We’re all well aware of the hardships people are going through right now, and the restrictions placed on us in the effort to keep as many people as possible safe. But this morning I don’t want to add to the laments; I want to list some of the things I’m thankful for during this challenging time. In no particular order, here they are.
I’m thankful that I don’t live alone—that I live with the woman I love, and she loves me, and we seem to be able to live in the same house without losing patience with each other.
I’m thankful that I’m relatively healthy, able to do my work and enjoy the simple pleasures I love—reading and writing, walking, bird watching, playing and listening to music, and keeping in touch with family and friends online.
I’m thankful that I see my children and grandchildren regularly—either in person with appropriate social distancing), or through the wonders of modern technology—and that they reach out to each other as well. We’re a together kind of family and we still seem to be together through all of this. I can also talk to my Mum in the UK on a regular basis, on FaceTime or on the phone.
And speaking of the wonders of modern technology, right now I’d be sunk without it, so I’m very thankful for it. It enables me to stay in touch with friends far and wide, to see their faces when we chat, and it also enables our St. Margaret’s family to stay together and to carry on with much of our life while we can’t meet physically.
I’m especially thankful that my brother and I are able to chat regularly on FaceTime—something we’ve been able to do for a long time, but somehow haven’t done a lot of until this virus came along. I’m also grateful for the video chats I’ve had with friends in different places around the world, people I’ve been in touch with for a long time but somehow never thought before of talking face to face via video technology.
I’m more thankful than I can possibly express for the group of praying people, from St. Margaret’s and beyond, who have formed around our daily Facebook services of Morning Prayer and Night Prayer. In April an average of 12 each morning and 17 each night have been coming together to pray in this way. I’m grateful for Susan Ormsbee who shares in the leadership of these daily services with me. They are truly the great sheet anchor of my day, keeping me close to God and to fellow Christians.
I’m grateful to all the amazing people in my parish of St. Margaret’s, Edmonton, who appear to have made a collective decision not to let this thing beat us, but to do all we can to be a strong and vibrant community of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. For those who join us in Sunday worship online—for those who have looked after our church building through basement floods—for the grounds team who have now begun their work of keeping the property looking beautiful and loved—for our churchwardens and treasurer and the leadership they provide—for those who have been contacting people on our parish list by phone and computer to make sure everyone is okay and keep our community together—for my amazing admin assistant Lori who goes above and beyond the call of duty again and again and somehow manages to do it all in six hours a week (so she says!!!)—for those who gather for our midweek Bible study groups on Zoom—for other little virtual gatherings that take place—for the incredible generosity of our members (our April envelope offerings were above budget, even though a few people have had to cut back)—for the many people who have sent me thank-you emails for the online services and other things we do—for the very special parishioners who make a point of reaching out to me to make sure I’m doing okay (you know who you are).
I’m also grateful for my clergy colleagues in the Diocese of Edmonton, who inspire me by their willingness to be stretched, to learn new ways of doing things, and to go the second mile, and the third, and the twenty-third—really, to do all they can to continue to lead and care for their parish communities. Sisters and brothers, you are truly awesome. And so are you, Bishop Jane!
I’m grateful for the worldwide music community, for all the people who have been doing online concerts on Facebook to keep in touch with their fans—for being able to sit in my living room last Wednesday and listen to Matthew Byrne, one of my favourite traditional folk singers, coming to us from his living room in Newfoundland—and for the local musicians who have been posting videos of their favourite songs in and effort to reach out and encourage each other.
I’m grateful for good books to read, nourishing books, written by authors with worthwhile things to say. I love reading and I’m so glad I can enjoy it in this difficult time. I’m also grateful for people like Jennifer Ehle, who has been reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ aloud on social media, and Patrick Stewart who has been reading one of Shakespeare’s sonnets every day!
And speaking of social media, yes, Facebook and Twitter have their dark side (and I’ve blocked and un-followed a lot of sites these last few weeks), but I have to say I’ve also experienced a whole lot of love and inspiration from the people I meet there since this pandemic began to change our lives. Thank you all!
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I want to finish by saying that although this has been a stressful time (and I’ve been feeling the symptoms of stress in my body), it’s also been a timer when I’ve been very much aware of God’s presence. The psalms refer to God as ‘our Rock’ in times of trouble, and I am definitely experiencing God like that, especially through our daily Morning Prayer and Night Prayer services. I leave them each day with a sense of being grounded, of deep peace, and of the closeness of God in my heart and the hearts of those I’ve prayed with.
So yes—lots of stress, lots of challenges, lots of sadness, but also many, many things to be thankful for.