In the days before mass transport and communications, how did people manage to connect with one another? We know that some people travelled long distances to make business calls – think of all those archbishops, abbots and bishops who travelled to Rome from England in the middle ages – but most people just stayed put. How did they, then, remain connected with the wider world, and how did they know what was happening in far off lands? Well, first of all, they relied on others to do the information collecting and dissemination for them and, in the middle ages, that is why the church played such an active role in society. People knew what was going on elsewhere because the church told them, and news was passed on locally by word of mouth.
We have so many ways of connecting with one another today, so much so that we can feel overwhelmed with information. We do need those connections, but most of all we need the personal word of mouth connections that have always been important. Even if we cannot visit one another, we can pick up the phone and speak to each other and especially to those who are isolated without access to social media, the internet, or other forms of access. I am going to try and phone round everyone on my list gradually over the next few weeks and just check if everyone is alright and if they have everything they need. If we all do that, then we will remain connected as a society even if, like the folks of the middle ages, we cannot travel very far.
But, there was an even more important way in which people remained connected in times gone by and which could be our most useful way of staying connected in our trying times – prayer. Many do not now go to church, but many still want to light a candle and pray for those they know who are in need. It is a primitive urge to want to mark in some way that we are thinking of people and wishing them health and good life – what in other terms we might call ‘blessing’ – and we can do that even if we are not sure about God or what to believe in. We are connected at the level of human spirit, that which makes us feel for and care for one another, and by taking a few moments each day to remember others we are connecting with them in care and feeling for them.
For those of us who acknowledge that God is that which holds all life together in this realm of feeling and care, we will want to pray that his blessing is upon all around us at this time. I will be saying prayers and remembering everyone on my list (which I have divided up into sections for each day) on a daily basis at 10 am and 4 pm, and I invite you to join me in prayer at those times. Better still, draw up your own daily list of those you want to remember and, maybe lighting a candle as you would if you were in a church, remember them at 10 and 4 each day as you pray along with me.
Above all, in these difficult days ahead, don’t just connect remotely – pick up the phone and communicate personally, and join me in praying for those on your list of those to remember. May God bless us all.