Ten ways faith communities are being hit hard

The Covid-19 shutdowns are reminding many of us how much of religious practice involves community interaction.

Yes, personal practice is also essential – we could easily build a list of ten examples – but it blossoms and bears fruit in our interactions.

Here are ten ways those are being impacted by coronavirus.

  1. Communal worship. It’s a coming together in celebrating and compassion. For now, we’re coping with a substitute, one without the touches of shaking hands, hugging, or kissing. We’re not even in the same room.
  2. Streaming our services. Across congregations, we’re finding this to be a mixed bag. It’s definitely not the same as being together in person, but members who live at a distance or recovering from illness or suffering chronic debilitating conditions are welcoming the opportunity to be better connected again. Attendance for morning vespers or the like is also up.
  3. Pastoral visits. Hospitals, especially. Pastors, priests, ministers, rabbis, and other leaders deeply miss being able to comfort those in pain or be with those who are dying, especially.
  4. Funerals and memorial services. On hold, when family and friends could feel the support the most.
  5. Weddings. Baptisms, too?
  6. Choirs. It’s more than just making harmony together, though you do come to feel a special kinship with your fellow singers.
  7. Committees. OK, we are continuing via Zoom, maybe more than ever. But it’s more awkward, and I miss sharing the snacks.
  8. Study groups. This can be done online, but it’s less personally revealing and interactive.
  9. Church suppers and soup kitchens. There’s a reason that Jesus and the disciples are always eating in the New Testament. As one rabbi I know explains, it’s because they were Jewish. Let’s honor our connections through food, when we can.
  10. Festivals and other fundraisers. These require advance planning and working together. Again, food’s often involved and sometimes ethnic identities, too. My favorite ones feature dancing, and that leads to joining hands.

I do want to mention a renewed appreciation for the medieval tradition of anchorites, women who lived in isolation in the church tower itself and prayed unceasingly for the members’ well-being. These days, their writings seem especially meaningful.

OK, there’s no bingo on my list. What else am I missing?

And now, gardening is all the rage

In this time of social distancing and shelter-in-place, many of us would go stir crazy if we couldn’t get out for long walks. Seeing so many other people also out strolling – with or without their dogs – has been a bright side of our lives lately.

Where we live, a highlight of those treks has often come in checking out others’ gardens, landscaping, and flowerbeds. I don’t know about you who live in apartment complexes or high-rise developments, but I’m curious. Maybe something out on the deck, if you have one?

These days, I’m seeing a lot of raised garden beds going in. Fresh wood, reminding me of the time we were just getting started here. (Some of my earliest posts told of the reasons for raised beds when dealing with northern New England’s clay soils.) You’ve no doubt heard the stories of folks who have recently decided to grow their own food in the face of Covid-19.  Maybe you’re even one of them. Part of it, of course, is a concern about breakdowns in our food-supply system or even long lines just to enter the supermarket. Another might even be boredom, as in give me something new to do. From questions we’ve been getting from neighbors and passers-by, they’re really green and in for a lot of surprises, some of them harsh disappointment but a few real treats, too.

We could see this coming when some of our favorite seed catalogs announced they were running out of supplies and would not be selling to new customers; they felt it crucial to serve their longstanding commercial growers first and foremost, followed by their devoted regulars. Fair enough, that’s long-term loyalty. At least, seasoned as we are, we had our orders well in hand by mid-February.

As you know, gardening is a staple of the merry-go-round here at the Barn, but my posts aren’t the detailed advice kind for beginners – more just a taste of the experience, no pun intended. I’m hoping many of the neophytes will discover those of you who post expertly on growing and harvesting. You’re such an encouragement, truly.

Maybe we’ll get them in for the long haul, too, when it comes to things like composting (remember, those two cute bunnies you’ve been seeing featured here are big helps on that front … plus they prompt me to weed daily, just to keep them supplied in greens, which they then convert into their little composter pellets).

And, I should note, we just installed a new colony in our beehive and are anxiously waiting to see it the queen takes hold. If all goes well, our honeybees will be tending pollen in gardens in a radius of up to five miles.

Should we warn people what a few tomato plants can lead to?

Zoom? Ten takes on group meetings online

By now, you’ve probably had your fill of Zoom or GoToMeeting or Skype. (Any others I haven’t heard of?) They’ve become inescapable, it seems, and essential.

Here are ten takes from my end.

  1. We don’t look good, folks. Everybody looks older. More wrinkled. Distorted, too. (There are reasons actors use so much makeup!)
  2. We spend too much time on trying to figure out what we’re doing. It’s not just the agenda, but mostly about getting settled, figuring out who’s “here,” and tweaking our settings. It’s a real problem when we have only 40 minutes total.
  3. Tech confusion. Are you muted or not, why isn’t this or that working, that sort of thing.
  4. Remembering to cover or uncover the camera
  5. We sound wobbly. That, and all the awkward pauses and unintentional interruptions. Oh, yes, and all the ambient noise if a group is mostly unmuted.
  6. The moderator is very important. Though trying to chair a meeting and simultaneously man the controls is a bit much. We really need a “producer” for that.
  7. Selecting who’s to speak next. Do we raise a hand to the camera or press the little hand button instead? How about the Chat function? Are we unmuted? This gets difficult once the group gets bigger than a handful and the moderator has to keep scanning the panels that were offscreen.
  8. We get to “visit” in others’ homes. Often, the scene is an individual’s dining area or study, but we’ve also been outdoors on a porch and down in the cellar (which looked and sounded more like an Apollo space mission). It’s been fun seeing other sides of our friends this way, though often the lighting’s not so hot. (See Point 1.)
  9. Remembering to “attend.” Or to send the invitation out to all in time. Somehow, we’re losing track of time, even the day of the week, in this self-isolation.
  10. Doesn’t work as well on smart phones or tablets. No, you really do need a laptop, PC, or large screen for optimal control.

What stands out from your encounters?