Shielding: why you don’t see me inside the cathedral at the moment - Reflection by Canon Ellen


Read Canon Ellen's reflection for Tuesday, 24 November 2020.

Photo Caption: Life before covid! This is a photo taken in November 2018 of Mark and I with our two dogs Holly and Jacob.

As we went into the first lock down in March my husband Mark was receiving chemotherapy treatment following Oesophageal cancer surgery. He was placed on the clinically vulnerable list and, as I was his designated carer, we both began to shield together. We had weekly shopping slots from supermarkets and were fortunate to be supported by neighbours, family and friends who helped us get additional supplies. As cathedral clergy we were all working online and all services went online as well I was able to contribute to worship and meetings in the same way as all my colleagues.

As the lockdown eased the rest of the clergy returned to worship in the cathedral - though we also continued to record services for those of us who couldn’t attend church in person. However, Mark remained vulnerable so, like so many others we decided to should continue to shield. I have been very fortunate that my colleagues have supported me in this decision and that I have been able to continue to work profitably from home and made a contribution to cathedral life in other ways not least through the governance work of Micah.

Even though I live next door I still have not set foot inside the cathedral since the beginning of March. Like so many of you I haven’t heard the choir sing live, or received the Eucharist; I haven’t prayed physically with anyone except Mark and I have not walked into the glorious space and looked up and out at the High Altar from the Well or sat in the beautiful silence in the Lady Chapel.

There is a palpable sense of loss in my public ministry as I enact my priestly calling in what is almost a monastic cell like way – privately and silently. And there has also been immense blessing and clarity in this time: I have had a pull on my heart to pray in a new way, to share thanks and encounter God in such a way as I am finding more joy in silence than I have ever done before. These are hard times but they are still filled with so much good.

A few weeks ago Mark received some very hard news: sadly the cancer that he had hoped had been cured with the operation he had late December 2019 has returned. The cancer has metastasised in his spine and there is no more curative treatment available. Last week he had some radiotherapy which will help with his pain and he is now on strong pain medication. There is some hope that if he is able to get stronger he will be able to receive chemotherapy but sadly the prognosis is not good. This also means that like so many of you we will now need to continue to be extremely careful over the winter and he will need to shield of the foreseeable future.   

Many of you will appreciate that being in the house in covid-time can be very hard. For Mark (indeed both of us) and not being able to spend time with children and grandchildren (other than occasional drive-by they make) is just not enough. But, it really has to be enough and we are grateful for that! And I pray my sermon last week ( expressed something of the extra-ordinary gift of having enough and using this gift as wisely as possible to create abundance and hope.  

Anyway, this is a sad time for us, but it is the time we have and we are grateful for every moment. I know I don’t need to ask this because you will be – but, please do pray for Mark and the family as we digest this news and make the most of the earthly time ahead.

I have no idea when I will be able to return into public in person ministry or when I will step back inside the cathedral. Hope of a vaccine or a much reduced R-rate will make all the difference. But, for now this is what is happening and I know I am not alone. So many of you are sharing similar experiences and, even if you are more able to be out in public, for all of us life has changed so much in covid-time. I am now working 4 days a week – taking furlough for the remaining working week. I will keep you posted about how things are going and meantime you will still see me popping up in on-line services and events. I pray that you will find peace in these strange times and will be richly blessed even in the concern and shifting patterns of these covid-times. Please do keep safe and take care of yourselves and each other. Go gently dear friends. 

Much love and blessings - Canon Ellen

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