Over the last 6 months our Co-Dean of Graduate Programmes, Canon Dr Chris Sugden edited the following 28 page booklet which was published last week. It has been reviewed by a leading palliative care doctor.
COVID-19 Where is God in all this?
Greg Forster, Caris Grimes, James Haslam, Michael Langrish, John Pilling
Edited by Chris Sugden
Published by Grove Books Limited
October 2020 £3.95 27pp
ISBN: 978 1 78827 139 4
Review by Dr Gareth Tuckwell
This publication is an excellent and timely response to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the frequently heard heart-cry “Where is God in all this?” The essays draw on Biblical truth integrated with a strong evidence-base, along with the wisdom of eminent Christians and an accomplished editor.
Encouragingly, many of the emotional, ethical and scriptural issues that have come to a head during the pandemic are shown to offer us hope, opportunities to take hold of, along with gaining resilience to embed. This is as we look to discern God’s presence and guidance through this time in history, as the virus becomes endemic.
The authors have had the courage to address media headlines that require a response, such as professional carers refusing to care in the absence of PPE (personal protective equipment), and families being prevented from visiting and ‘being there’ for their much-loved relatives. The reader is given known facts relating to COVID-19 along with insight around challenges clinicians are facing, where the rules relating to care are frequently updated. We read how a lack of ventilators and critical care beds had an enormous impact on decision-making and the values to be embraced. When there is a shortage of much needed resources, how should allocation be decided? To help this, it’s so good to read an ethical framework, centred on justice alongside a reminder of Biblical principles. This would help should another wave of this infection arrive, and a practical and creative response is needed to ensure dignity, kindness and compassion remain at the heart of care. Care, concern and love woven within ‘official’ communication can become so important.
The essay by Dr John Pilling and Bishop Michael Langrish entitled ‘It’s all about mercy’ helpfully enables the reader to see the consequences of this pandemic through the lens of God’s mercy. Witnessing and receiving compassionate, empathetic, loving care says, ‘I’m alongside you in this’. Theology and medicine have the potential to become inextricably intertwined with the outpouring of mercy and loving kindness by people of many cultures and faiths.
It is so encouraging to read how a good death, aided by honest conversation, has been recognised as being so very important; it remains sad that talking about our mortality is still frowned upon by many. The editor’s energy in developing the online resource: https://talkingaboutdying.org is to be welcomed. We are reminded that the Christian church has a message of hope and love embraced by mercy that can lift fear and anxiety, enabling truth to be shared and received.
The ‘Road to Recovery’ in a post-Covid world is yet another helpful essay, written prior to the second wave of the 2020 pandemic, reflecting on lessons to be leant; it draws from the Old Testament book of Nehemiah and the heavy burden born in being called to rebuild the ruins. This concludes that we all have a part to play in the post-COVID reconstruction of community. The rebuilding of society, our social structures and our economy will require courageous concerted effort that leads us to a new normality as the church uncovers her salt and light, truly displaying Biblical values coated in kindness.
Finishing there might have left the reader burdened with self-blame and a sense of guilt that relates to possible situations within families, amongst colleagues or even relating to political decisions. Addressing these is done so very well with such insight into how many people may be feeling. Focusing on intention behind the action taken can bring relief and healing, especially with the reflection of Jesus’ example in John ch. 9 and the realisation that God was honoured despite any apparent outcome. Survivor guilt and nagging ‘if only’ thoughts are so well addressed with the reminder that we take decisions in the light of what we think we know at the time, often based on advice received.
At the end of the day, the reader is reminded that God is greater than our conscience and that his acceptance and forgiveness are enduring.
Yes, this is an invaluable booklet and one many are likely to dip into as new post-pandemic situations arise too. A big thank you to the authors, editor and the Grove Books team.
Dr Gareth Tuckwell
Former Chairman Sanctuary Care, CEO Burrswood Hospital & Clinical Director at Hospice in the Weald.