THE founder director of the Westminster Abbey Institute, Claire Foster-Gilbert, was about to return to work after cancer treatment in March. Instead, she found herself required to shield during the lockdown; and during that period she started to write letters to Fellows of the Institute and other public servants, seeking to “give voice to their circumstances and to strengthen the motivation that each of them feels to serve the public”. Eventually that crystallised in the 12 letters published in Letters from Lockdown: Sustaining public service values during the Covid-19 pandemic (Haus Publishing with Westminster Abbey, £6.99 (£6.30); 978-1-913368-05-0).
Beginning with “Stillness is service”, she goes on to address such subjects as “Into the darkness”, “Enduring the journey by strengthening the soul”, “Feeding your soul”, and “Strengthening the souls of institutions”.
The letters are followed by reflections by Detective Chief Superintendent Treena Fleming, Dawn Butler MP, and Peter Howitt, Incident Director at the Department for Health and Social Care.
Fleming writes of “the bittersweet feeling” of reaching the point when there were zero robberies in a 24-hour period. Butler writes of coping with family bereavements, the daily “tsunami of bad news” from her constituents and others, an influx of hate mail, and the issue of race. Howitt writes about the benefit of “faith, friends, and family” while under pressure; but membership of a committee, the sharing of responsibility, was also sustaining.
Foster-Gilbert concludes her counsels by looking forward to a “new level of life”, as society learns to live with the coronavirus. GP