Helping isolated, distanced people know they are not alone – whatever it takes

When your job is to connect, how to you preach isolation?

LynnMore than anything else, Lynn Watson is a philosopher.

When you go to her with big questions, she responds with answers that keep you chewing down to the bone of meaning for days and days.

She loves hockey, motorcycles, running, swimming, she’s got a hearty laugh and she’s also been an ordained minister since 2002.

Reverend Lynn’s got a family of parishioners she supports through her work at the Bancroft Carlow Pastoral Charge, which includes St. Paul’s United Church in downtown Bancroft.

With the first waves of the COVID-19 crisis impacting our community, her job just got bigger. Her job, right now, is to help people understand that they are not alone.

Like many in the Bancroft region, by Friday March 13, Lynn knew that the world was changing, and that her way of caring for her congregation would also have to change.

It had already been a rough start to the year– deaths, funerals, homelessness, food insecurity on top of the regular challenges of a long rural winter. And then COVID-19 decided to test us all.

Rev. Lynn admits she has had no training on how to get people through a pandemic – that’s just not covered in any course she’s taken. But she’s got lots of experience with fear.

“Fear is something I know,” she explained, last week, by phone. “It’s my job to bring peace, calm and meaning.”

But before she could deliver these essentials of peace, calm and meaning, Lynn had to rapidly evolve – learning to work within an entirely unprecedented framework, all while keeping people connected.

“So much hangs on our Sunday service,” Lynn said. “On the 15th we had service, but it was already changing. We didn’t hand out folders and people had to spread out; which was nice because the Church looked full.”

With new rules and expectations mounting, Lynn focused on how to keep a spiritual connection while everyone was being told to create space, and to isolate; the philosophers dilemma. If isolation has the potential to physically sustain us but emotionally and spiritually devastate so many across the Region, what is the solution?

So Lynn started to work through the dilemma. She created lists of folks who needed regular phone calls and assigned the duty to Elders in the Church and then, Moose FM offered the opportunity to deliver the Sunday service over the local airwaves.

It sounded easy enough but by the time the first broadcast aired on Sunday, March 22, there had been multiple takes and huge amounts of new technical learning.

“The final take was recorded on an app, on my phone – bra off,” Lynn laughs. “But it was worth it because the broadcast made an impact. It changed how I felt about radio and it helped people stay connected”

This is a time when people are counting on Lynn to be a preacher and to tell them something good; to help them make sense of everything that is happening, rapidly, beyond our control. The opportunity to speak, through Moose FM, to have her voice heard, was priceless.

“We want to stop feeling raw,” Lynn explains. “And I have to try to explain that God is in the thick of this, that God is also feeling that rawness.”

With or without faith, this is not a simple concept for people to understand. But that’s how Lynn connects – by providing something for everyone to work through, individually but still together.

When asked what she would tell people right now, Lynn had a simple response – shit happens and God is in the shit.

(Side note: she swapped “shit” for “crap” during her broadcast.)

“Things will break, and they will come back together differently but things will come back together,” Lynn explains, philosophically. “The world teaches us – the universe teaches us that death and resurrection are hardwired into this.”

Typical Lynn, there is depth, meaning and sense in her words.

When she took to the airwaves for the second time on March 29, it was to deliver a kind, simple message of hope, explaining three basic truths: that Jesus loves you, that we are surrounded by loving kindness and that we are not alone.”

From Moose FM, by phone, through social media or through ringing the bells of the St. Paul’s United Church to recognize the sacrifices and dedication of the community – Lynn is going to keep connecting to help every person she can. Rev. Lynn Watson will keep working to show everyone that they might be physically isolated, but they are not alone.

With sincere thanks to Rev. Lynn Watson for making time to talk during this crisis.