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Bishop of London on pastoral challenges of lockdown, avoiding worry and her prayer for the NHS

by Ruth Sax

The UK is almost at the end of week two in lockdown, where only a couple of weeks ago you couldn't get a space on the tube in rush hour and cities, towns and villages across the UK were busy with the hustle and bustle of people and life.

Now people are working from home, not working due to job losses or furlough or travelling only if essential for work or key reasons.

The nation is only allowed out once a day for exercise and social-distancing (keeping 2 metres away from anyone outside of your household) is a government rule.

These measurements have come in to help contain and slow the pace of the coronavirus pandemic, which currently sees one third of humanity in lockdown across the nations.

Speaking to Premier the Bishop of London, Rt Rev Dame Sarah Mullally said everyone would be facing different challenges in this time and it's important to be real about how we are feeling for our mental health: "We ought to just be more honest and authentic about where we are with our emotions and our feelings at this time and talk about it. 

"Because we know that's not just good for our relationships with each other and with God but it's also good for our mental well-being as well."

She says it's been a personal challenge adapting to lockdown life, technically speaking and not being there in person alongside people pastorally, however, she's reflected on the importance of listening and told Premier these new ways of having to communicate may help us to listen better in the future.

"Because you can't be in front of somebody, it's often on the telephone you have to listen and maybe it will teach us to listen a bit more and to find out where the other person is and recognize they may not be quite where we are and to listen to what it is that God is asking us to provide at that moment. You know that bit about that we should learn to laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry."

Bishop Sarah reminded people God is with us, "I think if we get to a point where we're angry or frustrated or even struggling with our faith that we somehow think that God isn't in that but actually if you look at all the struggles in the Bible, when people struggle with God and with their anger, that's when God is probably closest to us.

"We don't have to be worried, God is big enough to take on anger and our doubt," she added and encouraged those who are on fire for God right now to celebrate that: "There's something about being very honest where we are and recognizing that God is in the midst of this hurt and this pain, but also, you know, if we are one of those people who just feel on fire for God, then actually we should celebrate that as well."

Bishop Sarah told Premier of ways people in London were still coming together and churches were still reaching the vulnerable whilst sticking to social-distancing: "I have seen churches setting up really good support networks at one church the incumbent is self-isolating to protect himself. But he's trained and supported ten lay people to then go out and ring people on a regular basis who then call ten other people. 

"So there's a wonderful thing happening and now 110 people are having pastoral support down the telephone. And that's because they have time to collect telephone numbers, and find out whether people want to do it."

She explained, people are making new connections, that ordinarily may not happen: "The other way is that people vary in their very local situations, on the estates the church is connecting neighbours, whether they in passing, ask whether they'd like a telephone call and pick up the details without compromising that social distancing. People have already put things through doors and said if you want help to this number. So locally, people are connecting also to those people they don't know."

Rt Rev Dame Sarah Mullaly praised her successor Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May and said she was doing a phenomenal job as the NHS Nightingale hospital in east London opened Friday offering thousands of extra critical care beds for coronavirus patients. 

"She's doing an amazing job. I mean, just the fact that they've managed to open the Nightingale Hospital in East London today is such an achievement and to see the way in which nurses and carers have come back to the NHS is just phenomenal."

Bishop Sarah said the best way we can support the NHS if we don't work for them is that "if we're in the right categories, we could be out there volunteering, but let's do it in the right way so that we can do it safely and in the best way. But apart from that, the best thing you can be doing is staying at home, staying safe, protecting others and protecting the NHS."

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