Rev Dr Roberta Topham, minister at Christchurch, Ilkley (Methodist- URC partnership)

“OVER my head I hear music in the air” is a gospel song that I first learned above a shop in central Liverpool. I learnt it among an unusual collection of people who were forming a new church by making bread together right in the middle of Liverpool’s not-yet-regenerated city centre. The song took my breath away. It’s a song of longing that concludes each verse with “there must be a God somewhere”.

The song was sung as part of the civil rights movement in America and speaks to the joy of singing together even when life is extremely difficult. Many of the people who I learnt the song with had experienced rejection and severe difficulty in their lives, but were still managing to keep going. Singing together lifted up our spirits and encouraged us to help one another and take action against the injustices being experienced.

As Liverpool city region is now in the third tier of coronavirus restrictions, it will take more than songs to help the people there through an extremely difficult time. People will need significant support from government, as well as their own resolve and creativity, to keep going.

In our area, of course, we have been subject to a long period of limitations and are now in the second tier. Along with many other restrictions, live music and performance have been very limited. Even when we meet for worship services in our churches only those leading at the front are allowed to sing. Many of us are feeling a little starved of music, as of much else.

But the other day, when I was walking on Ilkley Moor, I heard a very unusual sound. It was the soaring notes of a flute being played from one of the larger shelters. It was beautiful and plaintive at the same time. I am hoping that, as we go through the winter, those with musical talents will be able to find ways to enable us to “hear music in the air”. I think back to the fantastic job that many singers did around VE day in May, with outdoor performances at our care homes, and wonder what we can manage, safely, for Remembrance season and beyond.

At Christchurch in Ilkley we are preparing a feast for the eyes, if not for the ears. A large poppy installation is being hand-made by our volunteers from upcycled and repainted plastic. This is to help us remember and thank those who have served in defence of our country and those who still serve us as key workers. The generous goodness of so many, can, like the song I started with, help us to remember “there must be a God somewhere”. Alongside that, I hope that through looking out for each other we can help build a sense that maybe God is right here with us, even now.