My diary tells me that today, Friday June 5th, should see the opening of the Christ Church, Fairwarp, 2020 Flower Festival. Alas, no. Little could we imagine when this festival was planned that this year the whole world would be up-ended by Covid-19. We can plan and diary our futures as much as we want: but we can never tell what other events may intervene and prevent them.
An earlier meaning of the word ‘prevent’ was ‘to go before’. It’s used in that sense in a collect from the Book of Common Prayer of 1662: ‘Prevent us O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen’. Like all the best prayers, this is a prompt to us who pray it, as well as a prayer to God. It prompts us to recall that much as we might want to think of ourselves as capable of shaping the future, that future is not in our hands.
But the future is in God’s hands, and so we may be hopeful about it. At each Passover Seder meal, Jewish people customarily say, expressing their ancient hope, ‘Next year in Jerusalem’. So: next year the Flower Festival? Let’s hope so.