Coronavirus can only mean one thing - keep calm and carry on

James says there is only one way to deal with coronavirus

James says there is only one way to deal with coronavirus - Credit: Archant

James Marston says there is only one way to deal with coronavirus and most people are doing it...

It’s not funny anymore is it?

The coronavirus sweeping the nation has got us all understandably worried. I tried to ignore it, make light of it, kill it with bravado but over the last week or so it’s become clearer each day that times are strange and we face a grave threat.

I don’t mind telling you I am a bit worried about my parents – now in their early 70s and in the “vulnerable category”. They, however, are resolute and determined to be sensible with taking precautions – as mother said to me – “Lots of my friends have husbands with underlying health conditions so we are going to be careful, I’ve got the garden to do and the weather’s getting better. We are lucky really” Indeed, though my suggestion that now might be a good time to clear out the garage I was met with slightly shorter shrift.

As Mr Churchill once said I am an optimist — it does not seem to be much use being anything else - and I wonder if we ought to look on the bright side of all this. We have the best scientific minds in the world, we are an advanced, informed, a wealthy nation with dedicated public servants working in it. We have a free press, freedom of speech, functioning national and regional tiers of government, and a world class health service that we need to protect and cherish. We have televisions and internet, telephones and technology. Indeed, we are well placed to ride out these odd times.

The Italians have opera to sing to each other, the Spanish are applauding their health workers – we British have humour and grit and a deep community spirit that we are rediscovering more and more as the days go by.

Already in my community in east Suffolk, where I serve as assistant curate at the parish church, people are coming together to think of ways to watch out for the elderly and more vulnerable living next door. A young mum texted me recently offering her services to whatever is put in place.

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People want to help, and I can’t help thinking that we are, as mother says, lucky in many ways.

Fear of the unknown is, perhaps understandably, playing out in the purchase of toilet rolls and the like.

Fear, of course, doesn’t bring out the best in human behaviour I’m afraid. It makes us selfish and irrational and fear spreads just as quick as any contagion. Indeed the sight of empty shelves in our country where we are used to plentiful supply of almost anything we can imagine is unnerving. But resist this fear and our reaction to it we must if we are going to stand a chance against this virus that is playing havoc with our way of life.

As a clergyman you might expect I cannot but bring God and my own faith into play and, with my journalist hat on, I observe and try to discern what’s going on around me. I cannot help but think that while this is a unique and unprecedented situation that mankind – and I mean women as well obviously – has faced worse and come through to tell the tale – after all today’s drama is always tomorrow’s anecdote and I love life too much not to look forward to brighter times.

So I turned to one of my prayer books – the 1928 version – a treasure to my mind of devotional material – to discover a prayer so apposite I thought I might share it with you this week, in the hope that it might bring some comfort to readers and, especially, to older readers.

Grant we beseech thee, merciful Lord, help and deliverance unto us, who are visited with grievous mortality and sickness. Sanctify to us this our sore distress, and prosper with thy continual blessing those who labour to devise for mankind protection against disease and pain; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

I hope it helps. In the meantime let’s count our blessings, hold our loved ones close and do our best to keep calm and carry on.

Is your community pulling together? Are you optimistic about the future? How are people helping you? Let James know at