COVID Reflections 1 – Keeping people safe and connected

Hey there, Friends!

It’s been a long time since I posted to this blog. Frankly, things were just too busy, and way too crazy, for me to stop and think very hard about the future of the Quaker movement in the 21st century.

I can clearly remember the day back in March of 2020 when things finally shut down. The news about the new COVID-19 epidemic had been getting worse and worse every day. Our family had filled our freezer, stockpiled pet food and toilet paper. We canceled travel plans, bought a box of face masks, and checked our shelf full of favorite DVD’s, and thought we were ready to face what we thought might be a 2 or 3-week quarantine.

I grew up with family stories about epidemics – the polio epidemic that I just missed as a child (I was one of the first to get the new Salk vaccine), the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 which killed more people than WWI did, the endemic typhoid in New Orleans which killed members of my family. My dad, who was a history teacher, told us about how the Black Death killed a third of the population of Europe in the 1300’s.

I knew that COVID was going to be rough. I just didn’t know how rough or how scary and depressing it was going to be. On the Friday when the quarantine started, I remember a line from Shakespeare which kept running through my head – “The bright day is done, and we are for the dark.”

That first week, our meeting set up a phone tree to help everyone stay in touch with each other. I immediately started recording my Sunday worship messages and weekly Bible studies to post on Facebook. 22 months later, I’m still doing two recordings every week! (True confession: I’ve been doing it all this time in my office using my iPhone, an old camera tripod, and a music stand from the choir room to hold my notes.)

Almost all of our meeting’s special events, fellowship meals and other social activities got canceled. For four months, we didn’t even try to hold meeting for worship in person. During the summer of 2020, we started holding worship outdoors in front of the meetinghouse – people either sat in their cars, or in widely-spaced groups of chairs in the shade under the trees. When the weather got cold in October, we cautiously moved back inside.

In-person, indoor worship during COVID has been a big challenge. We wear masks. We encouraged safe social distancing by simply removing the cushions from every row of pews. Because singing was shown to be a highly efficient way of spreading the virus, we gave up singing hymns – that one really hurt!

Attendance slowly built back up, but we’re still only at about 50% of the number of people who came regularly every Sunday before COVID. (More true confession: we’re actually getting more people watching the videos than we were getting here at worship or in person for Bible study before COVID!)

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because the same stuff played out in congregations all over the place.

Pastoral care was a really difficult challenge. Normally I spend 4-8 hours a week visiting folks in the hospital, at retirement facilities, or in homes or their places of work. It’s an important part of the “glue” that holds our meeting together, and the presence and prayers bring a lot of comfort and encouragement to people and to their families.

All of a sudden, visitors were banned and health care facilities of all kinds were locked down. Many of our old members became virtual prisoners in solitary confinement for weeks and months on end. That kind of isolation can and does trigger major depression and mental illness, and a lot of people really went off the rails in nursing homes during the lockdown.

The meeting newsletter and weekly e-mails took on a lot of extra importance. We share news about each other, resources for reading and family activities, as well as the latest updates and practical guidance from the health department. Most people in the meeting welcomed the latter, but a few people were irritated by what they felt was an overreaction which was hurting schools, churches and businesses.

Our primary goal from the beginning was to keep people safe. We tried new things and adapted old ones, or put them on hold for the time being. In my next catch-up blog post, I want to share some of the things we learned and tried during the ordeal – 22 months and counting! – which has been COVID.

Advertisement

1 Response to “COVID Reflections 1 – Keeping people safe and connected”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




Disclaimer

All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

Categories

Archive

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 561 other subscribers

%d bloggers like this: