Stories from Lockdown 5 - Every cloud has a silver lining

Published on: 26th February 2021


As part of our series of stories from across our Diocese, we have asked people to share a reflection and their experiences of living through the pandemic. Here is the story of Revd Stephanie Fountain, Assistant Archdeacon of Ludlow and Priest in Charge of the Ridgeway Benefice as well as Rural Dean of Clun Forest Deanery:

You might recall ‘Q’ ( played by Ben Wishaw) saying to 007 at the beginning  of Skyfall,  that he could do more damage on his laptop sitting in his pyjamas waiting for his  Earl Grey, than Bond could do in a year out in the field. I don’t know about damage, but I am full of excitement about the possibilities of the internet, and grateful for  the ways in which  it has helped me serve my congregations and reach new people during lockdown.

I have discovered all sorts of things which my computer can do, that I was previously unaware of. Being able to pre-record assemblies for our local primary school has been a real blessing.  Zoom meetings were initially a huge help, and they have saved no end in travel expenses, but they are a bit of a mixed blessing. There are so many things which you can’t pick up from just seeing a face on a screen.

The internet is not perfect by any means, but for me there has been an enormous sense of liberation in lockdown. I’ve been set free from my normal working life and routine to really experiment and , (dare I say it), play with different ways of reaching people. I’ve enjoyed the challenge, and the opportunity to be really creative.

In the first lockdown, I suddenly found I had enough time to really develop our website, something I had been thinking about for some time.  So, it now has a Learning Zone, with courses for those who are exploring their faith for the first time, or wanting to expand their knowledge though lectures and biblical resources. I realised that people were going to need lots of different prayer resources  to use at home,  and hymns and other worship music. It was been a delight to have the time to research all that, and to have the pick of some world class scholars and musicians on YouTube.  

The worship I have been able to put together Sunday by Sunday has been really enriched by these additional resources. For example, at  Pentecost I found some fantastic clips of a Sephardic Jewish  group, Yamma Ensemble, singing Psalm 104 in ancient Hebrew... together with another clip of people from all over the world saying the Lord’s Prayer in their own languages. The ‘sermon slot’ was Dr Paula Gooder delivering an excellent talk at St Paul’s Cathedral about the Holy Spirit. Not your usual Sunday experience in Hereford Diocese!

I also set about building an online presence for our benefice on Facebook; and soon found I had created a virtual church. To my astonishment and joy I found I was able to reach all sorts of people who would not normally come to church regularly. Many of them are a lot younger than our normal congregation too. I think that this way of connecting has been successful because it can be very interactive. It’s also something which people can access at any time of the day or night.

Our worship has been enriched by lots of different people taking part and talking about their own lives and concerns, which we support in prayer. On Mothering Sunday service last year included one of our local Midwives, who I encouraged to post a clip of herself talking about her work. The fact that she was expecting her first child also gave her an opportunity to reflect on her own hopes and fears as an expectant Mum. When her baby was born, we were all delighted to see her post her first photos, and be kept updated about his progress.  A young professional violinist posted a performance he had recorded specially for us  for Easter Sunday, and as he has struggled to find work over this period, we have been able to support him.

Every cloud has a silver lining... and despite the current difficulties, we do have much to celebrate and be thankful for. 

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