Together, at a distance.

I’ve been struggling for a little while now to carve out time to blog which has made me sad as I love being able to process my thoughts by writing and I love the conversations I have through blogging. Over the past few weeks I’ve suddenly had a lot more free time. However as my time became more free it felt as if my mind filled to overflowing. I felt so overwhelmed with not ‘knowing’ and with not being able to plan ahead. I wanted to write but I felt I had too much in my mind to even write a first sentence to try and begin to unravel my thoughts.

I took three funerals this week and knowing they were done and I’d been able to do them eased some of that ‘overwhelming-ness’, then knowing that social-isolation needed to happen helped too but what has helped me most to move into feeling less anxious and getting used to this new ‘normal’ has been the response of my community. Firstly, my immediate community. Big brother has taken this all in his stride, his grace and his willingness to engage in new ways of trying things has been incredible. His ability to understand that some of the things he was looking forward to most this year will now not be happening completely blew me away. My heart broke as I told him we wouldn’t be able to go to Big Church Day Out (his absolute highlight of every year) but he acknowledged it was sad and then began to think of ways for us to have our own ‘Big Church Day at Home’. This morning he set up our living room as ‘church’, he instructed me get pastries and biscuits ready and to lead his group, and we worshipped together and connected with our church online. His ability to connect with others and with God in spite of what else is happening completely challenges and encourages me daily.

Secondly, our neighbourhood. I printed out flyers to pop through letterboxes to invite our road to a WhatsApp group and just as they finished printing a flyer came through my door from another neighbour. So many wonderful things have already come from the group. We have spring themed pictures going up on windows, yesterday a neighbour popped a recipe through my door after I mentioned having ingredients to use up and we had a sing-song in the road with Pete playing the guitar. Another neighbour is currently planting seeds so we can all have new things to grow in our gardens and another neighbour delivered beer from the brewery he works at and we were able to support him knowing that they’ve lost masses of orders now with pubs closing.

One of my biggest passions in life is building community and I’ve seen more community built in the last few days than has happened in the last few years on our road. It has given me great hope for the weeks ahead.

Thirdly, being able to connect online with our church this morning was amazing. I am so grateful for the way we’re able to still meet virtually with one another. Social isolation might mean we’re physically distant but it doesn’t mean we have to be socially distant. If you’re reading this and you’re feeling socially distant please message me, I know I, and so many others, are desperate that no one is alone at this time.

I want to use this space to provide opportunity to chat honestly (as has always been my purpose) and I want to provide things which are helpful. This morning as we did ‘church at home’ I became the sound and tech person as I made the stream from church work, I was the welcome team setting up pastries and getting the drinks, I was the kid’s pastor as I led a session and craft activity and then I tried to also just be me as we worshipped, as Pete led on the screen in an empty church (and the boys said ‘I want to be with Daddy!’), and I tried to listen to the sermon over my boys arguing and requesting more snacks. In my book (and probably lots of other stuff I’ve written) I talk about what connecting with God looks like in this phase of parenthood and how we can dwell on how much of a challenge it can feel to connect with God, like doing faith is harder. I like to think of it as different. My relationship with God has changed, just like my other relationships grow and develop as circumstances and seasons change. But, this hasn’t made my faith in God weaker. Much like how faith can feel during parenthood I think this time ahead might feel harder and our normal ways of connecting with God might feel trickier to achieve but I pray that this would be a season where we find our faith enriched and our dependence on God is deepened. I pray for deep deep joy for you all, and for community to be built.

I am going to create a section on the blog for doing faith/church at home where I will share some of our own messy ideas as a family, some curriculum I wrote as a Children and Families Pastor and some of the amazing resources I know of. Please do let me know if there’s anything I should add. I’d also love to share stories faith deepening and community being built so if you have a story you’d love to share please do get in touch.

Sending so much love to you all as we face this new, weird, normal together, at a distance.

A x

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