Being together, apart
As we all figure out what the ‘new normal’ looks like, World Vision’s Nina Castree explores ways of being together with those who are outside our bubbles.
Like many of the world’s workers, the team at World Vision UK have been working from home for the past three months – probably more by the time you read this.
Amongst our team there are some who live alone, some living with family and others living in house-shares. Some have loved ones just around the corner and others live in different towns and often different countries to our families. Some of us are home-schooling, some are shielding, some are discovering wonderful new ways of life in lockdown.
We have all kinds of different stories but one of the things we all have in common is that we need to connect with other humans in a meaningful way.
In life before the COVID-19 outbreak, our team would meet together regularly to sing, pray and share times of spiritual reflection but, though we long more than ever to pray together, the current reality has thrown everything that felt normal out of the window.
I’m sure this is true for you too?! Modern technology has really been a lifeline for us at World Vision (and for me personally). It has enabled us to move our weekly staff devotions and daily small groups online and we have been praying together every day at 4pm. Our worship band have even been recording worship songs from their homes for us to enjoy (I've included one of the band's videos above - maybe you'll enjoy it too!).
Moments of sanctuary
There is plenty about doing life online that isn’t ideal. I’ve never had to think about what my home looks like before I head to work, what’s behind me as I sit at my desk or who might be wandering around in the background.
I was recently recording a part for a one of our virtual worship songs and, halfway through the recording, our 12-week-old kitten, Luna, (pictured looking innocent above), decided to claw her way up my leg … and I was wearing shorts! If you watch that video very closely a small grimace is just about detectible.
But kitten claws aside, I really find these moments of digital togetherness to be a kind of sanctuary because, regardless of whether I am thriving or only just surviving under lockdown, as I hear about other people’s stories and reflections I realise that I am not alone. Whatever I am feeling, there is always someone who understands. When I have run out of words to pray with, someone else will find just the right ones. If I am feeling low on hope, someone else will have some and sometimes it rubs off on me. If it’s been a while since I saw a friendly face, there is always one on the screen to greet me.
Church leaders’ café
It’s this kind of fellowship and community that’s really needed at the moment. My colleague Leona Day (pictured below, with two cafe members) told me about a project we were recently involved in with Alpha, bringing church leaders together in fellowship and support:
“Over the course of four weeks, 140 leaders from 39 countries attended sessions of a virtual Church Leaders’ Café – meeting, sharing experiences, learning and praying together.
"The daily sessions demonstrated to me that as you draw closer to your fellow man through regular meeting, you'll also draw closer to God. By displaying fellowship with your brethren and loving your neighbour as yourself, you show the Lord your devotion."
"One youth leader in Pakistan asked for resources, as he wanted new ways to engage his youth. Another attendee volunteered to host café sessions as he enjoyed the opportunity to share the word of God with fellow leaders, daily.
"This space has been a blessing for leaders, as they worked through new issues raised by lockdown, including worries about believers not getting the pastoral care they need, how to support people who aren’t digitally connected, and new expectations from the Church. It was an honour supporting and listening to leaders around the world process these times and praise God in the midst.”
“wired for connection”
I’m a huge fan of researcher and author, Brené Brown. She has made it her life’s work to listen to people’s stories and to figure out what moves us and motivates us; and one of the most powerful things she has learned from hearing thousands of stories is that we are “wired for connection”. Brené writes:
We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, be loved, and to belong...
We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.
It’s not just modern research that reminds us of the value of connection, though; in the Bible we read that:
This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.
- Hebrews 10:25, TPT
The writer of Hebrews encourages Jesus-followers to connect with each other even, and perhaps especially, when it feels difficult, dangerous, or pointless to do so. Why? Because we need each other to thrive. What an enormous challenge this is as we adapt to living in a global pandemic!
Learning to reach out, while staying in
Let’s be honest, a virtual meeting will never be quite as meaningful as seeing a friend or loved one in the flesh and I certainly need to be careful about how much time I spend looking at a screen. I have had to learn (and I am still learning) what balance looks like in this new world and there are times when the best way for me to feel connected to myself, God and the world is to get outside and to breathe in some fresh air. That said, I simply can’t imagine how much harder lockdown would have been without technology and I thank God for it every day.
When we meet with each other – even virtually – we are reminded that we are a part of something that stretches much further than the room that our computer lives in. So, until we meet again, may the Lord bless you and give you peace.
Share your experiences with our online community. What are your favourite online social groups or new ways you’re keeping in touch? Share your group call wins (and fails!) and let’s stay connected.