SUBSCRIBE TODAY

Try a six month print or digital Life and Work subscription

Home  >  Features  >  The Coronavirus Diaries: Covid Cloud Has 'Some Silver Linings'

Features

The Coronavirus Diaries: Covid Cloud Has 'Some Silver Linings'

The Coronavirus Diaries: Covid Cloud Has 'Some Silver Linings'

Wednesday July 28

 

In this week’s Coronavirus Diary, David Lloyd, an elder at Brussels: St Andrew’s, explains why the pandemic has been a time of learning.

 

IN Belgium the Covid-19 lockdown came quickly and suddenly, like a heavy fog that came from nowhere.  Life went from normal to unusual during the morning of Friday March 13 2020. 

By Friday evening, normally roads busy with rush-our traffic were silent and people were wondering what would come next.  No one knew that our first lockdown, and the Covid crisis, would last so long.

Church services were one of the first casualties but at St Andrew’s we have the benefit of having an experienced video journalist in our congregation.  With our minister, he quickly produced an online service that had its first broadcast two days after lockdown started and has gone out every week since. 

As lockdown dragged on, people became more isolated as they worked and lived at home.  We all missed the regular contacts we had with friends and family, and with the church.  The weekly online service became a way or worshipping together even though it was a prerecorded service.  We later added regular Zoom after service gatherings to allow people to catch up and broaden their virtual social life.

Economic and other consequences began to bite.  Some people were put on restricted hours (and income) and others lost their jobs.  People receiving medical treatment for serious or chronic conditions felt more anxious as hospitals began to fill with Covid patients.  We have been lucky in Belgium that hospitals have been able to segregate Covid wards from others so that regular medical treatment could continue, but people have been concerned about picking up the virus when they already have health issues.

People needed to be able to talk about concerns and worries, especially if they were living alone.  Our pastoral care groups made regular calls to members of the congregation to ensure that they were not getting ‘cabin fever’ or having other worries or just needed someone to talk to.

Summer 2020 brought a temporary truce and we could mix more freely and meet people outdoors, in cafes and other public spaces.  It was not to last: the summer holiday period ended with rapidly increasing numbers and lockdown was reimposed.  The vaccine programme started, but very slowly because of limited supplies of vaccines.

In July 2021 restrictions have been eased once more and we can now meet family and friends.  Worship in church has restarted although with some restrictions on numbers, although our online services continue for those who cannot come to church.  The vaccine programme has made good progress and should be completed by early September.

Encouraging though this is, Belgium has recently faced other problems.  Climate change has resulted in increasing summer temperatures.

More recently, excessive rainstorms led to devastating floods in eastern Belgium, with many lives lost and many homes destroyed. The recovery and rebuilding will take years. 

Our church plans to hold a Climate Service in October, which will involve most groups in the church to inform our congregation of the urgent issues raised in the run-up to the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (COP26) later this year.

For all the problems Covid has brought, the cloud has had some silver linings.

Churches, like ours, learned quickly how to run online worship.  It has had the unexpected benefit of reaching people in Belgium and in other countries who would not normally come to church and so is supporting the Church of Scotland’s ‘mission’ strategy.  Online worship is here to stay and is giving us new opportunities to take the Good News outside the walls of our church.

The way we work has changed forever.  Gone are the days of spending five days a week in the office.  Many Belgian organisations are implementing the 60/40 rule of 60% homeworking and 40% working in the office.  It has ecological, economic, and social benefits.

For me this has been a time of learning: learning to work effectively from home, learning to help people at a distance and making sure that that they know that we as a church are still there for them. 

It has been a time when the church has rethought of how it serves people and has responded well to the challenge the pandemic has brought.  We have learned a lot that we as a church family can build on in the months ahead, both in terms of caring and supporting our congregation and in how we reach out to those outside our church walls.

......................................................................................................................................................

 

Subscribe to Life and Work in digital or print here