February 15th 2021 marks fifty years since the decimalisation of British currency in 1971. I remember this time well. During the months leading up to Decimalisation Day junior school children learnt about the new coins and so when the big day arrived knew what they would look like and how to make different denominations add up to precise amounts.
On the morning of D-day itself, my brother and I went armed with sixpences and thruppenny bits to the local shop to buy sweets and receive change in the form of brand-new (and very shiny) coins.
Even as a child I recall public anxieties as the new system approached. How would older people used to base-12 coinage cope? Would shops round up or round down as the prices were converted. There was a lot of suspicion. Perhaps you can remember this too.
Today, hastened by Covid-19, notes and coins are being used much less; we are fast becoming a cashless society. In many ways this make perfect sense; there is less risk of the virus spreading if we use contactless methods, and shop-staff are undoubtedly safer not having to look after large amounts of currency.
Nevertheless, I will be sad if cash disappears for good. I feel the same about books and newspapers even though they are accessible via the internet and kindle. There is something special about seeing, touching and smelling these things. They feel more real somehow.
Some of the first followers of Jesus valued the senses. Thomas famously insisted on touching Jesus post- resurrection wounds and Mary Magdalene spent time washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Touch was important to the healing of the man born blind and to the man with a speech impediment.
Candlemas is celebrated this month, on February 2nd, marking the 40th day after Jesus’ birth. When Jesus is taken by his parents to the temple for the rites of purification, the elderly Simeon famously declares:-
“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
It was important to Simeon to see with his own eyes God’s promised son.
In the month which also celebrates love, may we use all our senses to worship God and minister to our neighbours.
Deacon Pru Cahill.