This time last year, all of our lives were about to change. But most of us didn’t see it coming.
I can vividly remember receiving an email from my boss, and former editor of this magazine John Buckeridge, in late February 2020. It read: “Hopefully the coronavirus that has badly affected China will not spread in any significant way to the UK. But assuming that it does, Premier management are preparing contingency plans – this includes the assumption that for a period of time Premier staff should avoid travelling to and working from our London office.”
I’m embarrassed to admit I scoffed at that email. I could not comprehend that the UK might follow China in locking cities down, or in advising everyone to work from home. Surely, this Covid virus stuff wouldn’t be a big deal. It would just become another news story that fades away and gets forgotten within a few weeks. How wrong was I? Here I sit, an entire year later, at home, in my makeshift office. Every time I go to the shops I wear a mask. Our church meets online. And it’s illegal for me to go on holiday.
John’s emaill went on to, very sensibly, recommend we start thinking about how the magazine could continue to be printed and dispatched should we all be forced to work from home. The fact that we can now celebrate how the magazine has been delivered to deadline every month since the pandemic began, despite most of our team never setting foot in our physical office space, is obviously a testament to John’s preparedness. I, on the other hand, have been eating humble crumble!
This month our cover story highlights the three most significant ways in which the Church has changed – for better, and for worse – over the past twelve months (p32). We’ve also been considering whether church leaders should be recommending the vaccine (p8).
Given my own catastrophic failure to see what was around the corner, I’ve also become rather interested in how and why so many American prophetic leaders got it wrong recently (albeit on the very different subject of Donald Trump’s election defeat). As Dave Roberts reports in ‘When prophets fail’ (p50), greater humility and dollops more caution are required from some corners of the US evangelical church. But perhaps the final word should go to Tim Hughes who, speaking of Covid, and the future of the Church, told me: “I’m very wary of anyone who feels like they know exactly what’s coming up in the next five years because I think across the board, it’s like a massive reset is taking place. It’s been completely bewildering; it’s affecting everything. Did God send it? I don’t know, but God is using it” (p14).