What has Covid done for me? Positives and Opportunities

6 March 2021 Lent Breakfast.

When someone spoke in hushed tones of the BIG C, they were invariably speaking about Cancer but the BIG C that has held the headlines in recent times is Coronavirus.

A virus that has swept the planet, impacted on every community and has changed the way we think and live.

There is much that we can say about the pain, anxiety and trauma that this has caused us and that should be respected and understood, but perhaps there are other things we might learn from it.

Perhaps take a couple of minutes to reflect on what that might mean for us.

Try and set aside the negative images that crowd into our mind when coronavirus is mentioned.

Allow a light to shine on those aspects of this past year which have been helpful, affirming and even inspiring.  

Let’s open ourselves to the possibility of having been changed in some way for the better.

Thinking about the Big C – Coronavirus,

Let’s break it down into the perfect number 7.

  • Courageous
  • Creative
  • Compassionate
  • Curious
  • Conversations
  • Charismatic
  • Community

To begin with:

  • Courageous
    • Front line workers – only doing their job?
    • Hospital staff
    • Community care staff
    • Funeral directors, crematorium and cemetery staff
    • Teachers
    • Others
  • Creative
    • Ukulele
    • Painting
    • Baking
    • Trying something new
    • Returning to something we always meant to do
    • Services and events
  • Compassionate
    • Kindness
    • People being willing to step out of their comfort zone – telephone buddies.
    • Funky Monkey – wanting to make a difference.
    • People greeting each other as they walk past.
    • Chaplaincy and other staff holding phones and screens so that loved ones can speak especially towards the end of life.
  • Curious
    • To stop and view the world around us.
    • Taking time to look and really see, to listen and to really hear.
    • To encounter.
    • To investigate things, we’d noticed in passing, but now have the opportunity to delve deeper.
  • Conversations
    • We have caught up with people that used to only be on our Christmas card list.
    • We have spent the time saying important things to people; people who were sick, people who were estranged, people who were at the back of our minds.
    • We have written cards and letters and have been blessed to receive them.
    • We have phoned, texted, face timed, Skyped and Zoomed even though this time last year hardly any of us would have heard of it.
    • We have shared precious times, held regular ukulelethons (in my case) and family conferences
    • We have discussed baptisms, weddings and funerals with people.
    • We have run courses and meetings.
    • We have said goodbye.
  • Charismatic
    • Captain Tom Moore inspired us to do things we believed we couldn’t.
      • His 100 laps walk using his Zimmer frame will be etched on our minds along with his phrases:
      • The Sun shall shine on you again
      • Tomorrow will be a good day
    • Marcus Rashford inspired people to get behind the eradication of Child Poverty. During the Coronavirus epidemic).
      • In March 2020, he teamed up with the poverty and food waste charity, FareShare to deliver meals to those in the Greater Manchester area who were no longer receiving free school meals as well as children who attended community centres and breakfast clubs.
      • This went nationwide by 11 June 2020 to 3 million children and he wrote to the Government 2 days later calling them to end UK child poverty. A day later, the Government announced a change in policy regarding an extension to free school meals during the school holidays.
      • He began using his Twitter account to promote cafés, individual people and local business offering assistance to FareShare to help the impoverished around the country.
      •  On 8 November, it was announced that, because of Rashford’s campaign, the government would be providing funding of almost £400m over the next 12 months to support the cost of food and household bills to poor families.
      •  At the end of the month, former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and venture capitalist Michael Moritiz pledged to double any donations through a Christmas fundraising appeal set up by Rashford in conjunction with the Times newspaper. The campaign had raised over £2.7 million by the beginning of January.
      • St George’s School meal vouchers for the Funky Monkey.
  • Community
    • We have been community in ways not seen for many years.
    • We have celebrated and grieved together.
    • We have looked out for each other.
    • We have got to know each other despite the restrictions.
    • We have trusted each other.
      • Community can only be built at the speed of trust Cormac Russell

We rejoice in the many positives and opportunities that we have discovered through coronavirus but we know that this isn’t always immediately possible for everyone to be in that position so please do speak to someone should you need to talk things through.

Elaine Chegwin Hall

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Being Connected

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and preached on this last week, but I wanted to expand our conversation about being connected this morning and I want to look especially at what we mean by  being connected before we look at how this has changed during Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns and what this means for going forward beyond Covid?’

I’m aware that we live in unprecedented times and actually it can be difficult to make sense of what is going on. It is difficult to ‘order our thoughts’ and find the language to talk about and express what we are experiencing. So, today we will talk a little about being connected and have a discussion and then I thought we would take a few minutes to read some scripture from Genesis that may help us think about ‘connectedness’ in a different way.

I want to start with three simple questions that I though could guide our discussion this morning.

  1. What does ‘being connected mean?
  2. Who are we connected to?
  3. How do we connect?

The multiple meanings and expressions of connection

  1. What does ‘being connected’ mean
  2. Who are we connected to?

If we talk about being connected, different people will conjure up different ideas about what that means? Just the language of ‘connection’ is complicated with multiple meanings.

Physical (in person and virtual)

One understanding of connection is that of a physical connection, but even then, there are multiple meanings. On one level, connection can mean a physical connection in terms of being present; being in another’s proximity; touch.

If we ask the younger generation (or maybe not just that generation) connection conjures up thoughts of the internet. Are you connected? Connection speed; “I’ve lost connection!”;it’s a slow connection!” All language that has entered our day to day use over the last generation.

Social

We connect with people we associate with; people we meet in everyday life; the bus driver; the shop keeper; people we go to church with or go to school with; the receptionist at the dentist; the GP; the childminder…..on some level we connect with many people each day.

On the internet we connect with many, many people. Some of whom we know relatively well and we us the internet as a form of convenient communication; others who we have never met or rarely meet but who form part of our online community.

We can also think in terms of social connections. Who are you connected with or to? What school or college did you go to? What family did you marry into? Or, as was rumoured to be the key question asked at interviews for a blue chip company, “where do you ski?”

Yet it is not just the upper class or the privileged that value social connections. Whether you are left or right; blue or red; a Brexiter or a remainer connects you with people. Suddenly you belong to a social ‘club’ or network of like minded people.

Work life: in work, connections become increasingly important, Network, network, and network is the mantra of the day. Academia is a relatively lonely job so when we were let loose at conferences a couple of times a year to connect with others in our field of work we were delighted. The rule at these conferences was talk to at least 6 people and come away with contact details of at least 3 you could work with.

Of course, there is the plethora of online network sites. LinkedIn and similar sites have rapidly become the way we network, but an online presence is also increasingly important – must have a Facebook page; must Tweet key points from each conference talk to others we connect with….and so it goes on.

Emotional

And then there is an emotional connection. Connections with people we know and love and care about. These connections occur not just through circumstances but through choice.  We don’t connect with these people just because we work with them or go to school with them, or even happen to attend the same church. These are people we have a deep connection with; people we choose to spend time with; to let into our lives; to journey with; to live with. These are deep authentic relationships.

Spiritual

How is our relationship with God? Our church buildings have closed. That shouldn’t make any difference to our relationship with God – and in a way it doesn’t. God never changes, God is ever present and ever lasting. But maybe it feels different; maybe some of us our beating ourselves up over that; maybe some of us feel adrift and disconnected from God. While our church building is not ‘church’ – the church is us (God’s people); the church building; our congregation; and our services are the scaffolding on which we build and nourish our faith and express our faith. When that is removed, we are bound to feel a sense of disconnection and confusion.

3.            How do we connect?

I’m sure we could talk much more on what connection means and different types of connection. But I want to look now at how we connect with others and how, or if that has changed during lock down.

I would be surprised if there was anyone who could say they are still connected or connecting with people in the same way as they were over a year ago. If we see being connected as a physical presence, then that has certainly changed. We no longer have the freedom to be present with whoever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want.

For some of us, that will have meant long periods of time without seeing people; some of those people may be acquaintances who were on the edge of our lives; others will be close friends, relatives and loved ones who we miss on a daily basis.

The internet has undoubtedly been a life saver for many. Facetime, Zoom, Whatsapp, Messenger, the telephone itself has meant we have unlimited connection with others and this had been a life line for those who are isolated, housebound, shielding, or caring for others.

Yet it brings problems to. It is a poor substitute for the ‘real thing’. While we may have much more intentional and meaningful conversations, we miss those wonderful opportune moments when we bump into others at the Funky Monkey and have a great conversation. Or when we bump into someone we haven’t seen for a long time and we catch up over coffee and a long chat.

Of course, we miss the physical contact; the touch; then hand shake; the hug…

None of this can happen online.  

It has also changed the way we relate to others. The younger generation especially have had to come to terms with a strange world in which they are apart but together. The effort to keep children connected with school through the internet has been necessary for learning but what about emotional development? It is amazing that they have an open window to connect with the world whenever they want. But parents talk of their children struggling to cope with the changes this has made to how they relate to their peers. They have had to learn to live with the relentless demand to connect 24 hours a day; seven days a week with peers. Connecting with people is no longer episodic it is continual and relentless in its breadth while superficial in its depth.

Of course, one of the benefits on being connected online is that we can switch it off! Unlike in real life where ‘walking away’ or ‘not turning up would’ be considered rude; switching off or silencing your phone is a socially acceptable option.

But again, is that teaching our younger generation, and us, that connection with others can be switched on and off like flicking a switch?

Who we connect with and when, is also changing. Under normal circumstances, how we connect with people is often dictated to who we connect with who and where. For example, we do not hug and kiss someone we have met once through work and we do not usually send our closest loved ones an email to wish them happy birthday.

While the internet has amazing abilities and opportunities it has its drawbacks. Connections can be shallow, they can be intrusive without boundaries (24 hours a day relationships); can be stopped and started very easily without reason or rational. We can spend more physical time with strangers and more online time with those we love. It seems that our understanding and experience of being connected has been turned on its head.

Our church worship has gone ‘virtual’. Over the last year we have had to change the way we do things. There are many disadvantages to this; we miss fellowship; receiving HC; being present in worship and prayer with others. There are also benefits; reaching out to those who cannot or choose not to attend church; creative and new ways of worship – in some ways this has opened up the church; in other ways it has closed it down – each of us will have a different experience.

Questions to ponder.

  1. How has Covid-19 changed how you connect with each other?
  2. How has it changed how you connect with God?

Reflecting through scripture

I want to offer a way of thinking about ‘being connected’ that may help shape our experiences in a more positive and constructive way. To do that I want to turn to Genesis and the story of creation. And I want to look at creation and The Fall as a way of thinking and framing what we mean and experience by connection.

Read the following passages and take some time to ponder the reflection questions.

Genesis 1:26-31

Made in the image of God

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” 29 God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Reflection

  • What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
  • What does it mean to be given the earth that God created and blessed?
  • The Trinity as the ultimate relationship/connection. What are the characteristics of a trinitarian relationship?

Genesis 2:15-25

Made to be in relationship with each other

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.” 24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

Reflection 

  • Adam and Eve: connecting with each other. We are not meant to be alone but to be in relationship with each other and with God.
  • We are made in the image of God and our relationships with each other should reflect that trinitarian relationship. What does that look like for us and our communities?
  • If you had to describe those relationships to a stranger, how could you describe them?

Genesis 3:8-10

The Fall

8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

Reflection

  • To know and be known. Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden of Eden. They sensed each other’s presence; they sensed each other’s moods. They were sensitive, aware, engaged, empathic. They knew what they had done, and they knew God knew. What does it mean to know God and be known by God?
  • How do you sense God’s presence in your life?
  • Does being known and knowing someone depend on a physical presence?
  • How do we relate to each other and with God as a connected community? As a congregation? As groups or individuals?

Adam and Eve are driven out of the Garden of Eden. But this is our disconnect from God not God disconnecting from us. God continues to be in relationship with us and seeks us. The love He shows is unconditional, never changing, eternal.  Read through Genesis 4 and beyond to see that journey of humanity attempting to flourish while disconnected from God.

Final questions to ponder:

  1. What has Covid-19 taught us about being connected?
  2. Can scripture help us reimagine or reframe our Covid-19 experience of connection and relationship?

Lent Breakfast Gathering – Janine Arnott

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Are we there yet?

Well, if you are talking about Covid, yes, with the vaccine roll out we seem to be closer to the lockdown ending.  Albeit, there seem to be several steps to go and it will depend on what happens as a result of each of those steps.  Have we the patience to accept that, to let things unfold?

Do you remember asking that question from the back seat of the car – and you had only got as far as the Rising Sun, or just got on to the motorway?  It’s hard being a child in those circumstances.  You are not in control of what is going on.  Covid has been like that.  We have not been in control and we have been told what we can and can’t do.  Some people instinctively rebel against that. Adults and children alike, however reasonable the demand is.  That’s our ego shouting.

Our ego, the part of us that shouts and stamps its feet and says ‘I want..’,  is necessary to establishing us in the world.  It can be quite cute in a three year old.  We put up with it in teenagers, but after that it can be tiresome and tiring.  It hates uncertainty and sees it as a threat.  But there are no certainties.  There are only probabilities.  We are not in control.

The ego, of course, is only a part of us.  There is another part that knows that in life and particularly on the spiritual journey, we are ‘never there yet’.  We are always travelling, exploring and discovering more about the meaning of ‘God is love’ and what that means for our relationship with ourselves and those around us.   This journey is one of patience and stillness, of being in harmony with the flow of life, of knowing what I can change and what I can’t and doing so with a quiet acceptance.  Not easy, but ultimately more fulfilling and less stressful.

This Covid journey has been a tough one, particularly for those whose livelihoods have been at stake, for the poorest in our society, for ethnic minorities, for those needing treatment and care and those looking after them.  It has also been a pilgrimage of discovery, as we have learned in our Lent Breakfast sessions. People have discovered new places to take a walk, new activities, new and meaningful ways of being in contact with relatives and friends and new appreciation of those they live with.  We may not be there yet, but we are on the way and the best thing about this journey is that each new day we can make a new start.

Chris Dawson  

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Your Cell will Teach you Everything

“ Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything,” said Abba Moses to a brother who came to him and asked him ‘for a word’.

From the third to the sixth century, in the deserts of Egypt, Syria, Palestine and Arabia groups of spiritual seekers were drawn to a monastic life.  The centre of this movement was in Egypt and there these so-called Desert Fathers and Mothers – Abbas and Ammas – experimented with various forms of monasticism, living in community, the solitary life of the hermit, or as groups of individuals living close by one another.

Clearly these people chose to live this way.  They did so as a reaction to the society they found themselves in.  They withdrew from what they saw as a materialistic society distorted in its relationships. They wanted to experience the presence of God moment by moment and commit themselves to a life of regular prayer and self-enquiry.  They were on a permanent retreat, a challenging one, albeit something they had chosen on their spiritual journey. 

We too have been on a kind of retreat these past months, one that we did not choose and for which we had not prepared.  It has been tough. Like the desert monks we have been living in a variety of communities, in family groupings, in partnerships, or, perhaps most challenging of all, on our own.  For some of us, finding a bit of quiet time has been a challenge.  For others of us, being on our own with our thoughts and feelings has been an overwhelming pressure.

So what did Abba Moses mean about sitting in your cell?  I think that he is saying that, as well as challenges and discomfort, wisdom comes from within.  To the Desert Fathers and Mothers being in their ‘cell’ did not just refer literally to the room they lived in, it also meant going inside and being with their discomforts, sitting with themselves and learning every detail of their inner landscape.  Quite a challenge and not something that would happen overnight.

As human beings we are programmed for activity – a survival mechanism in the face of danger.  When our thoughts and feelings challenge us we also look to a psychological survival mechanism, often involving activity or distraction.  However, if we can sit quietly and breathe and be in our cell with our discomfort for a while, we can gradually become calm and at ease with ourselves.  It always takes some practice and some self-compassion, recognising that we are human and that these thoughts and feelings are OK. That they are part of being fully human and that others have been this way before us.

We may not have chosen to sit in our cell, but as we are still obliged to do so for the time being, perhaps we can discover that, though it may not ‘teach us everything’, it may set us on the road.

Chris Dawson

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Beginning Anew

How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?  Did you make any?  If you are like most people you will have slipped a bit or not even got started.  In the days when we could go to the gym, I believe that some 80% of those who joined with enthusiasm in January hadn’t actually got there, or had ceased going by the end of February.  That is what being human is about – good intentions but not always fulfilled. ‘That I would, I do not. That I would not, I do.’

I love the phrase, ‘No failure, only feedback’.  It means that when I haven’t managed to do what I have set out to do, or done it less well than I had hoped, I can treat it as an opportunity for learning, for changing things, for renewing my efforts.

I did make some resolutions. The same ones as last year and the year before and the year before that and probably the year before that.  I have chosen the same resolutions because for me they are central to my journey through life and my relationships to other people.  I see them as part of a continuing process and not a set of outcomes to be achieved.

Janus, the Roman god after which January is named, is, of course, depicted looking forward and backward.  At the turn of the year it is good to review what we have succeeded in, what we can do better and help ourselves to move forward.  As human beings, however, we have a tendency to focus on the past – with nostalgia or regret – or on the future when things will be better and we will have achieved our goals.  But what about ‘now’?  Isn’t that where we are?  How do I want to relate to myself and other people now, in this moment?

Last Sunday (10 January) Bishop Mark addressed the congregation and particularly those who had been baptised and confirmed.  The first of his four points was about ‘repenting’, which, as he said, we tend to think is ‘saying sorry’.  He reminded us, that this is only part of it.  It actually means ‘re-thinking’, saying sorry and then taking on a new way of life – God’s way and, as he said, serving Christ in all people.  And that is a moment by moment challenge.

Thomas Merton, the American Trappist monk put the challenge this way:

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going.  What you need is to recognise the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.”

Chris Dawson

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What stories are we telling ourselves?

We talk to ourselves constantly and tell ourselves stories about what has happened and what will happen.  This morning it was overcast and dull and depressing and rain was predicted for later and I was already telling myself that I wouldn’t be able to go into the garden.  And I didn’t.  Yesterday it was colder, but bright and sunny and I told myself that I’d be out there and getting a list of jobs done.  I did get out there into the front garden, but a friend going past stopped to talk.  I ended up clearing leaves in the twilight with few jobs done. And that was OK.  It was good to connect – but I didn’t fulfil my story.

Things rarely follow our internal script and turn out the way our story predicts.  Life and other people intervene.  The stories of past events can also alter and shift with time and  reflection.  Our stories also come up against other people’s stories.  We may listen to theirs, be interested, discuss and empathise, or we may just ignore.  Other people’s stories may help us to understand something better, or to question our own assumptions and standpoint.

We live our lives through stories – our own and other people’s.  We read stories in books and newspapers.  We hear them on the radio and see them on television.  We pass them on through social media.  They help us to find and confirm our place in the world.  They may challenge us or confirm who we think we are.  They have an effect on our mood, our motivation and our state of mind.  As master storyteller Ben Okri says, “Stories can conquer fear…They can make the heart bigger.”

At their best, stories contribute to our understanding, our growth and our relationships – to our becoming the person we would like to be.  In great part the Gospels are a succession of stories about Jesus’ life and ministry and, like all great teachers, Jesus told stories to give us insight, stories that have stood  the test of time and speak to us today: the good Samaritan, the sower, the mustard seed, the talents (thank you Kim for your illuminating address on this a couple of Sunday’s ago) and so on.  Like many of our stories, Jesus’ parables are not true.  Unlike many of our stories, Jesus’ parables point to the truth.

Chris Dawson

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If these feelings are grief, then what?

In my last blog contribution, I suggested that the uncomfortable feelings many of us are feeling are feelings of grief.  So is there anything we can do to feel more comfortable, especially as we are entering a further period of restriction and loss?

Just knowing can be helpful.  Knowing that these feelings are a natural and normal response to loss can help us towards acceptance and compassion for ourselves and for others.  We can be sure that others are feeling disconcerted and perhaps distressed by what has happened and the uncertainty that continues.  We are all in need of empathy, understanding, love and support as we navigate the ‘new normal’.

David Kessler reminds us that there are five stages of grief, that they are not linear and that we may move back and forth between them.  There is denial – for all of us, perhaps, early on and for some a permanent stance:This virus won’t affect me.  There’s anger: You’re restricting me and preventing me from doing the things I want to do.  There’s bargaining: OK, if I social distance for two weeks, everything will be better and then I can go back to life as normal.  There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will ever end.  Finally there is acceptance:These things have happened and this unpredictable situation continues;  I have to figure out  a way of living with the uncertainty and live my life as fully and satisfyingly as I can.  Acceptance is where the power lies.

We all want predictability and control, but we know that we can never really have these.  Life shifts and changes, sometimes more rapidly and drastically than we feel we can handle.  The place to be is in the present, as Jesus reminds us, dealing with ‘what is’ now, letting go of what we cannot control and dealing with what we can.  In practical terms, just taking a gentle full breath and letting it out slowly can help us come back to the present.  Naming five things in the room as we breathe can help to restore equanimity.  It slows us down.  It is easy to get ahead of ourselves and imagine negative scenarios.  Jesus reminds us not to be anxious . He asks, “Which of you by being anxious can add a cubit to his span of life?  If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? “ (Luke 12:25-27).  He reminds us that God knows our needs, just as he knows those of the lilies and the ravens.

It is important to acknowledge what we are going through.  To be kind and compassionate towards ourselves, recognising that we are human, that these feelings are real, a signal of our discomfort, but also, that they too will shift and change and pass.

Chris Dawson

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What we are feeling may be grief

Human beings need connection – physically, person to person.  That was brought home to me a couple of Sundays ago when I returned to church for the first time.  Yes, we were spaced out and we wore masks. But people were still recognisable and smiles were still discernible – because we smile with our eyes.  Safely distanced I also had a real and meaningful conversation.

It has been wonderful to be able to attend ‘virtual church’ on Sunday mornings and, like many of us, I have been on Zoom to meet up with groups I belong to.  But, of course, it has not felt the same. And nor would it.  Walking home from church, I realised that my feelings have been confused during this prolonged period of lock down, social distancing, easing of restrictions, tightening them again and releasing them again.   I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore ideas and do projects that being restricted has afforded me.  At the same time I feel uneasy.  The rhythm of life has changed.  Things I took for granted, everyday things, I have to think about.  Do I feel safe doing that?  Am I allowed to do that?  Is that wise?

Insight into what I was feeling came to me in an email.  It  contained an interview with David Kessler, who with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross wrote the well known book ‘On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss’.  Though the interview took place at the height of the pandemic in March, I found his observations still pertinent.  ‘Yes’, he says, ‘we are grieving’ and doing so for a number of losses.

We feel the world has changed and though we know some of it is temporary, it doesn’t feel that way.  We know the ‘new normal’ will be different, but what will it be like?  What will be different?  The loss of what was normal, the fear of economic loss and the loss of connection have created an unseen but real collective grief – and we are not used to it.

We have all lost connection with friends and family, with some of our nearest and dearest.  For some of us, the grief may be deeper and more long lasting, because we have lost loved ones permanently and been unable to mourn them and say farewell.  Even now, the loss continues for those with relatives in care homes.  Current visiting restrictions make the loss two fold – to members of the family and to the person in the home.  Others of us have lost jobs and businesses, income, security and identity.

And we haven’t finished yet.  Anxiety about loss in the future can create ‘anticipatory grief’.  Will there be another corona virus spike in the Autumn?  How will it affect me?  What is going to happen?  The Covid pandemic has been like that all along, an unseen and unseeable threat until it strikes.  We know it is out there and that undermines our sense of safety.

To feel a sense of loss and bewilderment is fine.  To find that I am not the only one feeling these feelings is comforting and to understand these feelings as grief is a good start.  

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”.

Chris Dawson

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How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange time?

It seems like a very long time since Sunday 15th March. That was the last time the Choir sang for a Sunday service at St. George’s. 

We finished singing for Evensong that evening not knowing we wouldn’t sing together in Church again for a very long time. 

Now that the government guidance has changed I’m pleased that members of the choir will be able to sing again for the first time on Sunday 6th September at the 10:15am Service. 

Given the nature of the guidance I’m afraid it’ll only be the choir allowed to sing. Congregational singing is still a little way off resuming again, however rest assured, we’ll do our best to sing on your behalf. We’ve decided not to include any hymns during the morning service for the foreseeable future. I realise how tempting it would be to join in and sing along to all of our favourite hymns. That time will come and I look forward to the day we can sing together again as a Church community.

The choir won’t be back to full strength for quite a while yet, however I’m incredibly grateful to those who have said they’ll return in the short term to provide music for our services.

These are difficult times for us all, but hopefully the music offered on your behalf will benefit us all in some way until such a time as we can all sing together again.

James Hibbert
Director of Music

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Preparing to Open

Last week my husband and I were lucky enough to escape from lockdown, in our motorhome as soon as campsites opened. We headed for the northeast coast as we didn’t know the area at all and we certainly didn’t want to head south to crowded beaches. Our base was Beadnell Bay which is situated at one end of a hugely long white sandy beach which was firm enough to walk along in peace and quiet.

As usual we popped our heads into churches wherever we were and many churches which were open for private prayer had just been left unlocked, with only part of the church accessible and all the hand sanitiser and wipes necessary. One of these was St. Aiden’s church in Bamburgh with its monument to Grace Darling who came from there. I have found that since becoming church warden I have a slightly different slant on going round churches, and frequently find myself thinking ‘Thank goodness we don’t have one wall of the building that is 1,000 years old!’ Many of these churches were of that age and had names like St. Aiden, St. Ebba, St. Oswald and St. Cuthbert.

All that were open had provided clear instructions about cleaning precautions, where you could sit, one way systems etc, although some like St. Ebba in Beadnell, a very small church, had the whole of the nave blocked off and you just stood at the back, and that was fine. Only one of all the churches we entered including the church on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) had a notice stating that regular worship in the church building was about to restart. That was the only church with a steward inside as well and we chatted to her for quite a while as she was very knowledgeable. She said that they had measured the church and could fit 40 people inside with the correct distancing and when I asked her how many they normally had at their main Sunday service she said about 60! I don’t envy the sidesperson who has to turn away number 41 etc.

I felt extremely thankful that St. George’s is a very large building and although that often brings its own problems hopefully we will be able to accommodate all who want to come to our services. We hope to start worship in the church building on Wednesday 5th August with Sunday 9th August being our first Sunday service. Details about which services and when will follow later but at least we can see a light at the end of tunnel.

Hazel Jenkins

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