In the old times BC, I rarely gave our local Foodbank much thought, just occasionally tossed a couple of things into their supermarket collection box. But some weeks ago our friend Laura, who has worked there since it started, reported ‘we urgently need everything’, and since then, gathering whatever we can find in bulk and delivering it to the warehouse has become a bit of an obsession.
At first, I will admit, it seemed like an undeniable excuse to be out of the house during lockdown. And, since several local banks have grouped together to form a big south London depot in Streatham, it has had the added exercise benefit of having to climb a steep hill loaded with heavy bags – a bit like joining the Royal Marines.
But I realise that a positive pleasure on our delivery days is to spend just a minute or two inside a church – in this case the huge redbrick St Margarets in Streatham, which currently houses the admirably run depot. I wouldn’t describe myself as a churchgoer, but my work so often obliges me to spend extended time in churches, which I particularly miss at present. Although the current health risks of certain forms of religion are obvious, I don’t understand the continued draconian level of shutdown by churches in this country. In the first days of the lockdown, organist friends of mine vowed to go back to their lofts and broadcast uplifting music. But neither they or the clergy have been allowed inside their ‘own’ buildings, or even to stand praying outside them, for the last two months. This seems like a lost opportunity to speak to a possibly receptive public about the benefits of religious worship.