In a sense, it's been a year of lament — the loss of those we love through death and in a less final way through social distancing. As we move through Lent, the lament continues but with a sense of both heavenly and earthly hope: Jesus has won the victory, and we will soon be able to be together once more.
As a Christian charity and the operator of 10 care homes, the Pilgrims' Friend Society team has been on the frontline of caring for older people throughout the pandemic. The news that a nominated visitor will once more be able to meet their loved one indoors and hold hands is a balm for those in the care sector, as well as the family members who have longed to be reunited.
We've always known that family is important, but the pandemic has brought into sharp focus that we are made for community and not isolation. As Christians, we are even more aware of this fact – God is clear that He loves the church, the fellowship of believers, and that we are made for relationship with Him and each other. That's why we normally encourage volunteers and local church communities to be a part of the family in our care homes – we need one another, old and young, to be part of God's big family.
The disconnect from the outside world that visiting restrictions brought to care homes is anathema to God's picture of a people connected to one another. While the homes have been able to provide community in a way the rest of us have gone without this year — birthdays celebrated, crafting and baking sessions, worshipping and praying together —being cut off from broader church and community life has been difficult. Despite the best efforts of our wonderful care teams, the separation of residents from loved ones has been a source of deep sorrow to many.
This Lent we are reminded of the grief of a sinful, broken world as we reflect on the sickness that separates, the deaths that we mourn and the community and family that help us flourish. We lament our sorrows and cry out in the wilderness, unsure and uncertain of what is to come.
And yet, as Christians, we always traverse Lent through the lens of Easter. We know that Lent holds a new beginning on the horizon. We look towards the work of Jesus on the cross, with the certainty that we do not stay forever in the limbo of the grief of Good Friday, but we move forward with confidence to the joy, fullness, and completeness of resurrected life on Sunday.
The news that increased contact visits can begin in a limited way has given us cause to thank God for His rescue – that our own particular Lent lament will be broken by something new. These visits are just a teaser of what we know will eventually come — the gathering of people together, community and family alike.
In the same way, Easter is a promise of what is to come for eternity: that Jesus — who broke the curse of sin and death when He lived, died, and rose again for us — calls us into community under His headship, offering us a way out of lament and into the hope of fellowship with Him, and with each other again.
Alexandra Davis is Director of Marketing and Communications at Pilgrims' Friend Society, a Christian charity that supports older people to live fulfilled later lives in their residential care homes and independent living housing schemes in England and Scotland. The charity also work alongsidechurches, inspiring and equipping them to work win the community with older people.