One of the joys of retiring from corporate life was the absolute stop to crack-of-dawn conference calls. Stressing over getting the right link, password, sound setup and all the rest vanished overnight. It was like casting off a straight jacket – I could breath again.
These days, early morning gatherings are relaxed, in person, and casual affairs. Even our 7am bible study is easy come easy go. No assignments, status reports or deliverables. Just show up, be present and contribute or not, it doesn’t matter.
That was all true, until this week when the virus closed the doors to these precious get-togethers. My heart sank. It never occurred to me to suggest any kind of virtual replacement. And that’s coming from the former “Queen of Virtual Meetings” – you know what I’m talking about, if you ever worked with me. Online meetings for me are synonymous with an oppressiveness that I can’t seem to shake.
So when one of our bible study group suggested setting up a virtual meeting, I wasn’t thrilled. Really, will these things chase me beyond the grave? But, I knew I had to reveal my ability to make this happen. Privately, I stepped into it with a sense of dread and heavy obligation. Publicly, I promised I could get them all connected and we could test the waters to see how they liked it. I was sure this would be a one-time thing.
The night before, I went to bed with a higher level of anxiety than usual – I recognized that old feeling, and it was not good. Will they all be able to connect? Will I be able to explain it? I don’t even know this new tool very well myself, so how can I figure out all the quirky issues that will surely arise? Will we collapse in a heap of dropped links, echoing sound feedback, barking dogs, and such? This would be a great time for God to show up in a big way!
Tuesday 6:45am arrives and I am ready at my desk with my headset on and click Start Meeting. The first participant arrives with her video turned off. After some cajoling she is persuaded to reveal herself lying in bed in jammies and no make-up. I’m looking equally elegant. We are more real and more vulnerable to each other already. Maybe this will be different than I thought.
Then another arrives and she pops up sitting on her couch with a cat slinking behind her in a dark quiet room. Then another and another. There are no technical issues. Everyone hops in and gets connected. It’s nothing short of miraculous. Within a few minutes, there’s a collage of 17 beautiful sisters on my screen. We see dogs in laps, PJs, glasses instead of contacts, coffee cups, no makeup, just our unmasked selves. Our leader starts us out with a prayer and we skip around the collage checking in with everyone.
We share fears, small joys, concerns for self and others, challenges and needs. There are words of comfort and empathy. There are tears and laughter. There is tenderness and listening. We are present to each other in a new way.
The distances dissolve. We are knit together in an unexpected sisterhood in this beautiful collage on the screen in front of me.
God truly did show up in a very big way!
I’m looking forward to doing this again next week.