Latest Rector’s Letter

My dear friends,
How many of us remember being told to keep a stiff upper lip when we were growing up? This peculiarly British trait of keeping the emotions in check can be traced back to Ancient Greece, to the philosophy of the Stoics and the fighting machine of the Spartans. Never let anybody see that you are vulnerable! These ideals permeated the British Empire and public school system through Victorian times and beyond, and so have ended up pervading our literature and values, especially the stories of bravery and self-sacrifice. Heroes in stories never cry or show fear, do they?
I see stiff upper lips all around us at the moment, as people face up to the daily challenges we are now facing without complaint and with an outward smile. Our ‘How are you?’ is met with ‘Not too bad’ or ‘OK, thanks.’ As usual we British seem like a resilient bunch of people, able to deal with what life throws at us: the fear of getting out and about, our economic woes and the effect of the pandemic on our families. And yet beneath the smiles the truth of matters is very different. The reality is that as a society we are undergoing a severely traumatic time, people are hurting, and life is extremely painful for many of us. Trauma rips us of our certainties and habitual security: it throws us into the unknown and robs us of what makes us feel safe. For most people I meet there has been some kind of loss – the loss of health, the loss of a chance to mourn someone loved, the loss of a prized hope, the loss of future plans.
Much of the world suffers like this a lot of the time, and Christianity doesn’t offer glib answers to these problems. How could it, for us, when suffering is the norm rather than the exception for so many? Instead of the God we would like, who would instantly relieve us of suffering, we have a different God who simply is present with us in it all, who feels everything we are feeling, and worse. There was no stiff upper lip in Gethsemane, and Christianity doesn’t mean that we aren’t allowed to express our sadness, fear and frustrations – in fact it is healthy that we do. We are allowed to acknowledge how difficult this time has been, and continues to be. Being honest about what is inside us is the first step to finding the strength to endure it and the hope that good will come again. Only then will the shaky resilience of a put on smile and a stiff upper lip be replaced by a deeper resilience at our core – the true resilience which will help us to find peace in trauma.

With every blessing, Anne-Marie.