Some time ago now I was really inspired by Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees within which he explains what happens out of sight, how trees form community, how the stronger look after the weaker trees – even when they are different species.
I find myself drawn back to some of these ideas as I observe quieter streets, towns and cities. A foodbank operates in my local area, and is working so hard behind the scenes to source food for, and distribute it to, those who cannot, or should not be making themselves more vulnerable by going to the shops.
The question I am left with is how this sense of community continues into the new issues many face around being forced or ‘encouraged’ to return to work yet have no one to look after their children. They are called to use their ‘common sense’ but I am unsure how helpful that is when there is an expectation that people return to work and, despite there being no childcare arrangements, failure to do so will result in them not being paid, or worse losing their jobs…?
Surely ‘common sense’ would bring people to an understanding that our economy, or wealth, has a higher importance than our wellbeing. This realisation alone does nothing to help this situation though. For some, this time of lockdown has brought opportunities to reconnect, to slow down, to live more simply. I’ve had many conversations, or read articles, where people are hoping that these benefits will shape our futures as we move out of lockdown; how can they when economic division, and power, shape those ‘baby steps’ out of lockdown? It seems that we are more likely to leave some to stand alone, as this tree appears to, with no others around who are able to offer support.
I am really loving how a shift in focus is revealing so much beauty in ways that I would usually ignore completely…I am practising the art, or discipline, of attentiveness and am finding it truly gratifying. #TheSacramentofNow
I’ve read and watched with interest as so many have grappled with, or tried to make sense of, this season of lockdown, where we are absent from our churches. I’ve very much felt the presence of pray-ers in the walls in some churches, and have loved the sense of God’s presence that that has brought. I’ve also been really encouraged by the inventive ways that the people of God have found to be ‘church’ or the ‘body of Christ’ in their communities over these last weeks. I’ve loved the ‘shop window’ opportunity that has come from an internet/social media presence, and I’m encouraged by the ways in which people have engaged. I’ve even been surprised by how energising I have found ‘creating’ worship, or God encounter opportunities.
I’ve also heard snippets of dialogue about how much easier and cheaper it would be to have more people work from home, even after the lockdown is lifted. Some people would welcome the idea and some would really not. I’ve been working from home since I became a curate, but I currently miss getting out of the house, and away from the screen, and having people to bounce ideas off. I was sent an article this week by Roger Cohen, who was musing on what moving away from the ‘old dispensation’ might begin to look like. He refreshingly called for ‘balance’ in the ‘something new’…how do we get more balance as Church so that the ‘shop window’ approach continues, as do worship possibilities for those who are housebound?
A lesser festival today, but a festival nevertheless. To remember Julian of Norwich, a spiritual writer and revolutionary woman of her time, Mother Julian (the tortoise) came out of her enclosure for the day. Julian of Norwich used to open her window and offer spiritual guidance to those who sought it; she continues to do so today through her Divine Revelations.
”The greatest honour we can give the Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of His love.”
Loneliness and its effects upon individuals is always significant, but it feels like it is so much more at the moment. It seems to creep up in some way on most of my encounters and conversations. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on every aspect of our lives, and it can be anxiety inducing to think too much about that. I read an interesting article in The Guardian today which explores the effects of isolation on our bodies as well as the social body which we belong to. It ends with a call to remind ourselves of what it means to be human…together.
“Let’s embrace the complexity of what it means to be human in this time of sorrow as we think and feel our way to come out of this, wiser, humbler and more connected.”
Susie Orbach, The Guardian: The Long Read, Patterns of Pain: What COVID-19 can teach us about how to be human, Thurs 7th May, 2020.
I had a really interesting discussion around beauty recently. It’s something that I often wonder about, with regards to photography. I find it so much easier to ‘receive’ photographs in the natural environment, and find myself feeling less inspired in urban areas. I think so much of this is down to perceptions of beauty…yet what I appreciate in the photography of others is that which makes you think, or question, justice, ethics or morality. Thinking in a theological way, it is absolutely within the images of brokenness that I see Christ, and they take on a sort of ‘beauty’ which is very different from our more worldly understandings. It is in those images, spaces, and cases where we least expect to see Christ, that Christ is revealed….
“Once I can recognise the divine image where I don’t want to see the divine image, then I have learned how to see. It’s really that simple. And here’s the rub: I’m not the one that is doing the seeing. It’s like there is another pair of eyes inside of me seeing through me, seeing with me, seeing in me. God can see God everywhere, and God in me can see God everywhere.”
In a meeting today I became aware of the importance of simplicity. These are difficult times and many of us are expected, or expecting of ourselves, to be operating at full capacity; that ‘self-actualisation’ as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need terms it. A colleague reminded me though, that we are seeking to survive a pandemic, and actually, rather than even trying to meet our self-fulfilment needs, we should really only be focusing on our basic needs: food, water, warmth, rest, security and safety. Many of the people I have spoken to, and I myself, have been struggling with ‘rest’ out of all of these. A phrase often repeated to me through theological college keeps coming back; “be kind to yourself.” It doesn’t always feel possible, especially with multiple competing pressures, and yet it feels important to try….