Angela Tilby: A time for reading — or spy dramas

17 April 2020

BBC iPlayer

A scene from Spooks. All 86 episodes are now available on BBC iPlayer

A scene from Spooks. All 86 episodes are now available on BBC iPlayer

DURING the first week of the lock­­down, I gave much thought to what I might profitably read during the days ahead, in the gaps between hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces, taps, doorhandles, mobile phone, and credit cards.

I wondered whether this would be the time when I read my way through Hooker’s Laws of Eccle­si­astical Polity, or embarked on a study of the writings of Maximus the Confessor, or tackled Rowan Williams’s Christ the Heart of Crea­­tion, which has been sitting on my book­shelves for more than 18 months.

Other possibilities presented them­­­­selves. Perhaps I should finish or rewrite the book on spirituality which I started 20 years ago, show­ing how various forms of contemporary spirituality have their roots in the ancient world. Or perhaps this was the moment for a ruthless edit of my digital photos. Or to read Dickens.

Of course, I did none of these things. Having cooked some cas­ser­oles and stocked the freezer, and having made sure I was unlikely to run out of gin dur­ing the next six months, I looked at what television had to offer — and discovered that the BBC had made available the entire ten series and 86 episodes of Spooks, the spy thriller that ran from 2002 to 2011.

Virus-anxiety responds well to thugs, bombs, and terrorist threats, I find. Traitors within and enemies without match a world in which other people are potential foes and the greatest threat of all is hidden from sight. In this household, we have limited ourselves to one epi­sode of Spooks a night, and often take in an episode of Masterchef as a pulse-steadying dessert (although watching complex culinary activity against the clock has its own stresses). The need for fictional danger does not end at bedtime. I have been re-reading the Lisbeth Salander books, shocking for their vengefulness.

My current viewing and reading habits are somewhat out of step with the spiritual advice that I have been giving myself and failing to apply in recent weeks. I had assumed that mindfulness and the daily Office would be the disciplines for getting through.

But now I wonder whether I should be exploring the more para­n­­oid side of Christian spirit­uality. There is a time for spotting the troops of Midian as they prowl and prowl around, and for beating down Satan under our communal feet. The fear-filled and vengeful verses of the Psalms (sometimes bracketed on the grounds that they are less than Christian) come into their own at such dangerous times. I am beginning to see the point of being a soldier of Christ as well as a handmaid of the Lord, and even why the Prayer Book describes the Church as militant here in earth.

Church Times: about us

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear alongside your letter.

Latest Cartoon

The Church Times Podcast

Interviews and news analysis from the Church Times team. Listen to this week’s episode online

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)