TRINITY JOURNAL â€” COVID Edition 2020
LOCKDOWN BLESSINGS In March 2020, in response to the COVIC pandemic, the French government locked down the country and closed places of worship. Fr Peter reflects on the difficulties and blessings of that time. The beginning of this year seems like it was a different era. At the end of February we were planning a short holiday in Italy. We toyed with the idea of taking the train to Sicily (a nightly sleeper service exists via Genoa) but as news of Covid-19 filled the newspapers and social media, we thought it better to stay in France. We chose to go to Lyon. We explored and we ate at some wonderful restaurants but throughout our time we spent an inordinate time watching the news on French television. As quarantine seemed inevitable, we resolved to return early. Little did we realise that the lunch we had in a delightful Lyonnais bouchon on Saturday March 14, the day before confinement began, would be the last meal out until the beginning of June. When I booked our return tickets to Nice later that day – direct from Lyon Perrache – there were plenty of free seats to choose from but on the following Monday we found our TGV compartment was packed. Students had been sent home from the university and every available seat had been allocated. We had sanitiser and Joe wiped every surface with antiseptic wipes. We became fixated on a man nearby who coughed incessantly. There was nothing we could do. Masks, mandatory on trains now, were very had to obtain then. It was a relief to arrive home. Our priority the next morning – St Patrick’s Day - was to go shopping before the curfew began at midday. Unlike in the UK, there were few signs of panic buying. Lacking were toilet rolls, pasta and flour (a craze for home bread making became a feature of lockdown) but, as it turned out, these shortages were temporary. Once confinement began, we had to carry a piece of paper (an attestation) indicating where and why we were going out. Essential visits to buy food, go to the doctor or pharmacy, or care for the housebound were permitted, as were hour long periods of exercise, provided you did not stray further than a kilometre from home.
Bizarrely, the only time the police stopped me was on the Saturday before confinement ended. We soon settled into a daily routine except the city was quieter than on a Sunday morning – the streets were empty and air traffic had ceased. Soon a change in the quality of the air became tangible. Elsewhere, so friends on social media reported, city smog was replaced with pristine skies devoid of contrails - wide, previously unglimpsed, vistas opened up. Initially, for some confinement was like New Year and a time for resolutions (‘let’s turn this into a positive experience …’). In this spirit, I resolved to read more than usual, which I did, but not the intended serious books I had envisaged but vast amounts of newspapers and magazines online – we were hungry for information. There was also if anything more work than usual as we sought ways of keeping the community together, particularly wanting to vitiate the loneliness of those who had to weather confinement alone. The weekend before we returned from Lyon, we realised that we would need to prepare for broadcasting services from Holy Trinity. We thought we could, at least to begin with, use our phones but to do this we needed to buy a tripod. While the shops had plenty of tripods for cameras with a screw connection and plenty of selfiesticks, a simple tripod with a clamp for a phone proved to be more difficult to find. We were relieved when we eventually found one – remarkably the original tripod still serves us well even after thirty broadcast services. On Day Three of lockdown, I started trials of the phone for recording. I did this wandering around the presbytery sitting room, with its beautiful painted ceiling. I was rather startled that a few minutes of tests attracted a following of dozens on Facebook – were people already that desperate or was it just the ceiling? We shifted trials to the church and soon discovered that we needed to reduce the distance between the phone and the speaker, which meant using a music stand as a lectern (with seasonal cloth fall of purple) and moving the altar forwards. Again, a substantial audience followed our every move.
By Sunday, March 22, we were ready to broadcast our first Sunday Service. It happened to be Mothering Sunday, which is popular at Holy Trinity and normally includes gifts of bunches of flowers to mothers. On this occasion there were just two of us in church – me, as celebrant, and Joe as technicien (the government permitted no more). However, according to the Facebook statistics ‘762 people were reached’, which does not mean that they all watched the service in its entirety but from other statistics we realised that hundreds were engaged for most of the service. We were joined by people from all over France, the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia, and India. Part of the reason for our popularity was that our services were live. In the UK the Church of England told its clergy that they could not broadcast from their churches, which led the Archbishop of Canterbury to broadcast an Easter Day Eucharist from his kitchen at Lambeth Palace. (Considerable controversy ensued in England as this was not a British government requirement, but one imposed by the Church upon itself.) Here at Holy Trinity, we fine-tuned our technique, but we have maintained a substantial following through deconfinement until the present. In fact, it seems that broadcasting must remain an essential part of what we offer at Holy Trinity, since it enables those who are members of our community for part of the year to participate every Sunday. It is also a lifeline to those who continue to shelter at home. This mixed style of broadcast and live service has acquired the name hybrid! Perhaps the strangest part of confinement was Holy Week, when we often welcome well over two hundred to Holy Trinity on Easter Day. There were just the two of us for each of the major services. I am afraid that the Vigil on Holy Saturday – with the lighting of the fire on the parvis and the blessing of the Paschal Candle – seemed a stretch too far. However, although we were just two in the church, we were accompanied online by over 700 on Easter Day itself. We had an Easter celebration, but it was entirely different from anything we had experienced before. To mark the fact of our separation physically
and community spiritually, I made a point of including a reference to the experience of lockdown in this and subsequent sermons. Broadcasting the Sunday service was the principal way in which we preserved a sense of community but we also had a ‘phone tree’ linking parishioners together for a daily phone call; and I maintained my Friday Lent study group. There were unexpected benefits from both. Through the phone tree people who had barely met before developed friendships and discovered shared interests. The study group, which would normally finish in Holy Week, has continued to the present day. In advance of our discussion, I send out a commentary about the gospel text for the following Sunday. We then share of our insights and experiences on the Friday itself – this resembles the Way of Love course that we followed last year. Of course, I can bring some technical knowledge to the our study group, but the really interesting aspect is that everyone has some experience or specialist knowledge to contribute. For example, we were recently discussing the story of Jesus walking on the water and two members of the group had knowledge of navigation on lakes – apparently, they are unpredictable and dangerous. The study group like the broadcast services has also had the remarkable effect of bringing people separated by differences of distance and time zone together. Regularly, participants include those in Canada, the UK, the USA and other parts of the world. Particularly during confinement, this was an invaluable way of helping us to surmount isolation and also to share anxieties, not just for ourselves but also for our families. There was a point during confinement when one hoped for a different life once it was over, that deconfinement would not simply be a return to ‘normal’. At the moment, it is hard to tell whether this hope has been fulfilled. We live with a fear of a return of the virus, vindicated by the large spike in cases in August and September. We are told to wear masks and yet many will not wear them. Some are complacent but many remain vigilant and wary.
However, we have returned to church and a good number attend and feel safe to do so. This has been achieved by taking the steps of deconfinement gradually, a process which has been helped by the wardens, Jill and Richard, and former warden, Michael, doing so many things, including marking the church to enable distancing. In spite of the isolation and sometimes boredom of confinement, I believe that there is a lasting benefit for Holy Trinity. We are an international community and paradoxically the use of the internet – for broadcast services and meetings via Zoom – has brought us together in a way we could never have anticipated. Whatever happens in wider society, this greater sense of community has been a wonderful blessing and something for which we should be truly thankful. ARS VIVENDI During lockdown, Morag Jordan painted each day as a discipline and as a way to forget temporarily about what was going on around us. By the end of lockdown, she had created over 40 still lifes of flowers. She also used the paintings to keep in touch with people, such as her 85 year-old great uncle in Dundee. ‘I didn't want to pester him every day to see if he was still alive and kicking, but sending a painting was a subtle way of being in touch and an exchange.’ A selection of the paintings appear as illustrations throughout this issue.
WHO IS THAT MASKED WOMAN? Elizabeth Calmes reflects on lockdown, wearing masks, and new friendships. During the ‘war’ 78 years ago, a small girl in Surrey travelled to school by bus from Tadworth to Reigate. What item did she have to carry with her at all times? A mask! Happily in the UK no gas was dispersed by the enemy. In 2020 suddenly masks became again a compulsory accessory! In 1942 child Elisanne was free to take her bus. In 2020 she had to stay indoors for over two months… allowed just a short daily walk from her flat down the drive and back. However for Elisanne, now an elderly lady, the forced national confinement made little difference to her daily routine. Suddenly there was no noisy activity from the nearby airport, the car remained in the garage, there were no fumes from local buses, the air became purer, the birds sang more loudly, plants thrived and shopping by internet was delivered to the door. Neighbours became even kinder. Telephone and computer contacts proved to be therapeutic and useful. The Holy Trinity Church chaplain suggested a daily friendly telephone call between parishioners. A certain Roberto rang every afternoon and Elisanne looked forward to a chat with him. Although they had never met, because she had not been physically in church for several months, they had common memories of upbringing in beautiful Surrey… both liked commenting on current politics, enjoyed classical music, nature, cooking, laughing, etc. The great day came when total confinement was relaxed and Roberto came for tea! Masks fell and faces were put on voices! It was indeed a special cuppa. Altogether Elisanne had survived national confinement, although she did not forget that elsewhere in the world the danger was still very real and the virus rampant.
NOT GOING OUT Richard Challoner writes about dreading, then coming to terms with lockdown. One of the most enduring memories of my school days is a screening of the film The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston. In Los Angeles, in the aftermath of a global pandemic which has wiped out most of humanity, a scientist, Robert Neville (Heston) tries to manufacture an antidote to the virus. During the day Neville wanders through the deserted and silent streets of Los Angeles collecting the food and other supplies he needs to survive, ensuring that he returns home before mutant survivors emerge at night to attack him. I found the images of empty streets, abandoned shops and buildings, both disturbing and exciting. Ever since then it has been something of a fantasy of mine to imagine myself in similar circumstances â€“ though without the mutants to deal with, naturally.
L.A. in Omega Man (N.B. Nice did not look like this during lockdown!) It never occurred to me that something even remotely similar would actually happen. When the first accounts of a virus in China emerged in early January like most people I suspect, I did not anticipate a global pandemic. The reality of lockdown seemed to creep up slowly and finally hit me when I turned up at Le Truc Bar for Karaoke Night on the evening of Saturday 14th March, to find only a handful of people present and learned that from midnight all bars and
restaurants would close for the foreseeable future. My initial thoughts were about how badly this would affect bar and restaurant owners and then I was told that an announcement was to be made on the following Monday about a total lockdown to follow. As I walked home through unusually quiet and lifeless streets I felt genuinely worried, for family, friends, for everyone. Having stocked up on basics for myself and my sister on the morning of the 17th March I decided to return via the Promenade for a last walk while preparing myself mentally for the lockdown at midday. As someone who suffers from mild claustrophobia, the concept of confinement was an alarming one. Although I am very lucky in that I don't live in a small studio or cramped apartment and have a terrace, the thought of not being able to leave, or take a stroll in the fresh air whenever I liked, made me very uncomfortable. That evening I looked down on the empty streets and felt very on edge, almost like a caged animal. I wondered, given the mental health problems that I have experienced for most of my life, how I was going to cope without direct human contact. It had taken me much of my life to reach the point at which I was content to be in my own company; now that would be put to the test. The initial week or so passed in a state of nervous agitation; when I first ventured out however, attetstation in hand, to do some shopping, I found the almost empty streets and vehicle free roads strangely calming. Here was my Omega Man fantasy almost come to life. Venturing out became a pleasure for me: the daily press of humanity had vanished; the noise and smell of vehicles, was a memory. Most of all it was the silence that impressed itself on me: unnerving at first to be sure, but quickly something to be savoured. In our machine and technology dominated world we humans create so much noise and movement; and suddenly it was gone, the Earth was standing still. I could hear the gentle rustle of the wind in trees and as Spring arrived, the chirping and singing of birds with unprecedented clarity; the air was cleaner than it had been for a long time.
Time itself was the new enemy; the long hours alone at home with not even a four-legged friend for company. Fortunately, I had a number of projects to get on with and I found comfort as well, in focusing on the problems of others, including my family and friends here in Nice and around the world. I tried to think of them all and contact as many as possible by phone, email, Facebook and What's App. A few I forgot at first, but made contact with later. One friend, in New York, I have still not heard from, which is a worry. Like everyone else, I appreciated enormously the benefits of technology during lockdown, both in terms of communication and entertainment. I will forever be grateful to friends who initiated Zoom chats and music shows, keeping our spirits up with humour and laughter - so essential at times like this - and turning the Covid19 crisis into as positive an experience as possible. I am thankful as well, for way that existing friendships have been strengthened and new ones made. The phone tree organised by Fr Peter and the services broadcast from Holy Trinity on Sundays and at Easter, were a source of great comfort to all of our community, both here in Nice and around the world, a perfect example of the way individuals and communities have come together and supported each other through a unique and difficult time. I was genuinely surprised at how fast time seemed to pass during lockdown and as the 11th May date for dĂŠconfinement approached, eagerly anticipated by most I imagine, I felt increasingly nervous. While lockdown had not always been easy, I had found the peace and tranquillity restful and was grateful that our beleaguered planet had been given a break from our depredations. I feared that too many people would not behave responsibly once they were allowed out; I dreaded the assault on the senses that would accompany the sudden resumption of human activity and above all, the noise; I wondered if any lessons would have been learned from our pandemic experience so far.
Thankful that I and family and friends had come through lockdown safely, it occurred to me that I might actually miss it.
HOW DO YOU SAY ‘SCOFFLAW’ IN FRENCH? Michael Carberry wrote in the first week of lockdown about the need for an ‘attestation’. Since the address by President Macron at the beginning of the week announcing a general lockdown to curtail the spread of the Coronavirus, I have been very careful to follow his advice. I have not ventured out of the house at all except on a couple of occasions to walk the dog a little way along the road as permitted by the regulations. I have been scrupulous in making sure to go only on foot and not to venture out for more than twenty minutes in the immediate vicinity of the house. I have also taken care to carry with me my ID and the requisite Remember these? attestation de déplacement dérogatorire having duly ticked the box marked deplacements brefs à proximité du domicile, liés …. aux besoins des animaux de compqgnie. As one can handwrite one’s own attestation and since the dog needs walking every day I underlined the foregoing phrase and added the words une fois par jour believing that would suffice in the unlikely event that I encountered the forces of law and order. Those who know where we live on a quite country lane surrounded by forest will not be surprised when I say that in the last twelve years I have never encountered the Gendarmerie on our road except when there was a
major helicopter accident in the nearby forest. But times have changed! On Friday morning, I was returning from taking the dog out when, about 100 yards from the house, the blue and white car pulled to a halt beside me. The two gendarmes were not at all intimidating. I thought them polite, courteous and even charming. The fact that they were also rather attractive young women may have had something to do with that. They opened the boot of their vehicle and asked me to spread out my documents so that they could inspect them without touching them then examined them carefully. “Ah monsieur”, I was told, “your attestation is not dated today.” I pointed out that the dog was walked every day and that it seemed superfluous to produce a fresh attestation for each time. No, I was told, a fresh attestation was required each time. I thanked them for the clarification and said I would make sure to comply in future. “Ah monsieur”, said the taller of the two smiling broadly,” an attestation non-conforme means a fine of 135 Euros”. I pointed out that I was only doing what the regulations permitted and that we had to walk the dog. “Ah monsieur,” said the other, “your dog is very lucky. Many dogs which never leave the garden are now being walked just to enable their owners to try and circumvent the regulations. We are not allowed to make any exceptions.” I was obliged to put on a rubber glove (with some difficulty as the only size they had was for women) in order to sign a document acknowledging the heinousness of my offence. Following which, still smiling broadly, they handed me a ticket and went on their way, not forgetting to wish me “Bonne Journée.” Having returned to the house following the most expensive dog defecation in recent history, I was surprised to discover that the ticket for the fine had no option to pay online. However it did seem that I could pay by bank card over the telephone. I duly called the Centre des Amendes in Rennes. “Ah, monsieur” I was told, “If your ticket has no numéro de telepaiment (which it did not) then we cannot process your fine”. The only option it seemed was to pay by cheque
or timbre fiscal. I had a chequebook, but the nearest post box is at least two kilometres from the house – much further than I could walk and come back in twenty minutes- and in any case I had no postage stamp. The only alternative it seemed was to take the car out and drive several kilometres into the town which we have been asked to avoid, and to que up with lot of people in the Post Office – a most effective way of catching Coronavirus ! However to do that I would need another “attestation de déplacement derogatoire. Unfortunately, none of the authorised exemptions listed on the form – going out to buy food, medical appointments, visiting the sick walking the dog, etc. – include going into town to pay your fine! I could of course try adding a handwritten amendment but then…. “Ah monsieur, attestation non-conforme!” If you hear a strange noise in the background it is probably Franz Kafka laughing in his grave. FLEEING NICE Dalton and Sheila London spend part of each year in Nice as loved members of our community. In 2020, they (and many others) had to flee Nice quickly as borders began to close and flights became rare. Sheila and I began our married life in Grenoble, France in 1966 where I was studying for a doctorate and where our son was born in 1968. In July 1968, I was hired to teach French at the University of New Brunswick. My career in that institution lasted for 30 years and afforded me four sabbatical years which we spent in the city of Chambéry, Savoie. I retired from UNB in 1998. We went back to Chambéry for two winters but then removed to Nice in 2002; 2020 was our 18th winter in that lovely city, attracted by the climate, its proximity to Italy and the Mediterranean and Holy Trinity Anglican Church, a church we’ve come to love. Nice satisfies our strong attachment to France going back to the early 1960s and to our need for a vibrant Christian fellowship in the Anglican tradition.
We were having another good winter with regular church attendance, entertaining and being entertained, long walks, day trips, a lot of reading, taking lots of photos, when the outbreak of the corona virus Covid-19 disrupted the pattern of our lives placing constraints on all our regular activities. In mid-March France began to shut down and on March 13th I contacted our travel agent in Fredericton, asking her to find us passage back to Canada as soon as possible. On the 16th she emailed us to the effect that we had airline tickets, leaving Nice on the 17th, spending that night in Frankfurt, flying to Toronto on the 18th and arriving in Fredericton on the 19th. We were obliged to begin a 14-day period of isolation. Our deep freezer and cold room contained a lot of food but for our daily needs we depended on our daughter, Marianne, who did our shopping, leaving purchases on our front doorstep. As it turned out, we soon realized that we were in one of the safest places in the world, in the eastern province of New Brunswick, Canada, at this crucial moment in history. New Brunswick has had a total of 112 cases, with two deaths. We had gone for months without any cases whatsoever when in early August six cases came to light, all among foreign temporary workers from Mexico, having come to Canada to work on farms and food-processing plants. They are all recovering, in confinement, and have had no contact with the general public. At the beginning of July, New Brunswick opened its borders to the neighbouring provinces of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the other Maritime Provinces, and to Newfoundland and Labrador,
jurisdictions with few or no cases of Covid-19. The media are using the term ‘bubble’ to describe this phenomenon. Our borders with Quebec and Maine, our neighbours to the west, are tightly regulated. We’re obliged to respect social distancing, the wearing of masks in public places where social distancing of one-metre is difficult , but our bars, restaurants and national and provincial parks are open and since early July two in-person Sunday services at being held at Christ Church Cathedral, Morning Prayer from the BCP and Holy Eucharist. Also since our return to Canada we’ve been able to ‘attend’ all but two Sunday services coming from Holy Trinity, Nice (beginning at 6 am our time!), and are part of a Bible study group organized by Peter. What do we miss? Attending a church service where we can be part of a choir, where we can sing hymns, and being able to attend concerts in person, notably our New Brunswick Summer Music Festival which began August 12th, online. IN PRAISE OF CHURCH WARDENS Christine Harvey thanks the Holy Trinity wardens for their hard work. In a year in which we have come to appreciate many unsung heroes during a pandemic, perhaps it is timely to reflect on those who undertake voluntarily- responsibilities which we may well be unaware of who generously give far more of their time than we can fully appreciate and seek no reward-save that of knowing they are contributing to the Christian community we all value and share. I refer of course, to our humble church wardens. It has been said that that the role of a church warden is as big as an individual’s generosity, energy and sense of duty allows it to be. If that is true, then we, at Holy Trinity, have indeed been blessed over the years in having some very special individuals who have worked tirelessly both for and on behalf of us, the parishioners. The fact that these people volunteer their ‘services’ for a role which has no clear job description is testament in itself, to their dedication, commitment and generosity of spirit. Who else, in today’s world, would even contemplate applying for a position with not only no job description
but also no prospects of promotion and even worse......no pay? Yet thankfully, church wardens do and even more amazingly....are sometimes happy to be reappointed when their first term of office comes to an end!! These wonderful people undertake unseen duties whenever required and thus make a significant contribution to the efficient organisation of church life. Having come across quite a number of wardens in the various churches I have been associated with over the years, not all ( in my experience anyway!) have seemed quite as approachable, as tolerant and as genuinely humble as those we are fortunate to have today and have had in the past at Holy Trinity. As an innocent Sunday School attendee many years ago, I was once spoken to rather curtly, by a warden for NOT wiping my feet on the entrance mat before proceeding to a pew! That put me off church for a while! As a shy ten year old, I remember feeling too frightened to return in case I was told off by bossy people every time I appeared in church!! Much later, at a different church, I was embarrassed to learn one Sunday that church wardens only! were allowed to distribute bibles to seated worshippers. I merely thought I was being helpful at the time but my ‘handling’ of such precious objects was definitely NOT appreciated that day!!!! And as for the Sunday I got the hymn numbers mixed up on the board above the pulpit.... I wont even mention what transpired afterwards! Suffice it to say, it didn’t seem very Christian at the time!! Though these personal painful reminiscences are, thankfully, buried in the deep and distant past, they do serve as a reminder that not all church wardens are the same. And yet, their reliability, commitment and at times, sheer hard work is admirable for it is a role not many of us could, o would be able to do. I could name them all .... but won’t. They, and we at Holy Trinity, know who they are. So to them especially but to church wardens everywhere, may I express a very sincere thank you... merci ... or whatever - for ALL you do - seen and unseen. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude for you are indeed unsung heroes of the day - every day- in our Christian community. God bless them all!
COVID-19 Jill Pirdas writes of fear and hope engendered by the pandemic. Who could imagine - who on earth could possibly divine That our whole world and lives would forcibly incline To this pandemic - this league-table of death, A potential tsunami contained in human breath. This menace knows no boundaries – both rich, but mainly poor, As, in truth, the destitute will always suffer more, Are honoured by this fearsome, silent guest That’s come, it seems, the world to test Our ability to cope – transform our lives, To reassess the things we prize. Away with wants, return to vital needs, Throw out indulgences like weeds, Appreciate the empty silent skies Where the only things that rise Are birds reclaiming what is theirs, A flight that rises with our prayers For those in crowded steaming slums, In swarming camps where thin help comes, For women lacking shelter from aggression, Waiting - shackled to the next benumbing session. All around we see great nations crumble, Blame apportioned as the statesmen fumble For remedies - to right economies - prevent a crash, To halt fierce famine that’s spreading like a rash. Masks and coffins keep the factories churning Whilst desperately laboratories are yearning To be the first to turn out vaccinations: A race to beat Grim Reaper’s machinations And Apocalyptic horsemen that thunder through the night, Their hooves forever pounding as they strive to bend the light.
But light is not confounded as new stars rise to shine, Humbly they sustain us - these heroes of ‘front line,’ All at once we see them as saviours come to serve The fragile and the needy, most often unobserved, Through kindness with devotion and through sacrificial love, We welcome and compare them as to angels from above, And though the world seems broken and ready to collapse, From a world that’s going nowhere is it possible – perhaps, If we vow to live in goodness and follow what is true, Shall we rise up like the Phoenix to see an Earth re-viewed? QUARANTINE, LOCKDOWN, LIMITED CONTROL Ella and Jody Dyer divide their time between Nice and Atlanta, Georgia. Ella writes about how the difficulties of being torn between two places was especially difficult during lockdown. Call it what you want; Jody and I went into strict confinement on Thursday the 12 of March. Fortunately, he is a news junkie and was closely watching the rapid spread of Covid-19; therefore, our decision was simple. One never knows what to expect but, upon reflection, “connecting the dots” is always easier. Departing Nice on Christmas Day was difficult but comfortable as flights are less than full. Seeing Jody after six weeks was a welcome reward for months of work and school. In Atlanta, we enjoyed a New Year’s Eve party, which was held in our building with friends and neighbours. We then prepared our family travels – a cruise with the grandchildren and their parents plus friends – and of course, our 30th wedding anniversary on Valentine’s Day. (Did 15 years go by since we renewed our vows at Holy Trinity? Oui!) Soon we realized our cruise was not possible, nor my trip to our granddaughter’s 7th birthday. Another looming question of concern was regarding our return to France.
Almost immediately my return flight for late March was cancelled. Then, Jody’s flight to join me was also annulled. Sadly, America was – is -- still not acknowledging the seriousness of the virus and soon we witnessed unspeakable political and cultural reactions. The self-proclaimed “greatest country in the world” seemed to be unravelling before our eyes. For four full months we never left our apartment in Atlanta; I would go downstairs to the market in our building each Tuesday for 45 minutes and procure provisions for the week. We quickly settled into this new routine of staying home; not terribly difficult for Jody the self-contained unit but much more challenging for me. Fortunately, we had access to technology and soon found tremendous support from virtual interactions including, services from Holy Trinity and regular calls with family and friends world-wide. Meal management, mask making and sewing surgical gowns filled my days while Jody followed numbers; Covid-19 cases, heart wrenching deaths, mounting unemployment and the odd ascend of the US stock market. We lead our two buildings (400+ units total) nightly in thanking first responders. Again, we took solace in our good fortune to be healthy, together and join others on their balconies to applaud all who work to keep us safe. The term binge watching, doesn’t begin to describe the amount of television and online content we consumed (and still do). Although my choice was France24 (in my never-ending quest to speak the beautiful language). Jody has the ability to listen to both sides of the political divide and maintain a healthy blood pressure level. In late June I received a rendez-vous from the Préfecture to collect my renewed carte de séjour. This was wonderful news but, difficult to be excited about as Americans without visas have been banned from entering the European Union.
Alas, Jody supported my departure and now we are working diligently to secure the same status for him to return to Nice. Although I feel safer here, I have restricted my interactions with others. Jody continues missing his wife while in solitary confinement with no real prospects of getting to Nice in the near future. He remains alive and alert at home with the support of online delivery and our Concierge services. Together, we are confident that political change will happen for the better and science will secure a solution to Covid-19. Meanwhile, we mask up and pray for those less fortunate including Jody. At the time of this writing, Ella has contacted an immigration attorney to determine how best to expedite Jodyâ€™s return to the Riviera. (Ed: As we go to press, Jody is scheduled to be back in Nice within two weeks.) CONTEMPLATING THE COST OF COVID Edgar Lefevre writes from Montreal, wondering whether a real cost of COVID is its burden on younger people. There are 8 million people in the province of Quebec where Karen and I live seven months a year; we spend three months in Nice and two on our sailboat. Among people less than seventy years old, a total of 265 have died from the virus in Quebec. No mention made in the government reports of underlying conditions nor how close to age 70 were the people in this group. It's a hideous thing, killing all those poor, abandoned old people in the nursing homes. Horrible for them, having lived out their lives decently and with dignity, to end it all in such a manner. Unspeakably horrible. And yet, nobody leaves a nursing home by the front door. My dear mother did not, last October, and I was there every day for 3 years watching as the names changed on the doors of the private rooms near hers. The lockdown / isolation emergency regulations in North America were based on â€œessential-nonessential" criteria. The Holy Trinity
group tends to be retired expats and pensioners, many over seventy years old. (Some may even lie about their ages but we'll let it pass.) As a demographic we still hold the levers of political / financial power in the West, which is perhaps why we are able to while away some of our endless free time in beautiful places like Nice. We "ain't gonna work no more, no more" as that old tune says. Money. Freedom. The young don't have them, yet. And they want some. But we put them all out of work. For their own good, apparently. Maybe. We, the over-seventy group are quite useless. Nonessential. Hanging on so we'll enjoy yet another lovely winter in Nice or another Caribbean sailing cruise. One more time. Just one more. And for this we force 40 million young people out of work in the US. So we won't get the virus and die and they won't get a tummy ache and the sniffles for ten days. The young don't die from it; we do. And they don't need us any more; we are nonessential, useless. Except we still hold much of the money, which buys us influence. And as a group of weak, cowardly, spoiled old people with immense political and financial power, we'll do anything to save our shrivelled old skins, even sacrifice the material well-being of millions of the young. A clumsy personal analogy here: A lifelong skier, I recently fell off my skis at high speed and spent a month on crutches, part of it in Nice, even a few hours in Holy Trinity. I made a mistake on the skis from which, as a younger man, I would have easily recovered. But I am no longer that young man. From this injury I might conclude that all skiers should be forced to ski at less than 10 kph, or even better, stay home. Were I of meddling and political intellectual nature, I might well have adopted this position. I've heard the arguments from my wealthy retired lawyer friends, hiding under their beds. They pretend that they are not really cowards, just practical; and not wealthy, just barely comfortable. Not one of them has a care for the millions of young people forced out of work, as long as they get their two-month cruise around South America next year. I've heard the hysterical views of my friends in
Manhattan who believed it proper to isolate the far-off rural states with their half-dozen cases, to exercise power over the peasants and share their fear and panic. To the question of whether Manhattan would shut down if it had 6 cases and Montana had 30,000, they do not reply and change the subject. I know, I know. Young skiers cannot infect me with their recklessness; (and certainly not with their skill or courage.) The young men now ski a bit faster than me and I envy them. So my political choice is either shut them down or slow down myself. Were I another type of person I might shut them down, for their own good, even though they never fall. The young, who never die from the virus, can infect me however. So my choice is either shut them down or isolate myself and leave them alone to carry on with their lives. (More fun to shut them down; use threats and force on them, use the police on them. Power. Spread my fear. Share my panic.) The young don't die from it; often don't even notice it, at worst they get sick for a week or two. Too late now, but perhaps we should have left them alone. If I had refused to do that, if I had used my social, political and financial influence to force the young into isolation and unemployment rather than to simply isolate my useless seventy-five year old self, then I would be nothing more than a spoiled, meddling and cowardly old man. CONFINEMENT JOURNAL Hailey Jacobsen writes from America about the grief and difficulties of this time, and how they may lead us to worship and thankfulness. Hailey was on placement from Virginia Theological Seminary at Holy Trinity in the summer of 2019; her husband, Devin, was on placement here from Harvard Divinity School in the summer of 2017. Greetings from America, where as I write in the heat and humidity of August just outside of Washington, D.C., it very much still feels like we are in lockdown (or should be).
How difficult and revealing the last few months have been. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church – the Most Rev. Michael Curry, and others have named this time in the US as a time of dual pandemics: racism/white supremacy and COVID-19. I began hearing about the virus at beginning of February. As part of my seminary training last year, I took part in Clinical Pastoral Education – a hospital chaplaincy program, with a large hospital in D.C. A Buddhist nun in our cohort was from Wuhan, China, and she was concerned for her parents and family who were there in lockdown. The rest of our cohort was very empathetic, but somehow, naively, it still seemed very far off.
Virginia Theological Seminary, founded in 1823 in Alexandria, VA (what is now a suburb of Washington), is the largest of the Episcopal seminaries. About a month later at the beginning of March, I was quarantined for coming into contact with someone with the virus along with around 50 others on our campus at Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS). It was discovered that D.C.’s patient zero was an Episcopal rector at a large parish in D.C. contracted the virus at a Church-wide conference. Many in our community had gone to the parish for a lecture and dinner in the week before the rector realized he was sick – so sick that he ended up spending a couple of weeks in an intensive care unit. Our organist at the seminary, whom we share with the parish, unknowingly also brought it to us. A friend and classmate who sits next to me in the soprano section of our choir contracted it from him. She became ill and was isolated within a couple of days but not before celebrating her birthday and passing it along. Everything
happened so rapidly. As we learned more, it quickly became clear how many points of contact our little community had with each other and the wider world. There seemed to be an enormous lack of preparation governmentally for any sort of outbreak. Our city did its best to track cases (a city employee even drove a container of thermometers to the seminary), but in the face of so few tests in the US, we were told to stay home, assume we had the virus if we presented symptoms, and to not get tested unless we required emergency room care. Thankfully, VTS only had a small handful of confirmed cases, and everyone recovered within a few weeks. With the first couple of weeks, our community did wonderfully in following protocol. The school moved all classes online by midMarch. All the churches in the area also went online. After everyone got out of quarantine and those who were living in dormitories went elsewhere, as with much of the US (we do come from all over!), there was a spectrum of practices around physical distancing, which led to some community tension. I played a role in putting together an online Easter Vigil service for the school and organizing some community talks. Amid difficulty, there was also much resilience and creativity. An anonymous and satirical-yet-compassionate newsletter called The Desperate Times circulated around campus, bringing muchneeded comedy during a stressful end to the year. Truthfully, personally, those first few days of quarantine were a welcome break â€“ mixed, of course, with concern for the unfolding situation. I had been going at full speed with hospital chaplaincy, working in a local parish, classes, and the rest of life. It felt good to sleep, spend time alone in silence and prayer, and not have anywhere to be. As the weeks went on, class, hospital work (which later was prohibited), and helping to lead Zoom church created a daily rhythm. I was also thankful to be in a place where I could distance visit with friends outside.
This past year, I was living alone since my husband Devin was in Scotland for the first year of his Ph.D. program at St. Andrews. It was interesting to compare notes about our two countries as the pandemic unfolded. I was in the middle of suburbia â€“ where we were out of sanitizing supplies, toilet paper, and other staples in the stores for about 10 weeks, and Devin was living with a flatmate on the edge of the North Sea, where not much had changed in his daily Postcard from Devin at St Andrews life of reading and writing except the amount of time he could now walk outside and the number of people he saw on the street. Our original plan had been to spend this summer together in Scotland. At the end of May after school ended, I headed to Sewanee (the university in rural Tennessee where Devin and I met) with our greyhound Tallis to housesit for the summer. Devin joined me a couple of weeks later (in what he said was the easiest flying experience ever). It was nice to be together in the beloved and familiar place where we met after having been apart for a school year. It was also great to distance-visit with old friends, spend the summer hiking and reading, take part in a Black Lives Matter march,
and be a short drive from my family in Nashville, especially since my father is in memory care. I’ve really missed in-person church and the Eucharist, but Quarantine has also given me the opportunity to join again the church communities I love and miss from the comfort of my own home and time zone (including Holy Trinity!). Throughout quarantine, I’ve often been grateful for my time with Holy Trinity and St. Hugh’s – from attending service on Facebook Live to working on French and catching up with friends. As Devin and I settle back into routines at VTS, the year ahead – my last year at seminary, seems as though it will be very different than what we had imagined (as I’m sure everyone’s year will be!). I’m glad that I intentionally built extra space into this year for prayer, volunteering, and connecting with others. We both keep saying how much we admire those who are parents of school-aged children right now. We’ve also become more aware of how much we’ve taken for granted – going to a coffee shop, chatting with a stranger, listening to live music, and not constantly calculating the potential harm of a previously benign activity (like standing near someone). Even as we’ve been isolating, the pandemic somehow at the same time has made me feel more joined to our wider human community and our history. We’re all experiencing this same difficulty collectively at the same time. So many before us have lived in the shadow of plagues. We hear their effects in the Bible, Shakespeare, and ancient literature. Sadly, some of us are already all too familiar with the devastation and grief a virus can create in its wake, especially when it is politicized and perceived as only affecting few of us. I’ve heard the word apocalypse used much more frequently these last few months, and it seems to speak to something deeper than fear. Contrary to our popular imagination in film and books, the Biblical use of apocalypse is intended to be comforting: the things of this world are being revealed for what they are; God sees those who
suffer; their suffering will end; and God’s hope for the world will be realized. It’s an exorcism of ills (albeit often painfully), especially for the benefit of the oppressed. God is doing a new thing, and we’re being called to jump on board. The dual pandemics of racism and COVID-19 have widened the revelation of what many have known for far too long: the structures of this world need to change to ensure that all of God’s children are recognized and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. Amid the grief and difficulty of this time, I’m also very thankful for the new ways we’re finding to connect, worship, and do this work together. QUARANTINE REFLECTIONS Elizabeth Montague wrote on 7 May 2020, as the lockdown was drawing near its end, reflecting on loneliness. I write this in Nice, in lockdown. Outside my door, the southern trees are splashed with white sunlight; they glitter in the wind. People move tautly up and down the street, holding carrier bags; accompanying children who pedal along on diminutive bicycles; walking dogs. Everything is strangely becalmed, as before a storm. During this period of isolation, I contemplate the difference between solitude and loneliness. I myself was never so lonely as in December 2016, when my husband John Montague died. The whole world seemed to contract to a fine blade of pain, but at the same time it bloated, and was hollow. Our current loneliness recalls me to that grief. I think we are all grieving now. We are stricken; we miss our lives. The pure and radiant light of this place; the exuberant flowers; the ancient sea: those things endure, impervious to our distress. We have observed the seasons change – from chill March to balmy April and now May – but only from the inside. From the inside of our homes, and from inside our minds and hearts. We are not used to such exile, to such a folding in of the self on itself.
Quarantine or no quarantine, all of us are alone, housed in our discrete bodies, but one thing that connects us is love. I have always marvelled at this, at how we are our separate selves, yet at the same time implicated, like the cords and cables of a tapestry, in the lives of others, and theirs in ours. But what happens when we are physically marooned from one another? We are finding ourselves balanced, now, on a tense and delicate threshold. Never have we been so apart, though in some ways we are closer than ever. Our study group, our aperitif parties, our FaceTime chats, these things distil our friendships. Because we are nearly at the limit of our tether, we talk more candidly with one another. We are worried about people – especially the essential workers – and worried for ourselves and our families, and so I think we feel more vividly the pathos of the world, that sadness at the heart of things. Something I miss from the ‘before times’ is café society. I love how the French, in general, seem to regard the café as not only a place to drink and chat but also as a refuge for writers. When John and I read or worked in our local café, we enjoyed a particular solitude: it can be delightful to concentrate in the midst of bustle – to lift your head from the page to observe the people, to listen to the hiss and sputter of the coffee machine, to feel grateful to the other regulars for knowing not to encroach – and then return to the page again. But now the cafés are shuttered. This is a small thing, yet it is sad. It seems to me that we ought to reflect at this time on what we have done to our planet. Why do countries like the United States and, increasingly, the United Kingdom, value profit above all else? Why have so many people jettisoned the ideal of a social contract in order to embrace such a harshly individualistic worldview? Infrastructures corrode while a minute fraction of the population grows richer and richer. And one of that ilk is elected President of the US, as if his avarice were a virtue.
So the virus rages among the poorer people; the hospitals cannot look after the sick; there is a shortage of masks and ventilators; government policies are incoherent and/or contradictory. We must ask: what have we done to the world? I long to be able to leave home without anxiety singing in my ears. I long to be unafraid for myself and others. This aloneness is often extremely painful. But I remind myself that we are not really alone. We have faith, and hope. And we have one another. And one day soon, we will cross that tense and delicate threshold and enter the world again. We may be like bewildered animals emerging from a burrow. But, in the words of T. S. Eliot: â€˜We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.â€™
When there is no coffee hour ...
An international range of contributors reflect on the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic