I am currently sitting in the quiet of my son’s home in Devon. It is a lovely barn conversion in a coastal hamlet, only metres from the hotel he manages. It is secluded and it is silent, other than bird song, and I am enjoying the spectacular views and a much needed retreat from parish life. At last it is time to pause and time to breathe, time to pull down that oxygen mask.
When I returned to work last September, following seven months of sick leave, suffering from acute PTSD, if I’m totally honest with myself, trying to ease myself back in gradually didn’t really work. Why? Because during my absence, COVID had changed everything. It soon became very apparent as I stepped back into ministry that I would have to do things very differently from the way I had previously.
‘Live’ worship had just been permitted once more, but with many adjustments and restrictions to implement. And then before I knew it, I was fully immersed in the organising of a socially distanced Harvest celebration and an Act of Remembrance for the village. This was swiftly followed by the task of preparing for new ways of offering Advent and Christmas services. We managed to conduct all our usual face to face worship over Christmas including an alternative Crib Service and even an online Carol Service!
Each Sunday morning since mid November we have broadcast a service of Morning Prayer through our Facebook page. This has then been followed by a live, face to face service in church. Each week there have been new PowerPoint presentations to prepare for the 10.45am Holy Communion and uploads onto our website and Facebook. From the beginning Lent to Pentecost (fourteen weeks) we also facilitated a midweek reflection and faith discussion, via Zoom for anyone who wanted to join us.
Since 12th April things have ramped up further as people, quite understandably, have been getting in touch on a fairly constant basis, to arrange much delayed memorial services, burials of ashes, baptisms and weddings, which is wonderful, but which has put this vicar’s head in a total whirl.
I am sure that my experience is echoed by clergy all over the country. It’s definitely not the Sunday job many envisage it to be! Add to this the trauma of moving my dad into residential care and clearing his house during March and April and it’s no wonder that I need a little bit of space!
I am so grateful for the time I have this week to step out and to reflect not only upon where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing over the past year, but also where I’m going and my plans for the future as we move forward, hopefully back into something that resembles normality.
I think we all know and accept now that it may not be the ‘normal’ we knew pre COVID, that it may well be a new kind of normal, but hopefully things will eventually even out and be less frenetic for the many people, in a wide variety of professions who have been just been called to do things differently.