I’m a day later getting to the Log this week as yesterday was taken up with a meeting of a Passionist Province Commission of which I am the coordinator. There were only five of us at the meeting, four Passionists and a facilitator, and we met in the bottom hall at St. Mungo’s. Prior to the meeting the facilitator had been in touch to seek agreement on the purpose and agenda for the meeting, but also to propose the protocols we should put in place for keeping safe, having himself consulted the most recent advice available for keeping safe at meetings. Among his proposals were: open all windows and doors to increase air ventilation and air exchange – and therefore to bring an extra layer of clothing in case it got cold (which it did); everyone bring laptops so that any documents could be shared online rather than sharing paper documents; sit two metres apart (in fact we did more than that as we created a pentagon of tables which meant we were at least 3 meters apart); everyone bring their own supply of alcohol hand gel and use it at regular intervals throughout the meeting; and bring our own drinks and lunch. This is yet another example of how complex life has become in the course of this pandemic, when even a simple meeting of just five people demands such care and preparation.
Father Antony is also on the Commission, and the facilitator lives in Milngavie. The other two Passionists travelled over separately from the North of Ireland on the ferry, one from Crossgar, and the other from Belfast. As we have no accommodation to offer, each booked into a different hotel for bed and breakfast. Hotels, of course, also have their protocols to follow. On the basis of this, one of the guys had quite a positive experience, and the other a horrendous experience. On Wednesday evening I had been invited by one of the guys, the one who had arrived earliest, to meet him for a bite to eat in an Indian restaurant near to his hotel. In years gone by, when he was based in Scotland, he had come to consider Glasgow as the best place ever for Indian cuisine. The restaurant also had all the Covid-19 protocols in place, one of which was that we had to sit alongside each other, rather than facing each other, so as to keep the two-metre distance from the table in front. The food was delicious, and we were able to have a good catch-up with each other. The waitress kept referring to us as “my darlings”, in a very loud and friendly way, and, I thought to myself, I must bring Father Gareth here some time as I could imagine her calling him darling, and him calling her sweetheart, and the whole restaurant being able to hear and enjoy the pair of them – but no hugging so as to keep safe distance.
At the beginning of the meeting, before getting down to business, we shared on how things had been for us during these past few months. One of the Passionists had contracted the virus early on, he thinks from another member of the community, but had been able to carry on his counselling ministry via Zoom. He had recognised the need to have a special shirt for these Zoom meetings as the temptation during isolation was to stray from casual into scruffy, which wouldn’t have come across as very professional. The other Passionist, the director of our retreat house, had been compelled to close doors and isolate with his community. He had found it a prayerful time, with plenty of opportunity for reading, and enjoying walks in the beautiful retreat house grounds. The facilitator was on furlough and was able to enjoy time with his wife and young daughter, feeling grateful that he could walk out of his front door and, in minutes, be on some of the lovely walking paths that are part of the West Highland Way. Father Antony and I shared our experiences too, but I think readers of this Log will have a good idea of how things have been for us during this period.
In Bishopbriggs at present, we are looking forward to Father Gareth’s return next Tuesday. As well as longing to welcome his unique, larger than life presence, to liven up our community life, it will also be good to have him available to share the pastoral load. The only drawback is that I have been using his room as an overflow to hang up washing on the clothes dryer, rather than cluttering up the sitting room, which we normally use, and also to hang up my own shirts to keep the creases out, so as to clear space in my own room, which is the smallest room in the house. I will need to ensure that all of that is removed before Father Gareth bursts in the door as if he had never been away. Father Antony and myself are still keeping things going as best we can. Father Antony is looking forward to going over to Belfast for his classmate Aidan’s ordination on 5th September. The ordination was postponed last May because of Covid-19, but even though restrictions are still in place, and it won’t be as Aidan would have wanted, it will now definitely go ahead on that date no matter what. Father Justinian is well. So, as always, protect yourselves and your loved ones, and protect Christ in your lives