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Lessons from 2020: things we will remember from the year everyone wants to forget

Lessons from 2020: things we will remember from the year everyone wants to forget

Members of the Theos team share what they want to carry with them into 2021. 08/01/2021

Love the ones you’re with

Like many across the country, the ups and downs of 2020 were accompanied with the stress of not being able to see my friends and family. Plans were cancelled, Facetime replaced face–to–face time and the tug of missing those I love loomed large. In the midst of this though, something quite beautiful happened right on my doorstep. I live in a small block of 20 council flats, sharing a roof with a social worker, a bus driver, a few builders, several retired people and one musician couple with two enormous adopted greyhounds.

As March’s lockdown turned into April, I began to see my neighbours more and more. The old pre– or post–commute ‘hello’ became ‘how are you coping today?’ I learned the name of the postman and found out he loves to listen to heavy metal as he does his rounds. I shed tears in the stairwell with my neighbour who is doing battle with anxiety and depression. The 78–year–old lady whose floor is my ceiling joined our ‘bubble’, as we soon realised that we were just made to be friends.

As the virus returned in earnest in November with lockdown 2.0, I noticed less of a jolt of sadness, when I realised I would still get to see many of my friends as they go in and out of our shared door. Jesus issues a call to love our neighbours, and 2020 taught me that this is much easier to do when I actually know who they are.

Lucy Colman is Head of Development at Theos 

Become comfortable with discomfort

If 2020 has taught me anything, it is to hold on to the things that matter, regardless of how uncomfortable it feels. We know that human connection is vital but after months of stilted conversations with friends and family over Zoom, on top of online work meetings, it is tempting to stop arranging catch ups and let relationships dwindle. Many of us are sick and tired of not being able to worship properly together, and it is all too easy to check out of church until things return to ‘normal’. With the days now much colder and shorter, it is easier to hole up in a warm house than force yourself out for that lunchtime walk despite the known benefits of exercise, fresh air and daylight.

What I have learned is that however unappealing they may seem, these things warrant continuing with. Getting out of the house, even briefly for a wet, cold walk around the park, is worth making yourself uncomfortable for. Remaining connected with those you love and your faith community, if only in ways that are imperfect, awkward and tiring, is crucial. We are made for relationship, and pushing through the Zoom fatigue may be the only way we can stay attached to what we need. It is worth the short term discomfort if it means we come through this pandemic with our relationships intact.

If we are to cope with 2021, we must not give up on these basic human needs, instead accepting that they cannot be met perfectly but this is the best we can do for now.

Abbie Allison is Communications and Events Officer at Theos 

Let tomorrow worry about itself

I had really been looking forward to the year. We had just started a fascinating new project on science and religion. We were about to start a great new podcast. My colleagues remained an endlessly stimulating bunch of brainy, brilliant people.

And then it hit us. Out of the blue, it seemed at the time, although in retrospect we could see a few of the straws in the wind. 

The ensuing six months were really tough. They saw us shuttling between hospitals, coping day–to–day, sometimes insomniac and sick with fear, an anxiety that let off a bit in the summer and early autumn, but is far from over even as I write.

I am not talking about Covid–19 here, though I might as well be. 2020 was very tough for very many people, but in some very different ways. And it reminded me, as if I needed reminding, to (try) not to worry (too much) about tomorrow and to let tomorrow worry about itself. “Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Nick Spencer is Senior Fellow at Theos 

Let nothing affright you

When we began working from home permanently, shortly before the first national lockdown in March 2020, one of the small things that quickly became a routine was the daily calendar invite to join the rest of the Theos team in midday prayer. Since then, we have gathered online in different permutations at 12pm every weekday to pray together.

We have prayed sitting down, standing up to stretch, lying down in pain, from bedrooms, kitchen tables and makeshift offices scattered across the country. More than once, I have walked the two–foot journey from my desk and climbed into my bed to pray with the team. Sitting in silence, together with familiar faces in silent boxes on screen, has turned out to be a more profound spiritual experience than I imagined possible.

Ten months in, I know by heart the words of St Teresa of Avila’s poem, which we pray as a final blessing, and my tongue no longer trips clumsily over all the consonants in ‘possesseth’. We have prayed this together on days when the idea of letting nothing disturb or affright us seemed almost unattainable, and on the day when the vaccine was announced and we felt hope that all things and all pandemics really would pass. Some of us have found ourselves joining in even on days off. The morning my Grampy died in May, I could think of nothing more comforting than knowing that come midday, there would be colleagues waiting on Microsoft Teams to pray. This blessing, and the collective act of praying it together, carried us through all manner of storms and continues to do so.

As I write, my phone has just buzzed to remind me that it is fifteen minutes until midday prayer. There is so much that I want to leave behind in 2020, but I hope the daily call to prayer and togetherness endures – in our calendars and our lives – long beyond the pandemic.

Hannah Rich is Senior Researcher at Theos


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 Image: Dilok Klaisataporn/shutterstock.com

The Theos Team

The Theos Team

Posted 8 January 2021

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