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Perhaps 2020 might most cheerfully be described as a year of consolidation at the hermitage.


Last Christmas, the first since the death of my father, I was glad to spend quietly in Sheffield whilst my mother was whisked away to the fol-de-rol and frolics of my brother’s Scottish household.   And then, as I was one of the “early adopters” of cautionary measures, a year of even-more-isolation-than-a-hermit-is-used-to.

There were highlights!  

The walls of my bungalow started to split apart – not quite the epic drama of the Owersby Chasm at my previous property, but nonetheless in need of remedial work  which accelerated some of the undergrowth-clearance-plans I already had in mind for my urban jungle.  I now have pathways all around my garden where I am safely able to take my daily-government-prescribed-exercise.  It has been a real blessing to have this space to cultivate and explore, and as I live in one of the more deprived areas of the city, with many local families having to endure lockdown in overcrowded housing and with limited access to outdoor space, the privilege of my circumstance has been thrown into very sharp relief.

By way of contributing a little to the local community I have been able to reopen some parts of my online greetings card shop. With the support of friends and loyal customers, we have donated more than £600 to the S5 foodbank and the charity Freedom from Torture (which supports victims of torture who have sought refuge in the UK).  I am very grateful to everyone who has contributed by ordering cards etc. Thank you.

One of my plans this year had been to reconnect with my fellow pilgrims on the Student Cross Holy week pilgrimage to Walsingham where we normally celebrate the Easter Triduum.  Inevitably this became an online virtual walk, and we counted steps and shared “stations” (personal reflections) and liturgies through social media instead.  It was my first venture into the world of onscreen community and I found real joy in being able to share liturgy with friends and families praying together in their own homes.  It has been one of the iridescent pearls hidden in the dark folds of this bewildering year, and I hope we will continue to share and celebrate the lustre of our domestic churches as the fabric of our future selves tentatively unfurls into the light of the new year.  

I am watching an early winter sleet shower outside my window, and admiring the glossy plumage of a magpie foraging on my bird table.  I am grateful for the stability of my life here, but acutely aware that for many people this year has felt unendurably turbulent, life-changing, life-threatening and unbearably sad. The anxiety and uncertainty and distress which lies ahead of us is still the stuff of nightmares.  My father before he died, when considering another imminent, potentially catastrophic event, suggested that though we might not feel we can do much about a bad situation, at least we can be kind to each other, and especially to those most damaged by ensuing hardships.  So, in that spirit I try to be kind to everyone that I meet, and in kindness, keep you all in my prayers.  

Emmanuel.  God is with us.

Rachel Er.dio.

There has been a predictable surge in interest in both monastic and eremitic lifestyles during the year, and I have contributed to projects with the BBC and the New York Times.  Also a couple of short “essays” which emerged from my ponderings following those interviews.  Links to all these can be found here:

BBC: Reflections on Faith in a Global Crisis:  5 programmes,  


New York Times: What can we learn from solitude?