour and, no matter what your faith, our society can always do with more of that.
Revd Richard Turk, Assistant Curate, Reepham and Wensum Valley Team Churches