When the Archbishop of Canterbury announced the suspension of public worship on 18 March because of the Covid-19 epidemic, local vicar Tim Heaton had been due to preside over the mid-week Holy Communion service at St Mary the Virgin in Gillingham.
Instead he had to stay at home.
‘Knowing that this was likely to be a long haul, I decided to post a brief thought on my Facebook page and resolved to do the same every day until public worship resumed,’ recalls Tim.
From there, things quickly snowballed.
‘After about a week my clergy colleagues decided that they were worth copying by email to everyone on the church email list, which was growing fast as every day of lockdown went by. It’s now about 300,’ says Tim who lives in Bourton but is one of the priests in the Gillingham benefice which includes Gillingham, Milton-on-Stour and Silton.
‘Surprisingly, a great number of people were to say how much these daily emails meant to them during lockdown. They looked forward to them every day as a point of contact with the Church and with God, and they helped them get through it,’ he says.
So for what Tim describes as a ‘strange one hundred and nine days in the spring and summer of 2020’ these reflections came into being. He adds: ‘They tell the story of a peculiar time, a period first of fear and later of hope, a time of soul searching, of seeking a greater future for humanity, and dreaming of the better life we would one day resume.’
Parishioner David Grundy said of the reflections: ‘As someone who is self-isolating, I quickly found that I was looking forward to his very apt and encouraging daily thoughts, which were a real inspiration during the whole 109 days of lockdown, and helped to keep me in good communication with the church.’
Tim stopped the messages once worship restarted on 4 July but that was not quite the end of the story.
‘There was no intention in the beginning to compile them into book form, but after public worship resumed a lot of people told me how much they would like to have a copy of the reflections to re-read,’ he says.
‘So rather than just having a Word doc printed by the local printers and having to distribute it myself, I thought it would be easiest to publish it – free – on Kindle Direct Publishing so people could buy it there. ‘
The result is ‘Harvest Of A Quiet Eye’, a collection of Tim Heaton’s reflections during lockdown.
The title comes from a line by American academic Austin O’Malley – ‘Happiness is the harvest of a quiet eye’ – which Tim used in one of his messages.
The book can be read in digital format for £1.99 or bought as a paperback for £4.99.
The royalties paid – a minimum of £1 per book for both the Paperback and the Kindle Edition – will be donated to the three churches in the benefice. ‘They are in much need of financial support at this time,’ says Tim.
The book can be bought here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=tim+heaton+harvest+of+a+quiet+eye