'I found what was missing for me was being "present" with people'

Interior St Augustine's Church, Archway Road N6.

Rev Timothy Miller is the priest in charge of All Saints' Church and St Augustine’s Church, Highgate - Credit: Polly Hancock/Timothy Miller

This time last year, we hosted our Christmas Carol Service on Zoom and were in the throes of wondering what we could and could not (or should not) offer for Christmas services.  

Our church building had been closed for five of the last nine months and there were rumblings about further restrictions on the horizon. 

Fast forward 12 months, and we are back in the church building (with Covid guidance/restrictions being observed) and over the past 12 months we had only been out of the building for three months. Strangely though, even with more "normal" activities taking place, like Sunday services, coffee, and tea after church, singing carols, sharing stories, Christingles, mulled wine and mince pies, there has still been something missing.

Perhaps too late during lockdown and post-lockdown living, I found what was missing for me was not simply being with people, it came down to being present with people. Whether it was online, on the phone, in a letter, or in person, it was how I was present to those people, in those moments, through those mediums, that mattered to them and, in turn, really mattered to me.

There are so many people that have made huge contributions to our life and wellbeing over the past months of the pandemic. I am eternally grateful for the NHS, medical researchers, and volunteers who have supported those who have been ill from Covid, and those who have poured immense resources into developing and administering vaccines.

This Christmas though, I am most grateful for the people who have taken time, energy, and intention to be present with me and those I have been able to be present with over this past year. Those simple, ordinary times that are anchoring, that bring light, that become little signs of humanity and hope in the passing moments of life.  

Since the first lockdown there has been an increased focus on being with others and being there for others, and, I hope for you, being present in those moments. So, for this holiday, for this season, for this year to come, I hope to give and receive more presents of presence than ever before.

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Rev Timothy Miller is the priest in charge of All Saints' Church and St Augustine’s Church, Highgate