Val Riches describes her life as a Parish priest during Covid 19 lockdown.
First week of lockdown I was faced with a funeral on the Friday – what could I do, what was expected of me? This was followed closely by Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter. This Easter I identified more with the disciples choosing to stay inside with the doors locked for fear of death and the beautiful moment when Jesus comes into their midst offering Peace.
I hoped that had been something of a reality for us in our bubbles.
All the Easter events usually required a lot from me re planning and leading services of very different kinds. This year I was at home in my bubble wondering how I could offer care and leadership without any of the usual norms.
And then the journey on the road to Emmaus and they were amazed he hadn’t heard about the events – and I reflected how strange it would be to meet someone who hadn’t heard about the effect of the virus on the world as our new was dominated by dramatic figures of the virus spreading. My sister-in-law lives in northern Italy and was undergoing treatment for breast cancer – somehow she has weathered the storm – while her husband and two sons were stuck in NZ not able to return.
Then the nation celebrated ANZAC and it was amazing how people really committed themselves to it and made their own place a sacred place of remembrance.
I reflected ANZAC may have meant more to many people this year than previous years when they simply turned up to attend a service – they had to think about what they were going to do and make it happen at their own place. I hoped that that had also been true of Easter for us – creating a holy place at home to make meaning of the Easter season for ourselves.
A great deal of work continued on line and I got a shock how tired I was after a day in front of the computer monitor!! However I love were I am and enjoyed time with my animals and feel a little fitter over this time. I don’t like to imagine what it is like for people for whom their home is not a safe space or crowded or unpleasant in any way. I think of the people in Spain who for weeks weren’t even allowed
of their houses and give thanks for the beauty of this place.
Now we are in Level two. And this level feels full of uncertainty. The hardest level so far for me. I am thankful for the wisdom of our leaders not to start church as yet. When we gather we want to build community and sing – both high risk. In the meantime we can pray, read, share on line so we aren’t missing anything. I now have a funeral in level two – which has been permitted up to 50 people – and as a church we have to meet the health and safety requirements. I am glad we are not having to do this on Sunday and I am sad that church attendance has become a political football amongst some of our countries leaders.
So many things have stopped in our churches over level 4 – what will/should restart? How will it be different? In some ways level 4 has propelled us into changes that were waiting in the wings, however as we leave behind how we always did things there is grief. Where is a safe place to reflect and support each other in this times of uncertainty and unknowing. The grace of God is leading us on to new land – have we the courage to be open to it? For so many of us things that we took for granted are no longer. We have had to cope with drought as well as lock down so both showering and shopping are carefully considered and when my daughter brought over a fresh loaf of bread and cabbage and a couple of carrots for Mothers Day I was thrilled.
I smiled to think of how different they are to the old box of chocolates or flowers and how much more delighted I was!!!!
Val is the Vicar of Morrinsville in the Waikato. She is a tikanga Pakeha Councillor for the Anglican Women’s Studies Centre.