Covid19 Diary 3

Samuel Pepys: April 1, 1665
… to see how my Lord Treasurer did bless himself, crying he could do no more than he could, nor give more money than he had, if the occasion and the expense were never so great, which is but a sad story; and then to hear how like a passionate and ignorant asse Sir G. Carteret did harangue upon the abuse of Tickets, did make me mad almost, and yet was fain to hold my tongue. Thence home, vexed mightily to see how simply our greatest ministers do content themselfs to understand and do things, while the King’s service in the meantime lies a-bleeding.

April 1, 2020

I seem to be doing more work than usual, not less, now that most of the country is in isolation. Which is definitely not something about which to complain when so many other people have lost their jobs, and so many businesses have closed down. But the church is now having to take a huge leap, from an extremely IRL-based community to one that exists almost entirely online, and that means a lot of work. Western Heights had previously done audio recordings of the Sunday morning service and put them on the website, as well as sending them to the church members unable to come to church because of ‘age and infirmity’. (Very Samuel Pepys, there.) Now I have created a Vimeo page for them, and the Children’s and Families’ Worker and I are putting videos up there for people to peruse and use.

I hate and loathe being filmed. (My beloved niece with autism, Maddie, constantly tells me, “‘Hate’ is a very strong word, Auntie Avril; you ‘don’t like’ it.” But, no, I hate it.) I’m not sure anyone believes that given my willingness to be filmed by various ABC TV outlets. But I do that in the hope that seeing someone like me might help any queer young people trying to reconcile their sexuality or their spirituality. And watching or listening to myself makes me cringe. I made a couple of videos of picture books, and to get the pictures to line up with the voice-over I had to listen to myself over, and over, and over again. I am absolutely not being paid enough for that.

The lovely thing that happened last week, with all this insanity of video-making, was that I contacted The Quarto Group to ask for permission to make a temporary video of If all the world were … by Joseph Coelho and Allison Colpoys, and got back a lovely email saying, yes, certainly, just acknowledge that you have permission to do this and don’t leave it up permanently, and the author will be delighted to hear that the book is being used this way. I have always been lucky when I have asked for permission to use things in worship; I hope that luck will continue since I want to use a couple of other in-print books over the next few weeks. Whenever I read a new picture book in church I invariably get asked by teachers or grandparents how they can buy a copy; I always hope that my use of books in church leads to a few more sales for their authors.

I am mostly doing pastoral care by email. I sent round a ‘how is everyone’ email to the small group of which I’m a member on Monday and received various, ‘we are coping’ responses. One person said that their mother-in-law in aged care was completely locked down and they were keeping in touch with her by letter. They just hoped the staff had time to read the letters. I hope so too!

I am seeing lots of boosting ‘this is a wonderful opportunity for the church to learn new ways of being church’ responses to the lock-down, and I think they are naive. Yes, we are learning new ways of being church. I actually received more positive comment, via email, on last Sunday’s ‘virtual’ service than I ever receive when the church is able to gather. Yes, communities can be built online, relationships formed, comfort offered, and I have been a part of such communities for years. But the church is also, or should be, the place where those without access to technology, the very old, the very poor, the digitally isolated, can find companionship. The church is the place where people are greeted with handshakes and hugs, and literally and spiritually fed. In this time of crisis, when everything is changing and we are all having to find new ways of living,  the church also needs to be somewhere that doesn’t change, a place of stability as the ground shifts around us. I have seen people saying that this is the time to let go of our addiction to the ’10 am Sunday morning service’ – but I am going to offer the congregation something as close to the usual service as possible, and encourage them to read, watch and listen to it at 10 am on Sunday. When nothing else stays the same, I absolutely want to offer the congregation ‘the usual’. And going by the responses I’ve received about last Sunday’s service, people appreciate it.

Must finish now because, unsurprisingly, I now have a Zoom meeting. Something that definitely hasn’t changed in my life as a minister is the time spent in meetings. The church has taken to Zoom like the proverbial duck. If I thought I would have more time for quiet reflection and reading of theology during this lock-down I was absolutely mistaken.

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