You, like me, will be very used already to seeing or hearing that word; so many of the meetings and events in my diary are now crossed out and won’t be taking place. No Sunday services from this week onwards, then no Methodist Women in Britain weekend for 250+ women in early April, no Cliff College weekend retreat on pilgrimage in May, no Five-Day Community for Spiritual Formation in June… how long will this go on? Will even the Methodist Conference end up being cancelled? Unthinkable!
Methodist Council, due to meet next weekend, is in the throes of arranging for the work to be done in small virtual groups, with one day of teleconferencing for the full Council… let’s hope the gremlins stay away! As someone who likes to book train tickets well in advance and save money, I have been applying for refunds left, right and centre – with more success with some train companies than others!
These are very strange days and will affect us all in different ways. As an introvert, the thought of reduced socializing is not fearful, and might even seem attractive (although I wonder if I will still think that in three months time…) but I smiled yesterday at a tweet which read, ‘Introverts – put your book down and check on your extrovert friends, they are not okay!‘ and I know (because I live with one) that many extroverts are already climbing the walls. And to be honest I have felt tearful at times and disorientated… how long is all this going to go on?
Last week, just before the more restrictive guidance was issued, a friend and I went to see ‘Madame Butterfly’ at the Coliseum in London. It was a stunningly beautiful production with amazing lighting effects enhancing the tragedy of the piece. The best known song, ‘Un Bel Di’ (‘One Fine Day’) is filled to overflowing with longing for that day when isolation will end… but perhaps Madame Butterfly is not the best place to look for hope in our current situation!!
‘Travelling in hope’ was to have been the theme for the MWiB Swanwick weekend and, as the keynote speaker, I have offered to write some notes on that theme to circulate to those who were planning to attend. I feel as though my thinking will be very different in this crisis from what it would have been before it – what does it mean to travel in hope through these strange days? How do we best look out for one another? Watch this space!
Andrew has commented that the most similar past experience we have had was that of being on hurricane watch when we lived in the Caribbean. A hurricane was heading directly for St. Vincent and we were told to prepare. Some advice said don’t stay on the ground floor as it might flood, other advice warned against moving to the first floor in case the roof blew off… I remember wondering if we were all supposed to camp out on the stairs! In the end the hurricane diverted and we escaped with just some strong winds and heavy rain but in those hours of waiting and wondering we saw the best and the worst of human nature; folk out checking their elderly neighbours, boarding up windows, ensuring that everyone had supplies of drinking water and basic foods, while others, unable to cope with the tension, literally drank themselves into the gutters of Chateaubelair. Now too, we see both panic buying and stock piling on one hand, and offers to help, to shop, to listen, to care on the other.
Because some things can’t be cancelled. Compassion cannot be cancelled, nor can friendship or faith or love or prayer. No virus can stop us offering worship to God (even if we can’t do it publicly in church buildings) or a listening ear to each other. So not everything has changed! Our small reflective prayer group was due to meet here at the manse this afternoon, but felt we had to cancel (not least because I have a horrible cold!) but our leader sent round some thoughts for us to focus on and I prepared the room as if they were coming and sent a photo of that… and we were joined together in spirit and in meditation.
This little angel, brought back from Chile years ago by a friend, sits on my kitchen windowsill every Lent and Advent. She/He used to be purple but has faded over the years. It is a daily reminder of the angels who ministered to Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11) and who are with us now in this wilderness. Angels can’t be cancelled either! May you know their presence however you are dealing with these difficult days, with love, Jill