REFLECTIONS FROM A CHURCH IN LOCKDOWN
1: Together Apart
Time was against me. I never knew it took so long to upload a half hour video to youtube. And then the website, where I had told the congregation they could find the church service, decided to unhinge itself from its usual drag and drop editing interface. I was staring at a page I had never seen before! It needed code and…there is a limit to my technical knowledge! The church were expecting a service to be beamed into their homes that would comfort, or inspire, or reassure as we entered lockdown, but it was all going to fall apart at the first hurdle.
Of course, things seem much bigger in the moment than they really are. It really wouldn’t have mattered if our first lockdown service went live at 10.45am rather than half-past. And I’m not sure my words that first morning were all that inspired. But, as we were to discover, that is not really the point. The most significant aspect of our online services, in the strange and unsettling experience we were sharing, was seeing each other: familiar faces reading the Bible, or leading us in prayer, being interviewed or leading us in singing hymns and songs. We began to show photos of what people were up to in lockdown at the end of the service and it was a delight just to see their faces. What we were learning was how to be together apart. Like most of the country, we were being reminded that the foundational priority of our lives, that which brings us joy, purpose and meaning, are the relationships we have with one another: family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, and for some of us we believe, our relationship with the God who made us.
And speaking of relationships, a friend from church, who, unlike myself, does know what he is doing technically, rescued the youtube upload, restored the website and St.Leonard’s first lockdown service was broadcast at 10.30am, Sunday 22nd March, 2020.