Vigilia or Vela? – Chaplaincy in a new Covid-Driven World
We always knew that we would have to be flexible in reaching out to those with whom we provide pastoral and spiritual support. Modern technology has provided a means to keep in touch with each other visually, in particular through use of the Zoom platform for meetings and worship services when it was physically impossible to meet together. The new restrictions will mean that this remains the case as workplaces in particular which are open, will only allow entry to essential personnel only. This includes visits to Fire and Police stations as well as Bus Depots and other transport hubs.
But for many of those we minister to in the workplace zoom may not be a realistic option – same for Skype, Facetime, Teams or other similar technology. Many companies will once again be facing the prospect of furloughing staff and closing premises where there is either an insufficient volume of work or they do jobs which are impossible to do from home. With home working likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future, finding time to meet with groups of individuals even with access to the appropriate technology can be an often daunting and frustrating task. Unless the employer is prepared to allow the necessary window of opportunity for video conferencing to take place we may find ourselves shut out perhaps inadvertently, as some companies seek understandably to maximise productivity.
And even when the employer does provide such a window take up can be disappointingly low. On Boxing Day for instance, I with the help of the local Chief Superintendent’s secretary, arranged a 30 minute skype call on my personal account for Bloxwich Police personnel who wished to take part. Sadly, not only did nobody call in but some of the Response teams were not made aware of the opportunity to do so which added to the sense of frustration. West Midlands Police do not use zoom on their official computers due to security issues with the platform, so skype is widely used instead with where applicable Microsoft Teams, which again can make communication hard if one lacks access to these facilities and when meeting face to face is severely restricted. For me personally, when you happen to have an underlying medical condition and are married to a key worker, one has to strive even harder to ensure compliance with the guidelines.
With workplace chaplaincy becoming increasingly multi-faith especially within the blue light services but also within industry generally, it provides a perfect example of what Pope Francis describes in the same book as “Reconciled Diversity”, in which nobody has to give up any part of who or what they are but who could walk together in a common path.
This for me sums up the Vela element of service to others whether from a single faith perspective or multi-faith. In the many challenges we face in our ministries not least by ever-rising secularism and a culture of cynicism and the me-first outlook, if by working together and acting as that look out for those we seek to serve by using whatever means of communicating are at our disposal, we can be that meaningful presence for people in need to turn to whenever or wherever such need arises. Who provides that need is at first immaterial, it is being there to help, to answer a call perhaps even a prayer help from someone (anyone) in need.
In Luke chapter 11 when describing the necessity of perseverance with prayer in verses 9-10 Jesus says, “So I say unto you, Ask, and it will be given you: seek and you shall find: knock, and door will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Many of those we serve will be in need of someone to watch out for them in the coming months. As we approach the first year of living with this pandemic particularly for those who have been directly affected by its ravages, we must stand ready for those who WILL knock; and ensure that WE are behind the door when it opens.