Coronavirus has forced us all to make massive changes to our way of living and I have never found myself so grateful for the new technology which is allowing school to still happen.
Through the use of google we have set up classrooms and post work for the pupils to access and return for marking. Teachers have been in their classrooms at lesson time to answer questions and support the pupils. A few hiccups aside, I have to say it has all worked remarkably well. We have discovered the use of Screen castify and have been busy recording assemblies, reading class novels and recording instructions for lessons. It has been reassuring to talk to the pupils in this way and I have enjoyed creating these short clips - after all I always wanted to be Aunty Mabel from ‘Come outside ‘ and now is my chance! She had a Tibetan terrier called Pippin who appeared in every story. I can only offer two cats called Polly and Stewie but they have been very ‘helpful’, making cameo appearances at meetings and stepping across the keyboard during my maths lesson- creating a very interesting answer!
I have been amazed at how I have adapted to the use of this technology and more importantly not panicked! New technology usually has me panicking and getting unreasonably annoyed very quickly - but in the current situation this is not an option. I did have a tricky moment on Tuesday when the Wifi wouldn’t play and I couldn’t take part in a meeting, but these trying times certainly help you to re evaluate and reflect on what is important and after a calming walk I returned and followed that great advice of switching it off and on again! Since then, ‘Mr Wifi’ has been very well behaved.
It has been a joy to receive work from the pupils, along with photos and video clips of what they are doing. Being able to see them has made all the difference and taking part in google meets with colleagues has also been a great reassurance that life is managing to continue with some degree of normality.
These are tricky times for us all and the uncertainty is causing us concern and anxiety, but for the first time in my life, I think I can say I am truly thankful to be living in this technological age where remote access to our family, friends and work colleagues is possible. I am also proud of how so many of us are adapting to this change. However, this sudden change in our way of life has confirmed how much I want to be a normal teacher, working face to face with pupils and colleagues. It is important that we all follow the rules and stay safe at this time, but I think it is also important we look forward to life returning to normal and be thankful for it when it does.
Alan and I have been making a great start to the church work. So, does that mean I have to take all my lambing ewe’s home to the front room? Ugh can you imagine the mess. Not sure Robbie, my robot hoover, would cope.
No, for me it meant half of my work had to stay in place and the church part came home. Sunday was odd. Hearing of Alan’s antics over the week of his sermon recordings, I was very impressed to see his face not a pile of books! But it marked the beginning of something new. Something none of us had ever experienced before. It was quite some time ago I began to answer my call, but never did I see it come via video on the web. Yes, that’s right I too am roped, or maybe dragged, into this video recording church service. My first comment was, I’ll need to make sure I don’t have any straw in my hair! So be sure not to laugh too much when you find the homepage of the Church website with a video of me.
I did leave the ewes in the lambing shed you will be pleased to hear. Oblivious to the pandemic the ‘girls’ glory on with their day. Eat, sleep, eat, eat some more and then sleep again. It’s a hard life being a sheep. I have found over my years with Michael, that if nothing else, the farm always endures. I find peace in the security. I see a lot of our Lord’s work in the farm and the places it takes me to. The miracle of life is prevalent right now. Not a day goes past that I don’t witness or assist the bringing of life. I feel blessed in that place. He is with me while I am there.
The children are of course now at home. I’m a home schooler too. Do you think someone could just halt time around 11am to let me get in a few more hours to do all of this? Its tough. I’m meant to be doing PE with Joe Wicks every morning as well as watching this strange fuzzy giraffe that visited from the ALEC caravan. Yes, I too am confused. We brought some maths to the farm and did some vaccination dosage calculations and a bit of counting of sheep. It was here I discovered my 6-year-old can count better than I can. No Mum there are 27 sheep not 25, you missed that 2 over there. That’s when you know its been a long day.
Church from home, farm from the farm and children from home. It’s all in a day’s work. A very different day’s work it is at that. But none the less, we are keeping her lit.
Stay safe and be sure to check out what we have all been up to churching from home!
Sarah, your Children and Families Worker
Stay at home is the advice as we live through this strange, anxious, even a little bit scary time. We were asked to practice social distancing then told simply to stay at home unless you absolutely need to go out to get food or carry out essential aspects of life. Good advice, based on good reasoning and we will live by the mantra stay at home, won’t we? We will do it, even though it affects us all personally. It will affect the economies of the country and of the world and it will affect not just our working lives, but our whole lives. Working at home, where possible, is to become the norm. Some will be developing the required skills for the first time, maybe through helping our online teachers to keep education going through online school assignments, others will be old hands at it.
Working at home. When the term started to appear on the news and in the papers, I thought that’ll be no problem for me, I have worked at home since I joined the ministry in 1998. I am well used to encouraging a sleeping cat to move off my warm keyboard so that I can write a prayer, but I have to say this past week has felt a little odd. There is a big difference it seems, between agreeing not to meet with people - the bread and butter work of ministry if you like - and being told not to go out and meet people face to face. But there are always things we can do even when we need to change the way we work substantially. There is the phone and e-mail. Then again, the trip to the supermarket has always been a time of catch up with how people are feeling. Shopping is an important time of chat with groups of socially distanced people by the freezers or over a display of appropriately protected bread rolls.
But it has all felt a bit odd. With no real idea when the stay at home order will be withdrawn, all of us are trying to work out what it means to be a church that can’t meet. Yes, the buildings are not the church, the church is the people. So how do the people praise God and get the practical work of the church done, all without leaving our houses? This affects not just me but all of you too. We are all working out how to provide church to our parish. First up for me was to work out some way that the East Church could continue worshipping maybe Sunday by Sunday, but also during the week. I have been on a rapid learning course in how to use the marvellous pieces of software and technology that can make this happen. Simply recording a service from the pulpit in the church was less than satisfactory. Let down by a mixture of a strange rhythmic hiss on our sound system and the echo effect of an empty East church, I sought refuge in my comfy chair in the manse. We are always told that the world is a busy noisy place. I didn’t realise how much that applied to trying to record a sermon. Not only does the church have a humming sound system, but my laptop has a very noisy fan that cuts in and out ignoring all my pleas to follow advice and stay at home quietly in its case. Next, I propped my phone up against some books and began to preach. The first attempt was a little disappointing too. Excellent sound, I thought as I pushed play back, but why no picture? It turns out that unless you change the setting on your phone camera to be front facing, then all you get is a picture of the books the phone was lying against!
But as you will know, I did succeed in producing a version not too far from our normal service online on our website for Sunday. I also am pleased to record that this weekend had the highest number of unique viewers of our website I have ever seen. It wont always be me on screen, I hope over time to persuade others to make an appearance online. Remember, not only can you download a document containing the weekly worship, all the videos are downloadable too. Also have a look around the other worship resources available through clicking on the green area. I am also very thankful to our friends at Drumoak for sharing their Lenten bible study questions with us. Watch for a range of presenters online in the coming weeks especially in our Palm Sunday and Easter day services.
Yes, Sunday was very odd for me. As I was pruning the plum tree after lunch, I suddenly realised why. Back in the day when I was training for ministry, one wise elderly minister said to me, “Just remember Sunday comes every week. In ministry, Sunday is the day that all your weekly work is planned around because every week a service of worship is required.” Even when I am away from Banchory I pray for you all and wonder how it’s going in the church. The difference I felt last Sunday was that it was the first Sunday since 1998 when I hadn’t experienced that Sunday worship worry. Sunday did come round, but it was all prepared and delivered online by Friday.
How long will this last? We don’t know yet, but I have other preparations to make. Norma starts working from home tomorrow, so I need to finish that lunchtime box set TV treat today and move the biscuit tin that Norma does not know about into my personal vault. Yes, my mind is full of questions needing urgent answers as I prepare for the coming week. Should I run a piece of white tape down the centre of the table Norma and I will have to share while we work. It would look quite special with his and hers mugs placed either side on the his and hers workspaces.
This is the first of a series of articles that will explore what it means to be the Stay at home East church, online with you.
Your minister, Alan