When lock down started on the 23rd March I had these grand ideas that I was going to record a video blog – a vlog every week and post it up on all our social media platforms, to keep in contact with everyone. I’m so glad I didn’t as its seems every church minister and their dog also had the same idea, and now I can’t log onto Facebook or YouTube without being assailed by another pastor posting another video of their last service, or the thoughts about their next service, or general musings about the day. I daren’t log on today for fear of seeing yet another warm smiling vicar (usually someone I was at college with) sat in front of their impressive home library of theological books sharing another rich vignette of spiritual wisdom while they look slightly off camera!…. I know, I know ‘pot, kettle, black’ etc.
Stop! I’m being overloaded here – I’m drowning in a sea of video updates and well-meaning, warm smiling messages.
Its not just ministers – instead of a simple email, managers, lecturers, financial advisors – sending videos of themselves, saying aloud what they would have written; and instead of a phone call, it’s all zoom conferences and skype calls – and don’t get me started on Microsoft teams. The other night, the internet in the manse crashed because all of us were on zoom calls. I had to revert to using my mobile – no image, no video, no delay – just conversation – it was bliss and my eyes didn’t hurt afterwards.
I have a suspicion at what might be going on here: there is a heartfelt desire to connect with the people we love whom we are missing. Us ministers are strange breeds, generally we like folk (not only the music – that’s just me) and when we are disconnected from people, we lose something of ourselves.
But there’s also a sense of justifying our existence, I’ve been a Baptist minister for over 20 years and yet I still find myself explaining to people who’ve known me a long, long time that this is not a Sunday job, but a full life vocation.
Without Sunday morning services running as normal and the added spectre of furlough and reduced giving lurking, it’s a way of saying, ‘I’m still here and this is what I’m doing’, and for some it’s their way of saying, ‘Help’.
Perhaps I’m being unkind, but I suspect there’s some truth in this and I also hope you can see I’m also poking fun at myself.
I think we are learning something about the importance of connection, and how important it is to us. Connection goes deeper than contact: connection is at the heart of the biblical narrative of God and his creation. The ultimate sign of God’s connection was through Jesus, a living, breathing, laughing, crying person, but also God – that still does my head in, connecting with us ‘incarnationally’ – in flesh. A part of being made in God’s image is our need for connection. (If you’re anything like me as soon as you hear the word ‘connection’ you think of Justine Frischman & Elastica, what a tune).
This is my personal challenge this next week: to connect with more people through phone calls, personal cards and hopefully a sensible social-distanced chat on the street. Perhaps this could be your challenge too.
Don’t schedule a meeting, make a phone call.
Unplug your headphones and pick up the phone.
Stop typing and get writing with a pen.
Connect not contact!
See you ‘online’ on Sunday at 10:00