Blog from self-isolation No 2

by Mark Thomas

Tears have never come easily to me, but they did last Sunday during the morning live streamed Passion Sunday Service. I think it was the juxtaposition of everyone’s faces, and our physical separation, alongside the Miracle Maker video and the story of Jesus’ Passion. And we were physically separated from the Sacrament itself. That strong sense of deprivation gave the Passion story new significance. So I shall try to listen to the so familiar story during Holy Week this year through the prism of my own sense of loss, of trauma, of being separated from those I love and from that which has always given food for the journey. I confess to feeling a bit ambivalent about Holy Week – in summary, that it’s just too much church! But I have appreciated it all a lot more since we moved here now that I’m not responsible for it all, and this year perhaps these new strange circumstances will deepen and refresh our Holy Week experience.

It also means that we need to pay close attention to that which resources us and builds up resilience, and to establish a healthy routine to each day. First thing, after I’ve taken a coffee to Keri in bed, Barley our 7 month old retriever and I go and let out the hens and enjoy a first taste of Spring in the garden, each day revealing something new and exciting to appreciate. After breakfast Keri, our daughter Beth and I share half an hour’s silent meditation and spoken prayer. The 10am Zoom call reconnects me to fellow members of the ministry team, and the remainder of the morning is an opportunity to read and study. Two books I’m enjoying at present are “A Little History of Poetry” by John Carey (p 2020) and “The City is my Monastery’ by Richard Carter (p 2019).
After lunch is a time for exercise with Barley; taking on a puppy last autumn seemed a risky thing to do, but now we are so glad we did – he has been a life saver in recent weeks. I try to say the Church of England’s evening office around about 5pm before making supper for us. It’s been good to discover local traders who will deliver groceries. Then it’s TV and bed.

I have found this third week of self-isolation harder than the first two, but I know that it will end, and that the pattern of my living will have changed when it does. I will appreciate those I love, friends and family, more, and make more of an effort to keep in touch. I will ask “is this car or plane journey really necessary?” and “Do I need to buy this?” And I will remember that this virus is affecting others much more than it is me – including those in resource poor countries and areas of poverty and deprivation. My living needs to take more account of them in future. And I suspect that when churches reopen and we are able to gather again, the deprivation we are experiencing now will heighten our appreciation of something we maybe have taken for granted. Some years ago Keri and I visited Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg. It had become a museum of atheism during the Communist era but was now open again for worship and prayer. It was full of people of all ages renewing their connection with God, and its Easter Resurrection spirituality was palpable. When we asked what had kept the faith going during those dark years, we were told that it was the “baboushkas”, the grannies, by their faithfulness and prayer at home. Keep praying and faithful!

Mark Thomas 03/04/2020

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas

was born in Somerset and went to Durham university to read Economics and Sociology. The plan was that I would join the family Business in Bristol, but God had other ideas and after a brief foray into marketing and six months travelling, I was accepted for ordination training and started at Ripon College Cuddesdon in 1976.

I decided that I needed to go north and so accepted the offer of a curacy in a mining parish in West Yorkshire in the Wakefield diocese. A second curacy followed in Seaford, East Sussex, where I met Keri. I proposed three weeks after that first evening and we married in Gomersal back in West Yorkshire in 1984 where I served my first incumbency. Keri had recently qualified as a GP and started work in Cleckheaton. We had three children there, Megan, Ben and Bethany, before moving to Almondbury near Huddersfield where I was appointed Team Rector and Rural Dean and became Canon of Wakefield Cathedral.

Sophie and Imogen, our identical twin daughters, were born in Huddersfield. In 2001 I was appointed Vicar of St Chad’s and St Alkmund’s, the town centre churches in Shrewsbury in the Lichfield diocese. My final six years in Shrewsbury were very happy ones, with a good team; I loved town centre ministry and St Chad’s had a strong civic and military role.

I am a Prebendary emeritus of Lichfield Cathedral. Meanwhile Keri had started The Gold Standards Framework CIC, a not for profit Social Enterprise training health and social care professionals to give better end of life care. This was very successful and I left stipendiary parish ministry in 2013 to become executive director of the Company, and among other things developed a spiritual care of the dying programme. I finally retired at the end of 2016. We have moved to Black Bourton to be nearer our family, and especially our eldest daughter Megan, her RAF pilot husband Kurt and their two year old son Monty.

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