Every day is like Sunday, except they’re not special like the Sabbath

Canon Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner at York Minster, lights the Paschal Candle yesterday. James sa

Canon Maggie McLean, Canon Missioner at York Minster, lights the Paschal Candle yesterday. James says he misses church and the Sunday way of life when we could take time out and reflect - Credit: PA

Columnist James Marston misses the unique feel of Sundays during this coronavirus crisis, in which it’s hard to tell which day is which

I might claim to know best but I have to admit I definitely don’t know what’s happening at the higher levels of government – Boris’s message and its later explanatory refinements by our politicians have annoyed me to some extent. I don’t want to be told to stay alert not least because it is deeply patronising but it is also meaningless – I do, as do others, think I should be trusted enough to make my own decisions and assess my own risks. If we’ve got to live with this virus, and we keep being told it’s not going away, then so be it. And anyway, it seems to me that people are increasingly deciding for themselves which bits of government advice they want to follow, and which bits they don’t.

As a Christian I try to live a faith and proclaim a gospel which teaches love and kindness towards one another. Christianity recognises the intrinsic characteristics of human nature – including our propensity for violence and selfishness. As a journalist I have seen enough of life and human behaviour to have developed an overriding suspicion of human motive.

Nonetheless I hold on tight to hope, hope that I will overcome my own selfishness and cynicism in the light of my faith, and the hope which stems from my relationship with a loving God, which began neither from some sudden Damascene light nor from a voice from a burning bush but because I simply accepted the possibility that God might exist. Once I started looking for Him I couldn’t stop seeing.

For those without faith this must be an utterly terrifying time. And fear is a powerful emotion, it has driven us into the most extraordinary reaction and behaviour. We have denied ourselves relationships, physical contact, even our liberties, because ultimately, it seems to me, we are fearful of death, fearful even of facing up to the prospect of it. Indeed, I believe in the joyous prospect of heaven, but that doesn’t mean I want to go there today.

We have already shown we can do the extraordinary when motivated and I wonder if there aren’t some aspects of the last few weeks we might want to keep as part of our lives in the post pandemic world which is sure to come and will increasingly become the focus our national conversation.

I shall be glad when I leave the last Zoom meeting – it gives me a headache – but I shan’t totally welcome the return of the noise of everyday life. Plenty have remarked on the sound of the birdsong and the peace we have, at times, experienced, and when I was a lad there was one day of the week when all was stilled.

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It was Sundays. Because, and you might remember this, Sunday was once not only a day for the church goers and the faithful to go to church and worship but was a day for all to take a rest, have a break and calm ourselves. I look back with regret that we have lost this weekly day off, and the balance it bought.

We have spoken much in our national lockdown conversation of the importance of family and friends and I can’t help thinking that Sundays used to provide this time – certainly for my family it was a day in which we developed and nurtured our relationships with each other – even though a Sunday afternoon could seem to drag.

I can’t really remember how or when it changed here in the UK, though when I lived in a large French city about a decade ago, I found Sundays were still a day set aside for family, for rest, and the shops were shut, and the traffic light.

In these recent weeks we have all thought about our lives, perhaps questioned why we live the way we do, maybe even considered some changes we might like to make. I can’t help thinking that a weekly pause might do us and the environment some good, and as the lockdown eases, perhaps it is time for us all to think about what we might like to keep from this experience as well as what we might like to forget. Perhaps the peace and quiet, the rekindling of friendships, the realisation that family is important after all, the care we have experienced and offered to neighbours, the time out, have contrived to tell us something; maybe we were missing Sundays but just didn’t know it.

Do you remember when Sundays were different to every other day? Would you like to see Sundays less busy? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk