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Candles lit for Covid dead on Day of Reflection

24 March 2021


Canon Andrew Trenier holds a candle in Winchester Cathedral, one of many churches to mark National Day of Reflection on Tuesday

Canon Andrew Trenier holds a candle in Winchester Cathedral, one of many churches to mark National Day of Reflection on Tuesday

THE Day of Reflection on Tuesday prompted acts of remembrance and words of lamentation, but also the expression of a desire for a better future, as thousands of candles were lit in memory those who had died as a result of Covid-19.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, giving Thought for the Day on Radio 4, said that Covid had touched “everything and everyone. . . Weddings, funerals, birth celebrations, falling in love, dating, mourning, and celebrating . . . everything we do has been different.”

ST EDMUNDSBURY CATHEDRALA teardrop installation, created from more than 200 glass tea-light holders, was suspended under the tower at St Edmundsbury Cathedral on Tuesday to mark the first anniversary of the national lockdown   Each individual teardrop symbolises one of the many people impacted by COVID-19 through death, illness, loss of work, anxiety, loneliness or isolation across the county.

He acknowledged the anniversary as “a time to lament, to mourn, to sit and weep for what could have been and is not. Pause for a while today, remember what is being lost, above all who has been lost. Lament; for to do so is to honour and treasure.”

But it also posed the question of future direction: “What do we want to build as a society? Surely it is a living memorial to loss — and an expression of what we long for. Imagine it; then let us strive for a society that is just and good, that speaks of the victory of the life and hope.”

The Queen sent flowers to St Bartholomew’s Hospital, in London, where the Duke of Edinburgh recently had surgery. A message with the bouquet read: “As we look forward to a brighter future together, today we pause to reflect on the grief and loss that continues to be felt by so many people and families, and pay tribute to the immeasurable service of those who have supported us all over the last year.”

The Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, told the York Press: “Although there has been nothing good about the horrors and sorrows of Covid-19, they all point to the indomitable, persevering goodness of the human spirit and how we could find good things even in the midst of despair and sadness.

“They also point towards a new way of inhabiting the world beyond Covid: a way that will be better and healthier and more sustainable than the world we left behind. First, and probably most important of all, we rediscovered the fact that we belong to each other.”

Reflecting on a new appreciation of the dignity and value of people’s labour, he said: “We used to measure each other’s worth by the size of their salary. Now it must be the size of their heart.”

AlamyThe west front of Lichfield Cathedral, illuminated by Lux Miralis to mark the Day of Reflection on Tuesday

He spoke, too, of the need to build a world “where everyone is properly rewarded; where everyone’s contribution is valued; and where there is opportunity everyone to have work and achieve their potential.

“We all know that, in the world before Covid, many of us were too busy and too frantic. But in this past year we have caught a glimpse of, and experienced, different rhythms of life. . . We have begun to see a more sustainable way of living that will not only be good for the earth itself, it would also be good for us and for our well-being.

“Covid has brought us to our knees. Now I’m praying that we will rise up and build a better world.”

Forward in Faith put out a pastoral statement reflecting on the “terrible damage” that the virus had wrought in the nation and the world. It said: “We as Christians will pray for the repose of the souls of over 125,000 people . . . each one a beloved and precious child of God, mourned by family and friends.

AlamyA candle is lit during the Day of Reflection at Blackburn Cathedral, on Tuesday  

“We will pray for deprived urban communities, many served by society parishes, who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and those families who are coping with hunger and destitution. We will pray for the professionals in health education, social care, local government in other walks of life who have endured such a stressful and challenging year. And we will pray for our churches and for Christians who have felt again and again the desolate pain of being denied access to the sacraments of life.”

Cathedrals marked the anniversary with a myriad of lights. The words “Reflect, Support and Hope” were projected in yellow on the front of Lichfield Cathedral. At Blackburn Cathedral, 4161 candles were lit in memory of those who died in Lancashire (News, 19 March). The Dean, the Very Revd Peter Howell-Jones, led the national one-minute silence, followed by the tolling of the cathedral bell.

He said: “Almost every person has been affected in one way or another during the last 12 months, and we cannot, and must not underestimate the human impact of the pandemic across our nation. . . We as a place of faith have to recognise that, and look at ways to help and support our communities as we move slowly out of lockdown towards recovery.”

At Leicester Cathedral, a Memorial of Lament service was streamed: 2300 candles were lit in memory of those who had died in the city and the counties of Leicestershire and Rutland. The Dean, the Very Revd David Monteith, spoke of the everyone’s consciousness of the levels of loss which they had experienced — not of loved ones alone, but of “normal life, income, well-being, mental health. . . The scale of it is hard to get our heads round.”

CHESTER CATHEDRALA “memorial spiral”, made from stones, in the nave of Chester Cathedral, was made to coincide with the Day of Reflection  

Local councils throughout Britain used the occasion to thank their communities. In Gateshead, where the Millennium Bridge was lit up in yellow, the council leader, Martin Gannon, said: “Today, we remember those we’ve lost and reflect on the difficulties we have all faced. . . Many people have been impacted financially, our children have missed their classrooms, and most of us have experienced feelings of anxiety and isolation.”

He thanked residents, communities, workers, and partners for pulling together to support each other and to adjust to new ways of working. “This is public service at its best,” he said.

The leader of Nottingham City Council, David Mellen, said that each of the people represented by the 600 candles placed on the steps of the Council House “have a family and friends who are missing them and grieving for them.

“But we’ve also seen, in the midst of those difficulties, people stepping up, people reaching out, and people serving their communities and risking their lives . . . looking out for neighbours, doing something extraordinary, looking out for others. And, in the dark days of Covid, we have bright lights. We want to say thank you to the people, too.”

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