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In this topsy-turvy world of self-isolation and social distancing, where many people are working from home or trying to home-school children whilst others are still going to work even though nothing seems normal anymore, I’ve been reflecting on how my life has changed this past week. Religous staff are classed as ‘key workers’, apparently, so work is continuing… but it’s both the same as it’s always been and vastly different.

It’s the same because prayer, study of the Bible and contact with other people remain at the heart of pastoral work, and those things don’t really change. Prayer and studying the word of God can be done anywhere, so in that sense this part of my work has always been done from home. I suppose it’s the contact with other people and the format of services which have changed so radically.

We can no longer gather together in our church building for services, nor can we run our community groups there (youth club & Parent & Toddler group from there). Seeing people face to face isn’t really possible at the moment, and so we have been hugely busy setting up online services (having to learn how to livestream via Facebook and Zoom in about an hour!) and making sure we have contact with people through texting, phoning and Facebook Messenger. That’s been a challenge because everybody’s preferred method of communication is different and I’m no guru when it comes to technology. This week I’ve learnt how to set up a WhatsApp group, livestream services and sort a new phone (my battery chose the most inconvenient time to wither and die) and without Garry, not much of that would have had successful outcomes! Unsurprisingly, he has risen to these technological challenges and has even confessed to enjoying them. (And therein lies the difference between us!) We’ve had to deal with legal requirements regarding licences (for livestreaming music) and so on – the nitty-gritty of administration which goes on behind the scenes all the time, but which suddenly pushed its way to the forefront, amongst everything else!

The pace of work has been hectic this week as I’ve tried to keep in touch with people (especially the elderly who don’t have access to the Internet: a huge wave to Royal Mail who have been delivering my cards and parcels with consummate ease!) Services have to be planned more carefully as we are currently on a time limit for them; we’re looking ahead and trying to accommodate whether people have access to Facebook, Zoom, smartphones and so on. Many people find technology as difficult as I do and feel like throwing their phones out of the window! We won’t always be able to reach everybody all the time, so I’m trying to blog, post online and through the letterbox, text and phone to make sure people are still receiving God’s word and still able to pray.

As far as the community groups go, it’s much harder, but I’ve been overwhelmed today by the response from our Mums & Grandmas who’ve been in touch. Today’s been spent sorting out Easter crafts and chocolates to send out to them, which I hope will happen tomorrow.

So even though the church building is closed, the church is still very much alive and working hard! Individuals are doing a great job of keeping in touch with each other, caring for isolated members, offering support and help and generally working as they always do, with grace and courage and cheerfulness. Despite missing family members and missing each other, we are confident that God’s got everything in hand and we are looking forward to that day when we can be reunited in Market Street!