I keep hearing people say that 2020 was a 'year like no other.' Friends tell me they have been writing a special journal recording the year, so they can pass it on to their grandchildren. Others just want to leave 2020 behind and look to a happier new year.
Both reactions are completely understandable. So I've been looking ahead to 2021 and thinking about the five top things I'd like to see in the year ahead. What would you put on your list?
1. Let's make sure the vaccines are distributed fairly and speedily.
Those who need the vaccine most urgently should receive it first, with a fair system for ensuring everyone else can be vaccinated quickly and efficiently. We need to ensure that everyone receives the vaccine wherever they live in the world – from the poorest to the richest. Especially, in those parts of the world where there is war and poverty, and people are living as refugees.
2. Let's learn the lessons of the pandemic – not just going back to how life was, as quickly as possible.
Many of us learnt to appreciate our family so very much more – especially when we could not be with them for months on end. We learnt lessons about how important our neighbours and local businesses are, and how precious our NHS, medical researchers, care providers and other frontline workers are. Let's not forget them.
3. Let's value nature.
People with gardens, or with parks or fields nearby, have been massively blessed. I've learnt to pay attention to birdsong, to the changing colours of the trees, and how unexpected plants have taken root in our garden. Pets have played a major part in helping us endure the lockdowns, especially for people who live alone. May we all learn to value the natural world on our doorsteps in the year ahead and beyond.
4. Let's bless technology.
Without the use of the internet, meeting people 'online' or keeping in touch via email, Facetime or other technologies, 2020 would have been a whole lot tougher. Churches moved their Sunday services online, and soon adapted to a different way of worshipping – not the same, but still helping us to worship together and see familiar faces. Let's continue to give thanks in 2021 for the science that made that contact - and outreach - possible.
5. Let's value our church family.
Imperfect we may be, like any family. But the months without being physically able to worship with them, share communion with them, or sing alongside them have been hard. I value so much how many churches have risen to the pandemic challenge and sought to serve their communities in all kinds of ways. May we take all this experience into 2021 and build upon it.
Whatever 2021 holds for you and all those that you love, my prayer is that you know the love of God in your life and are able to pass it on to others.
Peter Crumpler is a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts, and the author of 'Responding to Post-truth', Grove Books.