Interview

Staying social under lockdown

31st March 2020

For those who are single and/or living alone, social opportunities are incredibly important and essential for our well-being. How can we stay connected and plugged into community in a world of social distancing? Jackie Elton, director of Single Friendly Church, shares her weekend diary to spark ideas on how we can keep our regular social routine going under lockdown.

Jackie: "My life is rather social - as single person, my weekends combine regular activity with bursts of extras, get togethers, cultural visits, tennis, and of course church and importantly church coffee.  I have always advised single friends and the newly single that the key to survival is getting together with the same crowd regularly -  it gives warmth, continuity, accountability and community.  So my intention was to recreate those regular events with the help of zoom, the conferencing tool which until now I had only used but never hosted myself. That had to change. A big learning curve."

Friday

On Friday night I checked in with another single friend - R who told me she had booked in a friend to speak to every night. She had also organised a film night of an indy movie  which had turned into a riproaring success with the director taking Qs and As at the end. Inspirational.

Saturday

On Saturday morning I always play tennis with the same group and then we catch up with coffee.  We managed to create a zoom conference - there was a great deal of doubt to start with, and particularly M who is over 80 thought she might be feeling too down to take part  and needed some persuading.  Two others couldn't bring themselves to come.  But for those who "came" worked beautifully and at the end everybody was up for same time next week.

Saturday afternoon - my bridge buddies tested an online bridge set up for the coming Monday night - our normal session- not a success so I suggested a different app for testing.

On the Saturday morning I had emailed round a group of people for a "dinner" party - and by the evening there were 8 of us round "the table" .   I was worried they would all be too busy - but no- they weren't and it was a friendly supportive time. Almost as good as the real thing with so much good will.

Sunday

Sunday morning I usually attend an early morning 8.30 Communion service - with serious coffee time afterwards. Now it is just Morning Prayer from the Vicar's study but I organised virtual morning coffee on Zoom. Over the weekend I trained three people over the age of 85 through Zoom with their old computers and software. Two made it in and in the end we had about 20 people for coffee - including someone's mum from South Africa and somebody's partner who was outside London. Old, young, some isolated, others doing very well, but all loving coffee time!  The vicar joined in and shared the plans for the church during this time.

After that I watched the beautiful "big" service at St James Piccadilly - Lucy Winkett alone in her study - watched online by over 200 people.  Lucy is such a gifted preacher but also a brilliant singer so her solo service was wonderful and the warmth and spirit emanated through my computer. As an experienced broadcaster - she is very natural on camera.

Most of Sunday I was rather tired from my efforts, so confined myself to a long walk/run around the local green spaces - but I did attend evening Compline prayers of about 12 people and took about 4 phone calls from family and friends one after the other - who wanted to check I was OK!

Monday

On Monday work was frenetic as we try and work out ways to create new opportunities for Christian Connection and Single Friendly Church at this time.

By the evening, it was time for online Bridge with my Bridge crowd and with the help of Zoom and a terrific Bridge app by the end we absolutely nailed it, culminating in my partner achieving a slam with a massive smile on his face.

I had the occasional nightmare of worrying that my Bridge partners would find themselves in Evening Prayer or the Evening Prayer people would turn up at the Dinner party - but so far all well.  This new life isn't without its social stresses!  

Now there is next weekend to organise and of course the great challenge of Easter to plan.

Zoom: If you'd like to use Zoom for online social activities, they have a help centre with tips on organising and joining calls and downloading the app. Jackie took out a month's paid for subscription for Zoom to enable her to host plenty of people at the same time for as long as necessary, but you can use the free version for meetings up to 40 minutes.