Yesterday I went to Brighton. Terry had to meet up with the production team at Emmanuel church to be interviewed about his new book, God’s Treasured Possession, and I decided to wander down to Western road, the main shopping area.
Because of lockdown, I have barely entered a shop other than Tesco for months, so I was looking forward to strolling through favourite stores, looking at new dress fashions, shoes and whatnot, just to be amongst people again, shopping.
During lockdown , I have enjoyed venturing into sewing, so I went into a large fabric store and picked up a remnant of beautiful material, some buttons and needles. Pleased, I emerged on to the street, and decided to visit the mall.
It was easy to cross the road because there was not much traffic; in fact Churchill Square was strangely quiet, not many people around, although it was a sunny day.
The mall was disappointing. Many of the well-known shops that used to be staples of the high street are no longer trading. Debenhams was especially dismal: some racks of sad looking garments like islands in the midst of a vast empty sea with a few people poking at them hopefully, while acres of empty shelves were being dismantled. Depressed, I hurried out, mourning the days when it was a popular, bustling department store.
Back out on the streets I felt the whole atmosphere was depressing. Faces were masked, heads were down. Brave souls resisted the cool wind to sit outside coffee shops, scrolling through their phones. Only eyes were visible above masks and they all seemed expressionless and lacking in life.
There was no vibe, no excitement, no joy!
Deflated, I caught a bus to go back to the church centre.
Inside the building, a bunch of students had come in to prepare for an event, and were chattering happily….hands suitably sanitised at the entrance of course, but faces were smiling and their eyes were bright and alert. I went upstairs with them into the large area, now fitted up very professionally as a studio for filming and recording. Terry and Joel were just finishing their interview and a few others gathered around. Again I was struck with their bright eyes, alert expressions and lively conversation. This was the vibe I had missed on the street! This was where the life was! Here there was positive exchange of ideas, and a sense of purpose., and a general feeling of optimism and animation. The contrast with what I had seen outside was very marked. As Terry and I left I remarked on it. My spirits had lifted, encouraged by the friendly welcome, the banter and the sense of moving forward.
We need to be amongst God’s people; we are family; we were made for the community of the saints, and we have been robbed of it for most of a year. Some of us have forgotten how encouraging it is to be with fellow-believers, and need reminding . “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”
We are cautiously emerging from lockdown. Cinemas and restaurants can soon be visited, art galleries opened, and various sports events reinstated. Soon the applause at football matches will be the real thing, not the faked, canned shouts we have got used to. But what I most long for is to be amongst my Christian brothers and sisters, worshipping without restraint, singing and shouting to our victorious Lord Jesus! May it come soon! Meanwhile may his life be visibly expressed in our demeanour.
“They look to him and are radiant and their faces are not ashamed “ (Psalm 34 v 5).