During the Covid 19 pandemic over 2 million people in the UK were asked to "shield" - to stay home to protect themselves from catching Covid 19 and therefore protect the NHS from overload.
2 million people were told that their lives were in danger and that they should stay inside, not even going into their garden. After two months this was "eased" to allow people to go into their gardens, though of course a proportion of these people don't have private gardens, but I don't know how many.
I was one of the Shielding community, in fact I still am, such a community doesn't simply disband after supporting each other through a pandemic.
I found it hard enough to stay home, let alone not go into the garden, so I made the decision to spend time outside, at a safe distance from the boundaries of our garden, every day. I prayed outside and I felt God with me through the connection to the natural world.
Nature became more important to me than it ever had. The changing weather, the spring buds blooming, the butterflies and bees appearing, the bird song and even crickets on hot days. My small suburban garden became a source of peace and calm, inspiration and prayer.
I took hundreds of photos of flowers in our lawn and blossom in our cherry tree, of the trees on the horizon and clouds drifting across the sky. I recorded bird song and made short videos with simple prayers to be shared online.
My friends seemed to enjoy seeing these, but it was the digital community of shielders who loved them. Those who couldn't get outside asked for more photos and videos and audio. Those who were able to get into their gardens were inspired to take their own photos and videos and share them. Nature gave us hope.
We were noticing the natural world, experiencing God in nature and sharing that with each other. It became our prayer, our worship, our fellowship.
The more we noticed the world around us, the more we started talking about how we can care for the environment, about issues of social justice and climate change. We started to wonder what we could do in our own lives to reduce our impact on the planet and raise awareness of the issues. We were asking what God expects of us and seeking to be better stewards of the earth.
As we completed 14 months shielding, some of us managed to get into wild places such as woods, rivers or the coast. We have felt drawn to find even more of that connection to nature we experienced in miniature during lockdown. We have found hope in our own situations, reflected in changing seasons; and felt peace as the constancy of nature relieved our anxiety.
Of course not all of us have managed to get into nature yet, but connection is achieved through the photos and videos and in simple ways like bird song through windows and the changing of the seasons through windows.
We will all eventually emerge from a long hibernation indoors and physically touch the earth with our feet; but until then we continue to share the beauty of God's creation and encourage each other in being the best stewards we can be for the planet.
Here are some of the videos I created to share online
Worshipping with Creation
Meditation on a tree
With God all things are possible