It is Palm Sunday, and I have just joined a streamed service led by my colleague and friend James, in joining it I was joining with others because I could watch as people responded and yes I did join in with the actions to “Our God is a great big God”, interestingly the chance to comment and receive comments during the service made the whole experience more not only interactive, but gave a real sense of participation and community that we don’t get sitting in rows looking at the back of other people’s heads.
We were together, despite me being alone, and what you can’t see is that I am still sat in my pj’s and have decided today that, that does not matter!
Flicking back to Facebook and I find people have commented on my earlier post of thoughts and prayers, and on the pastoral letter that I have written every week, I am pondering continuing to write those as they are being very well received by the congregations I serve, and who I rarely see on a weekly basis. I ponder that collectively they are getting more input from me when I cannot see them than they were when I could!
I am also struck by the fact that people from all over join in with a live stream, last Sunday evening friends from Finland, and North America joined me, and even someone from New Zealand, we prayed together, again using the interactive nature of the technology as people typed in names and situations and responded to one another. If we were in church all of that would be considered rude, commenting on a thought, calling out names in prayer would really be unacceptable, but via a live stream/ watch party it is all part of being together.
Being together is not confined to church either, community forums are full of people posting notices about what is available in the shops, offering to pick up bread or milk for neighbours and friends. My street has a WhatsApp group, and the excursions to the shops often involve picking up bits and pieces for neighbours, anything ranging from bags of salad to the ever elusive toilet rolls or bags of flour. I did have a giggle this morning as everyone added bits and pieces to a neighbours list, thinking that we’d make a good advert for Waitrose with our requests, but knowing the today’s shopper was going to Aldi!
As for physical togetherness one thing I have noticed on my regular walks, now that I have the confidence to go out, is that people genuinely want to talk, I have taken to wearing my clerical collar. amd have had a number of meaningful appropriately distanced conversations. People are asking big questions, and appreciate having someone to talk to.
Finally one rather lovely thing I keep coming across is pictures of rainbows in people’s windows, rainbows drawn on the pavement and rainbows hung on doors, along with these I see signs of thanks to delivery drivers and posties, and posters giving thanks to the NHS. We have come together apart, cheering on a Thursday evening, sharing signs of hope and helping one another out both online and in real life. I hope that we won’t return to “normal” at the end of all of this, I hope that we will have learned something about ourselves and one another. I hope that we might just retain a more compassionate outlook for our neighbours and friends wherever they are.
Despite all of the uncertainty and anxiety good stuff is being revealed. Yes there will be questions to be answered, and yes the need of the poor has been highlighted, food banks are overstretched and struggling to cope, but just today I wanted to focus on some of the good stuff. Many blessings to anyone reading this.