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The Coronavirus Diaries: An Extraordinary Experience

The Coronavirus Diaries: An Extraordinary Experience

Wednesday October 6

The Rev Gillean Maclean, minister of Scots Kirk Lausanne in Switzerland, looks back at 15 months in which life changed dramatically


On the evening of Friday March 13 2020, my husband and I sat in a local restaurant discussing the Covid situation and wondering what might happen over the coming days. Our meal was interrupted by a visit from the Swiss police, who carefully measured the distance between each table and checked that no table contained people from different households. The next morning everything was shut.

Since then life has changed dramatically. The rollercoaster of following regulations and, for us, as a couple, dealing with Covid-19 personally, has turned the last 15 months into quite an extraordinary experience.

We are now, I am happy to say, almost fully recovered from the virus and have been vaccinated in what was a typically Swiss efficient rollout of the same, albeit a little later than some countries.

The Scots Kirk in Lausanne is part of the International Presbytery of the Church of Scotland, which covers places as diverse as Bermuda and Colombo alongside many parts of Europe. Here in our small corner butting onto the countries of the European Union, the two Swiss Churches (Geneva and Lausanne), like many others, have found new and innovative ways of being. Online worship, while things were closed and later live-streaming and Zoom services, meetings and conversations became commonplace.

Lausanne has an international population, around 33% of whom come from places other than Switzerland.  Around 23 nationalities are represented in the congregation, some of whom are in Switzerland as refugees seeking settled status, making hospitality and pastoral care for those who are displaced or new to the country one of our main concerns.

With help from the EERV (Eglise Reformée Vaudoise) we were able to keep in touch with the safety regulations as they changed. Pastors of other denominations were keen to offer support with services and advice, which was gratefully received, and a measure of co-operative working has helped us all through the most difficult time.

Lausanne is a beautiful city and renowned for its stylish buildings and elegant and fitness-loving people. As testimony to this, some of the first businesses to re-open were the hairdressers and beauticians, and now that the restaurants have joined them café society is beginning to return to Lausanne amid a general sigh of relief.

However a note of caution is always in the air as we consider that a significant percentage (around 47% at the time of writing) of the Swiss population are not in favour of the vaccine and our hospitals are still under pressure treating those (largely unvaccinated) who have succumbed to the virus.

The introduction of Covid passports for most activities, including dining out, may well change this dynamic in a country where café society is almost as popular as Church seems to have been in the times when it was least accessible!


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The Coronavirus Diaries: reflections from Church of Scotland partners around the world

Bangladesh: Challenge and Opportunity
China: We Have Answered the Call
Zambia: Safety for All
South Africa: Resilience and Hope
Nigeria: Life is Gradually Coming Back
Nepal: Our Deadliest Enemy
Malawi: A Crisis That Will Not Go Away
Kenya: Covid is Real
Belgium: Some Silver Linings
South Africa: Will We Keep Listening?
Zimbabwe: Untold Sufferings
A Deep and Inconsolable Loss: Tribute to Phumzile Mabizela
Malawi: This Was Very Real
Sri Lanka: Daily Numbers are Shocking
Jerusalem: Virtual Prisoners
Bangladesh: We Will Survive by the Grace of God
Nepal: Exhausting and Often Heartbreaking
Malawi: God Has Been Faithful to Us
France: Thankful For What I Have
India: Love Your Neighbours
A Nigerian in Scotland: Alone But Not Lonely
Taiwan: When We Work Together, We Achieve the Best Results
Hungary: We Mourn Each Loss
Zambia: Preparing for the Vaccine, and a Third Wave
World Communion of Reformed Churches: The 'Covid and Beyond' Church
Pakistan: Passing the Light
Lebanon: The Lord Will Not Forsake Us
South Korea: 'It is Time For Christians to Hear the Marginalised'
Cuba: Keep Moving On
Canada: Cracks Have Been Exposed
Kenya: Leave No Child Behind
USA: Homes of Prayer
Mozambique: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
A Spaniard in Scotland: The Power of Movement
South Sudan: Being Positive
A Nigerian in Scotland: God is in Charge
Trinidad and Tobago: New Frontiers
Czech Republic: A Challenge for Everybody
Switzerland: An Outpouring of Solidarity and Creativity
The West Bank: A Landscape of Broken Dreams
Nepal: So Many Premature Goodbyes
Malawi: We Must Hold Each Other Close
Nigeria: A Fresh Spiritual Connectedness
Egypt: 'This Is A Time To Witness God'
Guyana: The Strength of our Connectedness
South Korea: A Harsh Reality
Zimbabwe: Convenience or a Wake-up Call?
Sri Lanka: Service is the Highest Form of Worship
USA: Testing Positive
Portugal: The Mission of the Church Has Not Changed
World Council of Churches: A New Dawn is Upon us
Hungary: Physically Distant but Close in Spirit
A German in Scotland: Something New Has Already Begun
Myanmar: We Will Overcome this Hardship
Ghana: This Too Shall Pass
Brazil: The Least We Can Do
Kenya: Caring for One Another in Christ
An Indian in Germany: A Time of Enrichment
Argentina: Time in Between
Malawi: 'My identity in Christ remains unchanged'
Jerusalem: Being Rather than Doing
Malawi: No Lockdown and an Election
Zambia: 'I will never leave you... or forsake you'
Czech Republic: The Covid Cover-up
Zambia: 'All Life is Sacred'
Israel/Palestine: 'The Air is Clear'
Nepal: 'Please Pray for Us'
Malawi: Tough Dilemmas
Italy: 'Together, We Will Get Through It'