For Christmas and new year I stay in and watch old movies, wallowing in nostalgia. But I also get to assess how things have changed and whether I might have learnt any lessons at all from the passing years.

Among this year’s films, I watched Love Story (1970), with the haunting music and terrible strap line “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”.

It’s a film about the lives of two young people from very different social backgrounds, but with the shared privilege of being at Harvard University.

It deals with terminal illness and death when you’re young, intelligent and successful. The boldness of that was striking, I thought, as it resonated with the impact that Covid is having on us now.

Although the Covid death rate has dropped, the rapid infection rate in the Omicron variant indicates that the virus has not gone away. It carries the sting of death with it. It reminds us of our mortality and makes us afraid.

The impact of death in Love Story was truly shocking for a generation that had yet to come to terms with the Vietnam war and its toll on US personnel. By contrast, the glittering prizes for Harvard graduates seemed to have been protected from war and disease.

There was a lump in my throat as the film ended. The music carried along our grief for the tragedy of a marriage intercepted by death but also captured for ever in the heady excitement of its future. This was a marriage that would never have to deal with the slow passage of time, with shifts in desire, the complex task of parenting, and the destructive forces of wealth and power.

And in some ways, the acting careers of Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal died with that film. It was their great achievement, “the most successful Paramount movie up to that time,” for which they will be remembered as a golden couple.

As 2021 passes into 2022, the continued presence of the Covid virus tells us that life is not a film we can walk away from with achievements that will never age. The new year comes with old anxieties that will continue to make demands of us.

The Argus: The reverend Judith Edgar, The reverend David Twinley (crct) and The reverend David Gillard photographed with the Dean of Chichester Stephen Waine (left) and The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner (right)The reverend Judith Edgar, The reverend David Twinley (crct) and The reverend David Gillard photographed with the Dean of Chichester Stephen Waine (left) and The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner (right)

So this new year I want to applaud those who continue to make life happen as best they can.

First, I want to applaud parents, who will inevitably see this pandemic through the eyes of their children and wonder what the future will hold.

Second, I want to applaud those who run businesses that offer worthwhile employment and a proper wage. The task of doing that carries huge responsibility and the year ahead does not look easy for any business.

Third, I want to applaud those who work in every level of the public sector. Of course the NHS is up there at the top of the list: so are teachers, social workers and carers, prison staff, police and the probation service. And let’s not forget our MPs. We remain tremendously fortunate in the MPs who serve us spectacularly well in Brighton and Hove and across Sussex.

Fourth, I want to applaud volunteers and all charity workers. They exemplify what it means to do something just for the satisfaction of doing what is kind and good, and makes a difference.

Finally, I want to applaud the elderly and especially grandparents.

An important part of the plot in Love Story is that Oliver has a deep love/hate relationship with his father. They really don’t get on.

In real life, not on screen, that can be the point at which grandparents play an important role, helping to ease the growing pains of adulthood. Part of the trauma of the pandemic is is has so often taken grandparents away from us. In some cases, this has been due to death: in others it is simply fear and the need to self-isolate.

The loss of our grandparents can be devastating. When I was working in Middlesbrough, we had a prayer well in the local college. The chaplain told me that overwhelmingly the prayers were for the grandparents of students. In a town of multiple deprivation and social instability, it was grandparents who gave encouragement and hope.

Some people today write off the Church because it is where old people go. Covid has taught us that the experience is valuable in itself.

The Christian faith teaches us that saying sorry is the cost of love, and forgiveness is the repayment of that cost with hope and dignity that nothing can destroy. This is a different love story, told and lived by Jesus Christ. It subverts the damage of guilt and nurtures the strength to face the joys and griefs of life. And it is for real.

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