It's been 23 days since my last real blog post.
In some ways, it's hard to believe that much time has passed, and in others, it feels like a lifetime.
A lot has changed since then, both for us personally and in the world at large.
I've had some writer's block when it comes to the blog for two main reasons. One is that we've just been really busy, moving to a new city in a new country and starting a new job and creating a new life in the midst of a global pandemic. The second is that the global pandemic is changing our lives and changing the world in ways that feel overwhelming and I haven't had the words to respond in any way that feels even remotely adequate.
So I guess I'll just jump back in with an update on where we are and what we've been up to.
We live in London now! That job and that flat in Notting Hill we've been waiting on since December of last year finally, finally, came through. But it's been a rough start.
We returned to the US on February 20th.
Our work visas came through on March 5th.
We busied ourselves in the States visiting friends, family. and sorting through our remaining belongings to decide what we want to ship to Wales in September. At first, the time flew. Then, as the reality of coronavirus and COVID-19 began to set in, the days began to crawl.
We were set to return to the UK on March 17th.
We ended up going to the airport on March 15th, hoping that our airline would put us on an earlier flight so we could get back to the UK before either the UK or the US closed borders and travel. Aer Lingus was incredibly accommodating, getting us on a flight that day so that we arrived in London on the morning of March 16th. Our bags were delayed due to a too-short layover in Dublin but they arrived at our doorstep later that night, so again, good on them.
All last week I felt like I was running a race against the clock. We knew it was only a matter of time before the UK went into a lockdown-mode like so many other countries in order to combat the virus. Before that happened we needed to get enough furniture to make our flat livable, open a bank account so I could get paid for my job, set up internet so we wouldn't go completely insane while under quarantine, and get basic supplies like food and toilet paper in a city that was in panic mode well before we arrived.
We made it through with, as the Beatles say, a little help from our friends. Vince and Joan let us spend one last night with them then drove us and all of our stuff to the city and helped us move into the flat. They took us to Costco where we stocked up on the supplies we could find (no toilet paper but we did get a 10kg bag of rice.) A new co-worker of mine and the building manager for our flat greeted us with the keys to our new place and a bag full of toilet paper as it is very hard to find in the city right now. My new fellow pastor on the circuit fed us dinner one night and loaned us a futon that we can use for the foreseeable future. The church let us borrow a table and chairs.
Setting up a bank account in a new country is a pain even (I imagine) under normal circumstances. Banks tend to ask for things that are difficult to get a hold of when you have just moved, like proof of address. I had to ask my job for an official letter verifying my employment, then we had to go to two different branches before someone was willing to accept that the Methodist Church phrasing of "appointed to serve" means the exact same thing as "employed."
Once we had a bank account we could sign up for broadband internet, though it still won't be hooked up for...who knows how long now. In the meantime, I got an unlimited data sim card from a company called Vodafone. So far they have been exceptionally easy to work with and if they keep this up we will be customers for life. Their unlimited data appears to truly be unlimited as we have been able to run not just my phone but Joel's phone, both our laptops, Netflix, etc. on the hotspot I can create with my phone. I can't even imagine what quarantine would be like without internet access!
Truly, that is not just because I need a steady diet of Facebook, Instagram and Netflix to stay sane. It's also because my new job, one that is usually almost solely done in person, is now going to be solely done online, as much as possible.
I realize that I am so incredibly blessed that my job is still starting at this time when so many people around the world are suddenly losing theirs. I am so grateful for this. I also feel like I am floating in a weird, undefined space. I attended exactly one staff meeting last week in which I met my new co-workers. The meeting was all about how to shut down the building as the government and the Methodist Church had just asked churches to close in order to help with social distancing.
My immediate focus became how to do as much ministry online as possible - I've retstarted the existing Facebook page for the church so we have a place to post updates and live stream worship on Sundays. I created an Instagram account for the church. I'm still thinking about starting a YouTube channel. We are using WhatsApp to communicate with parishioners daily. We are brainstorming what we can send through the mail to people who aren't connected online.
Everyone else at the church is working hard to make sure the food bank keeps running as well as working with an elder care agency to provide extra resources to older neighborhood residents during this crisis. As much as I'd like to help out with those ministries they already have people who know what they are doing so I would just be in the way and adding to the risk.
It feels so weird to sit at home.
We had exciting plans for London. We were looking forward to going to the movies again and exploring all the fun tourist-y things that London has to offer - the London eye, countless museums, palaces, and other historical sites. We already had people planning to visit us this spring and summer - my mom, a close friend of mine from high school, another friend from seminary. All of those plans have been cancelled or put on hold.
It's entirely possible that we will live our whole time in London and not get to do any of those things.
It's entirely possible that I will serve my whole five months at Notting Hill Methodist Church and not meet any church members in person.
It's weird. It's unsettling. It feels like the whole world is changing in ways that we will not begin to understand until all of this is over.
So, there's my brain dump for now. Pardon me if it was a bit scattered, but that's just how my brain is working right now! I plan to start blogging three times a week again, if nothing else than to document this strange new world we are living in. I hope that if you can stay home, you are doing so. If you are an essential worker of any kind, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do, and I hope you stay as safe and healthy as possible.
We are in this together, and we will make it through, together.