by John-Peter Gernaat
The period of lockdown experienced in South Africa has induced the community to think of other ways of connecting around the experience of the contemplations that our priests in South Africa have provided to their respective congregation and have been shared with us all. There have been other gatherings that are of importance to our religious life that had to find a new way of taking place. The monthly Reading for Those Who Have Died being one.
The lockdown started on the eve of the scheduled monthly Reading for Those Who Have Died in March. A decision was immediately taken to attempt to hold this important gathering on the online platform Zoom. The format of the gathering is to come together and with the ringing of a bell and the lighting of a candle clearly announce our intention. In the first Zoom gathering, a number of technicalities had to be ironed out before we could focus our attention and intention to our purpose. Each person lit their personal candle and express their own intention and a bell was improvised.
The initial impetus came from Susan Goslett to arrange a Community Gathering on Zoom during Holy Week as a way to help land the experience of connecting at a distance with the Act of Consecration of Man. These gatherings were held an hour after the Act of Consecration of Man commenced and used a format that has been well established in our Community Gatherings when our priest has been absent on a Sunday. Each person lights their own candle and then one person reads the Gospel Reading of the day/week; someone else reads the contemplation provided by a priest; we open the time to share thoughts on the Reading and the Contemplation; someone reads the Creed and we all say the Lord's Prayer together and we then open to a general conversation.
These Gatherings have accompanied the Services in Holy Week, Easter and the weeks following Easter into Ascension and will continue through Whitsun after which Sunday Services will resume. We have continued the Reading for Those Who Have Died online in April and May and Reingard shared the Ascension Epistle, which is seldom heard by the whole congregation because the festival is so short, in a Zoom gathering. We have been joined in these online gatherings by members of our community from as far afield as Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Morgan Bay. The older members of our community have found ways of engaging with this new technology through grandchildren or neighbours to join in the online meetings.
A realisation is emerging that there is great value in connecting with our scattered community using technology and it has a way of uniting us around a common purpose and enables us to share thoughts that we would otherwise never hear when we limit ourselves to in-person gatherings. As lockdown is being eased in South Africa and in-person services resume the use of new technologies will continue to be used to connect our community and retain the sense of gathering as a community for the renewal of the religious life.
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