Letters - 17 July 2020

From Zoom experiences to a Radical challenge reminder

Zoom experiences

David Saunders’ timely letter (3 July) leads me to say that Zoom experiences can vary. Meeting for Worship on Zoom for me can differ quite significantly between Local Meetings (LM), Area Meetings (AM), and even further afield experiences worshipping with new Friends I’ve connected with for the first time during lockdown in 2020.While it is reassuring to see some regular faces in my LM Zoom, as an overseer I worry about our regulars who are not taking up this option at all. At an AM level, it’s helped strengthen my sense of belonging to this wider community and put faces to unfamiliar Friends. I find Meetings for Worship for Business particularly valuable on Zoom – it must surely be a positive step that such online Meetings will lead to greater participation!

But then there is the dreaded camera… I often switch it off once worship has started, as to me participation is inward and I only need to listen with my eyes closed. The chat function on Zoom can be another source of irritation. While I recognise the value of putting a Quaker faith & practice reference in there, it turns the experience into a multi-tasking one more akin to my day job! Interestingly, Pendle Hill’s Zoom morning worship (lunchtime for us) asks that the use of chat on Zoom is reserved only for technical queries.

Zoom is helping keep some Friends connected in these strange times! It’s surely here to stay.

Finola O’Sullivan

Food box scheme

Many readers may know that since the start of lockdown some people with serious health conditions were warned by the NHS to ‘shield’, meaning they should have minimal contact with other people and certainly not go shopping, even for essentials.

Many of those affected have been supported by family, friends or neighbourhood volunteers, and/or have been able to order delivery of essentials online. However, some isolated vulnerable people have had food parcels delivered via a scheme coordinated by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. These boxes contain a range of food and household goods. There is a linked scheme whereby social services organise visits by staff or volunteers. A consequence of this is that some of the recipients have been saying that despite the Covid-19 situation their lives have been improved by this service: their diet is better and they have more social contact.

At the end of July the food box scheme will be withdrawn. You may have seen a news item about this recently, featuring a family with a disabled child, and pointing out the difficulties they will then face as they do not feel safe venturing to shops yet. Others involved with the administration of the scheme have expressed concern about the effects of its ‘cliff-edge’ termination.

It may not be an issue of cost for many of those affected, but the need for support will not suddenly cease on 1 August. The responsibilities reside with local authorities. I have written to my local councillor who has reassured me that here at least there will be continuing support for those in need. However, this may not be the case everywhere. I hope Friends will bear this in mind as the restrictions are gradually withdrawn and modified as hopefully the crisis will subside.

Jane Heydecker

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