RIP Bishop John

Today I find it hard to laugh at the funny memes my friends are posting on Facebook and Whatsapp.

After 3 weeks of lockdown our home life has settled into a bit of routine. The kids do their music, karate and school classes via the web and our work days are filled with staring at people on screens whilst checking our own hair is in place. We have worked hard in the garden with many veges planted and have of course now tried our hands at home made bread. Life has been quiet. We have joked online with our friends at the challenge of keeping kids occupied without resorting to electronic devices (while of course tapping into our phones with a glass of wine in hand). 

But today the jokes don’t seem as funny and instead I feel a mixture of the sadness of loss and a gratitude for my family’s health and safety. Because today we lost someone we know to COVID-19. 

The wonderfully warm and kind hearted Bishop John Dennis slipped away from this world while he slept lastnight. Whilst those in our parish knew this day was coming after hearing he had contracted the virus last week, it is never the same as that moment when you hear they are actually gone. I am grateful to have known this treasure of a spirit, who smiled and welcomed everyone he came into contact with. But losing him came too soon and now because of this scary virus around the world we cannot come together to celebrate this great person. Instead we must grieve this loss in isolation and separation from our community. This is not how it should be.

I know in my head that those climbing numbers of the COVID-19 death toll equal people – someone’s father, mother, child, grandparent, partner, friend…. But while they are just a number in the news and not someone I know personally it has been easier to push the scary thoughts of this global pandemic elsewhere in my bucket of emotions and keep smiling. Until today. Today that number seems so much more real. And today I have begun to imagine how changed the world will feel when we all emerge from our isolation and start to rebuild.

Will we have learned that our actions and choices impact others (yes, I mean you, person at the supermarket who ignores the 2m rule)?  

Will we want to be social again or will we have come to enjoy our solitude?

Will we slow down or return to busy and chaotic lives?

Will we make an effort to get to know our neighbours so we can check they are ok?

Will we marvel at the data from the scientists showing the drop in pollution and a world than can recover?

And how will we remember what we have lost during this time and what will we change to try and stop it happening in the future?

Bishop John was always one for an insightful comment that made you stop and think. And I am finding today no exception. Even in his passing I am finding myself reflecting on things he has said and an amazing life well lived and shared with many.

R.I.P. Bishop John Dennis – we are saddened by your loss, but grateful that in the time you were with us you made the world a better place for having been here.

Five years ago, at a Friends of St Matthew with St Paul’s fundraising event, Bishop John talked engagingly with Mark Byford for an hour about his life journey, his loves, his favourite music and his reflections. It was an unforgettable evening. Luckily, John Schulz recorded the conversation. You can watch the interview here and remember all that John stood for:

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