Zoom calls. Meeting virtually when we want to meet in person


By Jeanne Paradise, Companion-in-Charge of Chapters


Meeting virtually when we want to meet in person

Surprise! What a rich experience meeting on Zoom is turning out to be for Companion chapters. We are getting good at enjoying each other in little boxes.  Of course we miss the hugs, the spontaneous laughter, singing together, but it’s not just “better than nothing.”


A Women’s Faith Community

The Companions’ strong community begins in its 32 chapters. On the East Coast where the organization began, chapters tend to cover smaller geographic areas. In the midlands and west, a chapter may draw women from more than one state. Outside the U.S., we have the India Chapter. And, the Far and Near Chapter is a home for Companions with no chapter nearby.


Chapters Moved to Zoom

Like most of the world, Companions changed in mid-March 2020. Suddenly, Companions could not gather in person for our monthly meetings. We were under “stay at home” orders, sheltered-in-place or quarantined by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Before COVID-19, one chapter was already meeting virtually to include members who were geographically distant. By May, nearly all chapters had worked out how to meet on Zoom. They were happy to find out they could include members who rarely attended because of geography or illness.

How wonderful that Zoom lets us continue to see, hear and support each other during this frightening and isolating time. In many of our meetings, we simply share the grace of being together, speaking of the opportunities and hardships of isolating during COVID-19.


New Possibilities

Companions experienced new possibilities during this unprecedented time of isolation. For example, we found:

  • a surge of creativity;
  • new-found courage to speak up, from work in a racism book group;
  • a deepening trust in God, and;
  • that creating art is a form of liturgy.

Others found increasing intimacy with their children or grandchildren. They found the joy of renewed love with distant relatives. Many found a deeper connection with nature by slowing down and looking closely during frequent outdoor walks. Who would have expected spiritual growth at this time?


What We Need Right Now

Companions recognized what we need most is love and support amid so much pain. One chapter decided they needed an opportunity to “share deeply from places of hurt.” In another chapter, members were invited to face pain and not hide from emotions stirred up by the turmoil in our divided country. Instead of giving action to emotions like anger and a desire for revenge, we gave voice to them instead.

So we spoke, saying. “We are angry. We are afraid. We are hurting. We are lonely. We feel helpless. Where are you Lord? Do not abandon us. Our souls are full with troubles. Let those who do not care be inflicted with this disease. Smite them and mow them all down! We resent those who could have made a difference and did not. Why don’t we have the vaccine yet?”

Recalling the Psalms and learning to lament, we wrote our own laments: “Oh Lord how long? Open our ears. Hear the cries of those who need help. Heal the sick. Comfort the grieving. Give patience to the weary. Protect our loved ones. Bless the helpers and walk with them in their daily duties.”


Weaving Study and Faith

Book groups sprang up. Chapters have read “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson and “Color of Law” by Richard Rothstein. Many Companions are reading “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, “Waking up White” by Debbie Irving, “How to be an Anti-racist” and “Stamped” by Ibram X. Kendi and “Begin Again” by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. Others read “Christ in Crisis” by Jim Wallis and “God and the Pandemic” by theologian NT Wright and many more.

Chapter programs were full of presentations and conversations on the triple pandemics of systemic racism, COVID-19 and the climate emergency. We continued discussions that began in the regional conferences with Indigenous people and with Ruby Sales on racial justice and prayer. Some chapters engaged with the rich resources of the Sacred Ground program from the Episcopal Church.


A Women’s Prayer Group

We dove deeply into the Companions’ call for intercessory prayer. We prayed for people with COVID-19, those caring for them and all at-risk front-line workers. Two chapters started a noonday intercessory prayer service, five days a week. Soon, Companions from other chapters were joining on Zoom and offering to lead the service.

For many Companions, our prayers took on an immediacy usually reserved for emergencies.  Did this change our prayer? One Companion said, on waking and rising each morning, she first prays for front-line workers’ safety. Others are finding a new spiritual home in the services and preaching at the National Cathedral.

As we always do, we begin every chapter meeting with prayer in community, drawing on the SCHC “Manual,” “Book of Common Prayer,” “New Zealand Prayer Book,” “Iona Worship Book,” and often creating new liturgies that are always sparked with spontaneous prayers of thanksgiving and intercession.