Continuing her series of observations from those looking at what we may have learned from lockdown, Margery Hookings hears from more local people.
Jo Neary, Team Vicar/PIoneer Priest Beaminster Area Team, wife and mother of three
My first reflection is personal. I have lived the whole of my life being busy. I am and always have been involved in projects, hobbies and volunteering right from the age of five. I am often overstretched and stressed, giving more of my time to others than I do to my family. I find no a very difficult word. It gets to the point when sometimes I am overwhelmed. So being forced to stop living that pace of life has been a surprising blessing.
I thought I would find it difficult to slow down. No, turns out I’m very good at it. Perhaps it is because I haven’t completely stopped: work has continued but in a very different form. But I have found it delightful to not have to go out in the evening to meetings, to not have to dash everywhere picking up and dropping off children. I have lunch, every day, sitting at table, eating from a plate and having conversations with my family. I never did that before.
I have been able to sleep better, waking up naturally instead of using an alarm. I have had the energy to talk to my husband in the evenings and not fall asleep exhausted at 9.30 at night as soon as I sit down.
I have time to hang up my washing instead of using the tumble dryer because it is quicker. I cook a roast dinner for my family every weekend. I talk to my family on the phone and video chats. I have taken walks with my children, played frisbee and have time, every single day, to exercise and take care of my body and mental health. I have had time to pray and read and reflect and laugh and chat and just be. I do not want to go back to being overstretched and stressed and under pressure. This is a better way to live. Shame it took a global pandemic for me to notice.
What have I learned about being at home? The surprise for me is how much I enjoy my family’s company. Today, for example, my husband and I and our eldest son, 13, sat after lunch and talked about racism and colonisation, slavery, history, science, black holes, philosophy and religion. We don’t do that every lunchtime. Often our conversation is much more prosaic. But we had time to take the conversation which had started at black lives matter and the death of George Floyd into a much wider sphere—just because we had time and we didn’t have to rush anywhere else.
Doing school at home has in many ways been a matter of doing tasks set by the school and ticking them off the list, but it has also inspired some moments of joy: watching my children video a science experiment involving a bag full of water held over a head and a pencil, enjoying the fruits of food technology and independent baking, having time to read the book that my youngest is studying so I can support him, building river models and damming rivers in the sand tray, learning the cup song from Pitch Perfect with my daughter. Just moments of everyday fun that usually get gobbled up by having to rush off to evening meetings or do homework or catch up on chores. Time has been the biggest blessing. I have been a working parent for the whole time I have had children, apart from nine months off to have my youngest son. The eldest two arrived ready made in my marriage, so I have always had children for the whole time I have been married to Harry. I would like to carry on taking the time to enjoy my children and be more available and present for them as they grow.
Church: God in the everyday. As a priest I have been surprised by how much I haven’t missed the churches being open. Much of what I do day by day is point to God in the everyday. I see my calling and vocation to tell the story of God and offer that story to others to become their story too. Worshipping in a church is part of that story of God, but only part. To me, God is as present in my study as in the church, as present at the top of Lewesdon Hill as behind the altar, as present in my daily walk, my morning cup of tea, my meals with my family as in bread and wine. God is present, by the power of his Holy Spirit, in everything we do and everything we do is in praise and worship of him.
I have been excited about how social media has enabled me to continue telling the story of God’s activity in the world and let other people encounter that story and see themselves as part of it. Our daily updates on our Beaminster Team page are viewed by about 300 people every day and sometimes many more. I post about exercise, cups of tea, mental health, schools, being kind, the walks I’ve been on, the things I struggle with. And every day I pray that God will show us his presence in the everyday things. That has been a huge blessing.
And people who wouldn’t come to church but consider themselves spiritual and open to the presence of God in their lives like and comment on things. One of the comments was ‘God is louder in lockdown, or perhaps there are fewer distractions to tune him out’. That has been my experience. I love the way that social media can be a huge encouragement, a huge blessing and a way for people to see and hear something of God in a way that connects with them and is anonymous. There is no pressure to have to turn up or conform or be asked to join a rota! Social media allows people to engage at their own pace, in their own way and explore faith, belief and spirituality in their own way. I will continue being a social media vicar after lockdown. It is a good place to be. Our social media, our website and our YouTube videos ‘RevChat’ all existed long before lockdown. We were slightly ahead of the curve in that respect. But their importance and value has increased exponentially in lockdown and I now view them as an essential part of our ministry rather than an add-on.
Pastorally—it has been hard to connect well with our older congregation members. Not all of them have access to the internet or feel confident to join in via social media or on Zoom. That said, we have a couple of 90 years olds who are regular Zoom attendees. I think we need to work on better networks of support so that people don’t fall through the net and don’t feel left out.
It has been harder to keep effective contact with our larger congregation in Beaminster. However, the villages have been excellent at keeping in touch with each other, with supporting each other, with looking after one another. The villages are good at looking after one another and noticing when things are amiss. I give thanks for that generosity of spirit that means people look out for each other. We need to make sure we keep that. As a vicar with multiple parishes I rely on congregations caring for each other and not being reliant on the vicar always knowing or noticing. I often don’t know because no one told me and I didn’t notice because I wasn’t there.
It is our collective responsibility as human beings to take care of each other. Lockdown has reminded us how important that is and how easily we can take care of our friends and neighbours. All we need is a little time and a lot of love. Being kind is perhaps the most important thing we can do each and every day. That and breathing. Finally, lockdown has made me realise what is important: time, nature, breathing, sleep, exercise, laughter, family, books, music, the internet, technology, the environment, love, kindness, generosity, community spirit, the common good, God’s love, truth, trust, accepting people as they are. What isn’t important: rushing, saying yes to everything, more stuff, more experiences, dashing around, being successful, being powerful, being liked, conformity, what other people think.
Emma Gale, singer songwriter, Weymouth
I used the lockdown to write and release my debut single Let’s See What the Earth Has to Say. Written, composed, produced and recorded remotely in just one week, the track explores my take on life in lockdown and our rapidly changing reality. It’s my vocals on the single, alongside ukulele by my husband, Peter Kirkbride and percussion, bass, acoustic guitar, keyboards, vocals by Chris Pepper. The track is produced by Chris Pepper at Saltwell Studio.
Using the crisis to concentrate on creativity, I wanted the song to be reflective, soothing and hopeful. It examines how quickly life can change and how nature thrives when humanity retreats indoors.
It seems that many of us are struggling to adapt to life at home and it makes you realise that despite feeling like we are in complete control of our lives, we’re actually part of something much bigger. This is the sentiment behind Let’s See What the Earth Has to Say—it’s about all of us surrendering control and realising we don’t actually need all of the things we once thought we did.
I never planned to write a song in response to coronavirus, but the time in lockdown has given me the chance to focus on making music, and before I knew it, I had a debut single ready to go. I hope it strikes a chord with people listening from their own homes.
The single is accompanied by an animated video by Nik Newark which shows the contrast between life now, and life before lockdown. Schools have shown an interest in learning the song so I have made the sheet music available free of charge at www.emmagale.com
Andrew Hookings, Chairman, Broadwindsor Community Stores
My first thoughts when the lockdown, self isolating and shielding came into being and many of our volunteers were unable to volunteer, was what could be done to keep the shop open as usual.
Well, with the Leader family trained by their volunteer daughter, Rosie, and a couple of other volunteers who were now unable to work, we have managed to keep the ship afloat. In addition, three members of the shop committee, Sandra Burrows, Nathalie Roberts and Teri Small, established a delivery service, with the help and support of volunteers from Broadwindsor and Drimpton. They have been taking orders and organising deliveries twice a week to the vulnerable and self-isolating throughout our community.
The response from our community has been overwhelming and the business has seen an upturn in trade, as people now appear to prefer shopping locally as opposed to going to town. Our hope is that as we get back to normal, whatever the new normal will be, our customers will continue to support us.
Initially, we experienced some difficulty with our suppliers being able to maintain our deliveries of stock, especially staple products such as flour, tinned fruit and sugar. However, working together with our major supplier, Booker Yeovil, we have managed to keep our shelves stocked with most products.
Of course, having to reduce the shop to one customer at a time, due to social distancing regulations, we have often seen queues forming outside the shop. Fortunately, we benefited initially with the provision of a gazebo, until the wind one evening caused it to collapse and break. But we have been blessed with such wonderful weather that queuing has not been a problem. In fact, quite the opposite as it has been an opportunity for many to make new ‘friends’ as they pass the time of day and have a natter. Strangely, I guess this has in some way brought our community closer together, if that’s possible.
We have been very conscious about the safety of our staff, volunteers and customers, and in addition to limiting the number of customers in the shop, at any one time, we installed a Perspex screen in front of the counter, and provided staff with plastic gloves, face masks, visors and sanitising hand wash, which we recommend they use. Counter tops are regularly sanitised.
As we move forward and the lockdown is relaxed we hope to see more of our regular volunteers return to the fold and our customers old and new continue to support their community shop.