Thoughts from the Chaplain

18th March 2020
BY The Rev Justin White

The reading for Evensong on Tuesday 17 March, St Patrick’s Day - the last public service in Chapel for some time - was particularly poignant.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4)

The wilderness of Lent has taken a turn that none of us could have imagined.

The Christian Church talks about the need for repentance in Lent. We think that means feeling bad about ourselves, grovelling in self-hatred, morbid introspection, or pious sorrow. Actually, the word ‘metanoia’ means to ‘change the mind’. Not a shift of preference among choices, as the phrase means today, but the reception of an entirely new mind. When you repent you turn around, change direction, choose a different path, and make a radical rupture. Repentance signals an abrupt end to life on auto-pilot or to business as usual. What might have been a spiritual discipline for a few has become a forced reality for all of us, thanks to a virus.

We didn’t make it through to the Cathedral Passiontide Service, which would have marked the end of term. The Eastertide Service, which should mark the beginning of Cloister Time, looks to be in jeopardy too. So our last gathering as a whole school community was at the Christmas Service. At that service we celebrated the central teaching of the Christian faith: Emmanuel, ‘God with us’.

In this pandemic, it seems that we are about to discover what God being with us really means. We long for that Eastertide celebration that signals the end of this nightmare. But the faith teaches us that we only get to see resurrection through crucifixion; that we see God most clearly in our darkest hour.

And what I trust we shall see are things far more infectious than a virus – faith, hope and love – embodied with us, and in us.


Our very own Bishop Thomas Ken, OW, penned the following prayer in his ‘Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College, 1675.

A Prayer in the beginning of Sickness

Deliver us, O Lord, from all frowardness, and impatience, and give us an entire resignation to thy divine will; O suffer not the disease to take away our senses, and do thou continually supply our thoughts, with holy interjections; Lord bless all means that are used for our recovery, and restore us to our health, in thy good time; but if otherwise thou hast appointed for us, thy blessed will be done. O wean our affections from all things below, and fill us with ardent desires after heaven; Lord fit us for thy self, and then call us to those joys unspeakable, and full of glory, when thou pleasest, and that for the sake of thy only Son Jesus, our Saviour. Amen.




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