Finding connection — and hope — in the solitude of the pandemic
Winnipeg minister celebrates online efforts 'to lighten the burdens … to share the light'
It seems if there's something I'm learning during this pandemic, it's that we long for connection — connection to other humans, connection to place, connection to rituals, connection to our inner being (which may be the most difficult connection for some of us).
As a minister serving the congregation of Harrow United Church in Winnipeg, I get a front row seat to both the longing and the connecting.
I've been impressed with the adaptability of folks and the willingness (on the whole) of people to learn new ways of connecting.
Connecting to ritual — and creating new ones at the same time- Rev. Teresa Moysey
Back in March and April, I and others spent countless hours coaching people through getting connected on (video chat software) Zoom — landline telephone in one hand, computer, tablet or cellphone in the other — as we worked our way through it to that moment of "YES! I can see and hear you! Can you see and hear me?"
How many people surpassed their own and others' expectations in shows of perseverance and have been delightedly reaping the benefits ever since?
People long to be connected!
We connect for "coffee time" by Zoom on Sundays. We prepared simple kits with homemade playdough, candles and a booklet that were delivered to people's homes, so they could light the candles of Advent — the candles of hope, peace, joy and love as we progressed through the weeks leading up to Christmas.
I continue to receive feedback from people of all ages telling me how meaningful it has been — especially for those alone in their home — to light a candle and use the words that others use in their homes.
Connecting to ritual — and creating new ones at the same time.
I think of the senior in his 90s who connects regularly by phone with a whole host of others- Rev. Teresa Moysey
People who are not able to be part of our worshipping community in "normal times" — because of distance, mobility, work schedules, family responsibilities or other reasons — are incredibly grateful to connect through our online worship. They watch in the middle of the night or while preparing lunch or whatever works for them!
We are connecting with young families in our rhyme and storytime program, initially by creating weekly posts for Facebook and on our website. But recently we became aware of the longing for "real connection" that is missed by not gathering in person.
So, as chaotic as it can be, we now have a modest gathering on Zoom on Friday mornings as well — just to see other faces and squirmy bodies and to commiserate about the confines of a pandemic with little people in our households.
I think of the senior in his 90s who connects regularly by phone with a whole host of others, especially when he wants to alert them to a television special he thinks they would enjoy!
Then there is the young family asking if we could connect them with people in the neighbourhood who are living alone and could maybe use a bit of Christmas cheer — offering to set up an opportunity to drop by with two young children, dropping off handmade cards, chocolates and a carol sung from the sidewalk.
Joy and appreciation
We have received so many messages of joy and appreciation in response to these visits — and all we had to do was facilitate the connection!
Even in sorrow, grief, loneliness, anxiety or fear, some long to connect. It's why we will still held our longest night/blue Christmas service this year — by Zoom. It was, as always, a time to remember that we are not alone (though we may often feel like we are) and that others accompany us in the darkness, to lighten the burdens we carry, to share the light of even a few candles, on the longest night of the year.
When we invited people to send in a video clip of themselves to help us create a "share the light" post for social media, we had people connecting from New Hampshire, Taiwan, Pinawa and Waskada — and of course, Winnipeg!
Yes, if there's something I'm learning during this pandemic, it's that we long for connection.
CBC's Message of Hope is a series for Manitobans to share insights into keeping the faith and finding the hope during the challenges of the pandemic.