Talking Point – January 2021

The Year of the ramble?

WAS 2020 the year of the ramble for you? Since becoming curate of Caversham Thameside and Mapledurham Parish, I have had more and more reason to cross the Thames from my home in RG1, and I have been enjoying walking in South Oxfordshire. With almost no other leisure activity open to us in the March-July lockdown, and with a November lockdown of dismal weather, my wife and I took every opportunity to get out, go into the Chilterns, and feel normal again. But we also had the Ordnance Survey phone app. Pricey but essential, it meant we always knew exactly where we were and where the public paths were and how to get back to the car and back home.

No longer would we be getting lost. Being lost is miserable. Many people have felt lost in 2020. Not geographically of course, but emotionally, mentally, and often spiritually. For Years 11 and 13 at school, suddenly the exams that they were working towards disappeared. For their school mates they were told first that it was too dangerous to attend school, and then that they could bubble with hundreds (but not outside the school gates). Business owners struggled to make plans for each day, let alone for the long-term. Many industries and professions, most notably hospitality, the arts and sports, lost all sense of direction as total closure was never properly reversed and nothing seemed to be predictable. Countless residents in care homes felt abandoned. Confusion and uncertainty abounded.

Hence 2020 has felt like we are fumbling around like walkers lost on a foggy mountain side. As a country we can’t see where we’re going and the huge uncertainty of Brexit makes things feel worse. Any slip and we could be in danger. The stress is continuous; we have not been enjoying this. We had no map, we were never sure of where we were, and there seemed to be no route showing us the way we should go. It felt – and it may still feel – like there is no light at the end of this tunnel.

That is why we must remember that Christ is the King. We need to have faith that He is in charge. He knows where we are going even if we don’t. Jesus never promised to show us the route, nor even the next step along the way. But He did promise to take us by the hand and journey with us. We can even enjoy the journey if we allow Him to lead us, if we dwell in His word, if we praise Him in our souls. We are all like lost sheep. But Jesus is the good Shepherd. He seeks the broken-hearted, the injured, the stray, and, in particular, the lost. He will lead us home.

Rev Andy Storch, curate of Caversham Thameside and Mapledurham.