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What a week. As I write, it was seven days ago that we were contacted by staff at Friends House asking about our contingency plans in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The following day they shut the building. By then, most of our team at the Friend were already at home. I closed up the office – an unhappy feeling – and we set about planning the next issue remotely, spread across six different counties. I’m enormously grateful to our staff, who are determined to keep producing the magazine. It won’t be easy, but we expect it to be more important than ever for Friends in isolation.
On that: if you know of isolated Friends who can’t access us digitally, and can’t afford a subscription, contact us immediately. We will send them the magazine free of charge. This is a risk for us: we know that we’ll take a serious financial hit over the coming months, with advertising drying up, particularly. If you were minded to help us produce those free copies, we’d find any donations very welcome. Our payment systems are still in operation – but call or email if you can, we’re not sure yet about post.
It is tempting to get reassuring pieces from weighty Friends, perhaps a word from Britain Yearly Meeting trustees, or the recording clerk. And they may in time have wise words to share. But they know that Churchillian appeals for calm, from figures in authority roles, are not in the Quaker way. We each bear the Light, so each bear the responsibility to attend to it. Our testimonies serve us well, so long as those who bear those testimonies are in their service. Attending to the Light, I know, will see Friends attend to those in their Meeting who need their support and help. But it will also lead people who see God in every person to care for every person, whether in the Society or not. We can see this happening already, as it always has. If we can help with that, let us know. We can publish contact numbers, details of local networks, or messages for people who have lost touch. Much of our content this week is about how to connect with other Friends digitally, but this is not available to all Friends. Many Meetings, like Jamie Wrench’s entitled ‘‘The nature of a gathered Meeting will not be limited by walls’, will be present to each other only in Spirit. Let us know how we can be of service here.
John Cacioppo, considered by some to be the leading expert on loneliness, said recently that physical proximity is not necessarily an essential component in feeling connected. We’ve all had the experience of being lonely in a crowd. What matters, he says, is the sense that we are genuinely sharing something meaningful. We’re here for that.
So stay in touch however you can. Let us know what you’re reading, watching, discerning, considering, loving, fearing and creating. What are your Quaker values telling you about what you’re consuming – from the pasta you were fortunate to get, to the latest Netflix series? We can’t offer the same reaction times as TV or the internet; what we have is the time and space to be a little more reflective.
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