A very different Christmas, as the booklet handed out at St Jude’s, Ballynafeigh and other churches says.
It was also my first in St Jude’s, where I moved from Greenisland Presbyterian Church in November, delayed a week by a period of self-isolation, which is a frustrating business. Our friends came through for us, finding things where Sainsbury’s offbeat substitutions (no own brand puff pastry sheets, so here’s a shortcrust pastry sheet instead?) had let us down. We had had to self-isolate in March as well, but we’ve stayed well throughout. I’ve been at work most of the rest of time – our friends Phiip and Lucy lent us their cottage at Torr Head for two weeks in September, and while Jo was furloughed for much of it, the relief of my going to work kept the rhythm of time going, and Jo was kept busy doing Art Journalling Zoom sessions with Art Therapy students and cooking Thursday night dinners for friends.
So yes, so far our families are untouched by Covid. We know too many friends who have been affected, thankfully very few suffering from what is now known as “Long Covid.”
The closure of churches for five months was difficult for someone who lives and breathes music and had very few outlets for that period of time, but I had to look at it from the other side. I can’t turn up in church and play piano, what can I do to serve God? I contributed a couple of thoughts for the day to Greenisland, sang and played djembe for the Irish Blessing, and contributed in other ways to Greenisland’s online services. From August, I helped Jonny Weston and the AV crew at Willowfield with their evening camera work.
Greenisland has been very kind to us over the last seven years, and it wasn’t an easy decision to move on, but one which I was sure, after praer and the prayer of others, was right. We experienced so much generosity, and I now have a Lego stormtrooper helmet on top of my Lego grand piano. I’m finding my feet in St Jude’s, including navigating how to hold a Covid Carol Service, and seeing how others have approached the same problems of social distancing.
I did get to sing one of my own songs, but the December circuit breaker meant that there wasn’t time to teach it to the rest of St Jude’s music group. The video is at the top of this post – I wrote the song back in 2018, and brought the first draft to Greenisland’s choir an hour later, and the second draft, with bridge, a week later. I will teach it to the rest of the group later!
I’ve also started doing Lego videos, including my Christmas lego on our new longer dining table (a leg fell off the old one!). Jo has also started doing baking videos – so far, she’s done flakemeal biscuits and cinnamon shortbread, with more to come. I’m learning to use Adobe Premiere Pro quickly, using skills learned years ago on CoolEdit Pro (now Adobe Audition).
We spent Christmas Day quietly in the end – church in the morning, then just the two of us, Bonnie and Clyde for the rest of the day, finding out how little was on television. We took a little time out to record this Facebook live video:
Merry Christmas, everyone. Remember that we all need each other, that we are not alone, and that maintaining community requires intentionally keeping in touch with each other.
God bless, and let’s live in hope of a better 2021.