It's all incredibly quiet. Like someone has pressed 'hibernate' on the world. Out at 5pm yesterday cycling around Yeovil, there were more bikes than cars on the roads.
Everything else is making it up as we go along. Last weeks big challenge was pulling together a contacts list at both churches. This weeks is reacting to the almost daily changes in guidance. First we could do weddings with 5 people max as well as funerals and baptisms. Then the weddings and baptisms went but funerals were still ok, now there's a complete shutdown. I'm not even supposed to go into my own churches to pray, let alone to stream live worship. However the government guidance is more relaxed than that issued by the Archbishops. But since the government website was updated only today - and it doesn't tell you what was updated - I don't know if the relaxation is a new thing since we were instructed to lock the doors.
So from looking at how to deliver live streamed worship, with music, from our church building, it will probably be yours truly at home, with a nice picture covering the normal chaos of my study and doubling as a passable background. We're probably going to save Communion for Easter Day, and prime people over the next 2 weeks to get supplies in. In the meantime we're working on a 'worship at home' pack which can be emailed out, and posted to those without email, with all the Sunday liturgies, resources for daily prayer, contact details, and palm crosses for those who are getting the deliveries.
The volunteer response picture is changing by the day. All sorts of groups have sprung up around Yeovil, so the NHS initiative is encouraging, it's important to have a co-ordinated effort rather than a patchwork of groups which will never reach every corner of society, and may end up duplicating. Having said that, we're assembling a list of offers of help, and have had 4 households in touch so far, including a 99 year old. A member of our church with a health condition was told today she'd next be allowed out on 25th June, so she's been stockpiling wool in order to knit her way through the next quarter.
We've managed to produce a daily diet of podcasts, thoughts for the day, a couple of 'virtual assemblies' and a very moving and peaceful Compline service put together by our associate Vicar. This Sunday will be live streamed from here, but we've scheduled the sermon (pre-recorded by one of our trainee preachers and incorporated into a video) to pop up on the Youtube channel during the service, so people can pause the livestream and switch to the sermon if they want to.
Speaking to a couple tomorrow who are due to get married in July. I have no idea what to say, no idea how to plan for it. It's hard to have to postpone a wedding, but it's even harder if people die, I think we're suddenly finding lots of things that we can do without if we suddenly put our minds to it.
The word floating round my head at the moment is 'Sabbath'. The account of the exile of God's people in 2 Chronicles speaks of the land 'enjoying a sabbath rest' for all the years it had hosted the Israelites without them faithfully worshipping God. It ended up lying fallow for decades. There's something about this moment that feels like the planet is breathing a deep, silent sigh of relief. The planes are on the ground, the cars and cruise liners are parked, the ferocious consumerism (food aside) has suddenly stopped, we are back to basics: food, home, health, communication. I have often wondered if God builds 'failsafe' mechanisms into the world, so that if we over-reach ourselves they kick in to stop things getting too far out of balance.
Prior to the modern age, the question was never 'how can God allow this suffering' it was 'how can we ever deserve God's mercy'. Rather than assuming we were in the right and God was in the wrong, it was the other way round. The response to tragedy was to question ourselves first, rather than outsource blame to God. The unreflected life is not worth living, is this enough of a wake up call to get us asking the right questions? Coronavirus is not the end of the world, but if it's the end of a way of life that would have led to the end of the world, then we might look back on 2020 as a turning point.