Rectory notes March 2021 – ‘Rainbows, candles and tunnels’

The year is 1897. You’re driving a horse and cart through the newly opened Blackwall Tunnel, beneath the River Thames in East London. You’re nervous – how can it be safe to travel under water?? But you are more tense for your horses: how will they handle this enclosed space? Kinks in the tunnel prevent you seeing its end*. You’d love it to be straight, and be able to see the light at the tunnel’s end. But you’re glad the horses can’t. You coax them forward. You round the final bend, daylight appears – and the horses are off, bolting to the exit. There’s no holding them back now.

A year ago we entered a tunnel: a lockdown tunnel, enclosed, with intermittent spells more open to the sky. Lockdown Anniversary Day approaches: a painful marker of loss of lives, livelihoods, and richness of life. We thought we saw the light at the end, for it only to be another bend. We could not have imagined the tunnel would be this long.

In those early days we galloped, thinking – hoping – it was short. Rainbows sprouted in windows. They brought hope and optimism, a joyful tune lifting our shocked hearts. They bring smiles still, every time. Yet rainbows are transient, whimsical even. Their pure positivity can wear out in the prolonged pain. Rainbows don’t work in the night.

The tunnel has been long. So we’ve needed light that lasts the distance – an unknown distance. Light that can travel through the tunnel with us, be always present. Light to take us through a winter, literal and metaphorical.

In front of me is a candle, a simple tea-light. It doesn’t display a glorious arc of spectral colours. It isn’t exciting. It’s humble, vulnerable-looking even. But it’s steady and constant. It bears an honesty that the world around is dark. And its small yet intense flame transmits a resilient hope: reassurance that it will always overcome the dark. In its steady constancy can be seen the Light of the World.

We have learned in lockdown to be ‘tunnel people’. We hope to see the light at the end – our rainbows. Even more we need light in the tunnel for the journey. My tea-light is one of a box of 100 – there’s plenty of uplifting light to come! We need those encouragements to keep moving forward – maybe we’re more like the horses in the tunnel after all.

Rev David Carrington

   * I discovered this whenever visiting family North of the river as a child (not via horse and cart).

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