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This Easter we can all be full of hope for the long road ahead

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EASTER is a time of renewal. A time to reflect on the year gone by and celebrate new life, new joy and new faith.

Never in our recent history has the longing for renewal been so clear and palpable as this year.

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The Duchess of Cambridge visited a vaccine centre at Westminster Abbey in March

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The Duchess of Cambridge visited a vaccine centre at Westminster Abbey in MarchCredit: Getty

The past 12 months have taken a toll on all of us, whether it is the loss of loved ones, financial instability or struggles with mental well-being. Many of us have found ourselves lonely, anxious or without hope for a better future.

In recent weeks we have tentatively started to feel hopeful again. We sense that better times are just around the corner.

But the truth is, though there have been some dark moments this year, that hope, joy and faith never truly left us. I have seen examples of it all around me, vividly, each and every day. Countless moments where the best of us has shone through.

I will never forget the overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude at images of Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old grandmother from Coventry, when she became the first person in the world to receive a Covid jab last December.

At that moment, it felt like we had turned a corner.

We have since marvelled at thousands of people receiving their vaccines and felt the joy of at last being able to meet up outside with friends and family, as the days have become longer and brighter.

As a former nurse, I am exceptionally proud of the NHS staff and key workers who have done an amazing job to keep us safe and healthy in the face of a cruel and indiscriminating virus.

I have also heard countless stories of the professionalism, good humour and perseverance of the doctors and nurses administering the vaccines up and down the country, day in and day out.

GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT

In the coming months, NHS staff will continue to need our support as they too recover from their experiences over the past year.

Clergy and congregations the length and breadth of the country, including the 87 new worshipping communities created in London over the past few years, have worked hard to ensure churches continued to serve their local communities despite the most challenging circumstances.

Margaret Keenan, the first person in the world to receive a Covid jab, was clapped by overjoyed NHS workers in December

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Margaret Keenan, the first person in the world to receive a Covid jab, was clapped by overjoyed NHS workers in DecemberCredit: PA

Though we can’t meet to worship together in person, the actions of churches in the capital and elsewhere over the past year makes me incredibly proud to be the Bishop of London.

They have extended support to communities by streaming worship online and ensured churches are Covid-19 secure. They have supported the vulnerable with food banks, housing or financial advice.

Churches have volunteered themselves as vaccine and testing centres, too. Take St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, which has opened up for testing to ensure the local school can welcome children back for in-person teaching.

As millions of us joined together in silence last month for those we have lost during the pandemic to mark the first anniversary of lockdown, I was again reminded of this country’s abiding generosity of spirit and ability to connect, even when physically apart.

In so many ways these stories have exemplified our national community, neighbourliness and generosity to those who are vulnerable or less fortunate.

As I look forward, I am therefore filled with hope.

I am also conscious of the challenges that lie ahead. The worst may be behind us but many aspects of life have been changed for ever.

Thousands have been left without a job, are struggling financially or mourning the loss of loved ones.

Many more are fighting battles with their mental health, or still experiencing Covid symptoms long after their initial diagnosis.

The long road to recovery can now begin, but the work of supporting our neighbours through these challenges must continue.

In the months ahead we will have to find new and innovative ways to reach out, listen and talk.

Sarah Mullally is the Bishop of London

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Sarah Mullally is the Bishop of LondonCredit: EPA

If we can keep harnessing the creativity and generosity so evident during the crisis, I know we will recover stronger.

This week, Christians have been retelling the story of Jesus’s death. We remember what God did in the death and resurrection of Christ, which points to a future without pain and death but holds us here and now. That exemplifies hope.

This Easter, I hope you can take comfort in the knowledge that better times are ahead. The old has gone, the new is here. Renewal begins now.

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