This week's blog has been written by our very own Mr Craddock! Head of Computing here at Hill House School, he is also an authorised lay-minister in the Church of England, licensed to preach and lead services. It seemed fitting for him to write a piece this Good Friday. Take it away, Mr Craddock...
During recent weeks, stuck indoors and missing the company of friends, family, and my wider Hill House family, one of my highlights has been standing on the front doorstep of my house in Sheffield at 8pm on a Thursday evening in what has become a regular celebration of our nation’s key workers.
The first time I gingerly stepped outside at a few minutes before 8pm, I felt a little bit foolish as there was no-one else around. And then all of a sudden, right on the hour, front doors and windows up and down the street opened and the air was filled with cheers and applause which could be heard from streets away, and as I looked upwards the sky was full of fireworks.
My next-door neighbours and I were all able to wave to each other and call out some “hellos” and a “how are you”, and for a few precious moments I felt nourished by that brief but wonderful contact with my fellow human beings!
In these strange and challenging times, where there seems to be daily sadness and continued news of loss and untimely death, how good it is that something inside of us, both individually and collectively, wants to recognise just how fortunate we are in the UK to have the infrastructures of support and the precious NHS, which is the envy of the world and perhaps one of the great symbols of British values.
In this time of need even the British Army has been brought in to provide additional transportation and medical support, including the Royal Army Medical Corps. Their apt motto is: in arduis fidelis (faithful in adversity) and the official corps cap badge depicts the Rod of Asclepius, a serpent-entwined rod wielded by the Greek god Asclepius, a deity associated with healing and medicine.
The snake-on-a-stick symbol is often associated with medicine and health care, you may be more familiar with the well-known ‘Caduceus’, supposedly the staff of Hermes with two entwined snakes on a winged staff.
I wonder if this unusual, albeit instantly recognisable, snake-on-a-stick symbol might have found its origins from the bible (Book of Numbers, Chapter 21). When the Israelites complained to Moses about the ‘manna from heaven’ that God had provided them to eat. As a result, they soon found themselves inundated with venomous snakes. The people cried out to Moses for help, who himself then prayed to God, and God told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. Moses held up the pole, and anyone who looked up and saw it was healed.
On this Good Friday I am reminded of another time when people looked up for healing and peace, not to a snake on a rod, but to a man on a cross. This Easter is strangely different than any other. Rightfully, in accordance with social isolation advice, churches and places of worship throughout the UK will be closed, and have been closed for some weeks already. The very word ‘church’ does not mean ‘building’, it means the ‘people’ (Greek: ecclesia, where we get the word: ecclesiastical), and there are many who will miss the social, emotional, practical and spiritual support they normally receive from their churches.
In October 2019, my wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a wonderful week in Rome. We were able to join the weekly ‘papal audience’ in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Surrounded by thousands of people from all tribes and nations. It was an amazing experience, with people holding up their babies and young and the sick for Pope Francis to reach out and pray for them. How different it will be this Easter, when St Peter’s Square will be empty of all but the Pope himself!
And yet we can all take comfort from Pope Francis's homily at his recent extraordinary Urbi et Orbi, in which he reminds us that we are all in this together.
"Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void … We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us … reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering.”
We are all indeed in this same boat, but not alone, and the Easter message tells us that, although there may be sorrow today, there is hope and new life coming. May all of us in the Hill House School community know peace and safety and healing this Easter, continue to support each other, and give thanks and remember those who sacrifice to keep us safe and well.