LEARNING AND LOSING IN THE PANDEMIC BY THE REV PROFESSOR JUNE BOYCE-TILLMAN

We have all become increasingly aware of the dreadful divisions in our society and also our powerlessness in reforming an iniquitous economic system.

 The pandemic as driven me forward technologically more than I could ever have imagined.  I had used SKYPE before, but nothing else.  I had to learn ZOOM and get an iPad for Facetime.  I had never recorded either with video or audio and now can do recording and live streaming.  I have ordered new computer programmes with a view to making more films but have not had time to learn them properly.  This developing technical expertise has empowered me considerably now that the arthritis has increased. I am so glad and life is so much easier. I thought I would miss travel but now I realise how easy it is on the internet. These meetings are amazingly international so easily,  I have had to learn how to plan days without travelling so that they are not too full and my eyes do not get too tired. I have had an operation on both eyes and my sight is so much better. I am excited by church services partly live and partly streamed and see this as an important way forward. As the pandemic progressed I realised that I can develop close relationships and conversations digitally. I have been able to come to terms with how exciting my aging can be. 

 I have had time to think about and plan death and dying – including my own – especially because there have been so many funerals. This has been a mixed blessing. 

I have re-established a new and closer relationship with nature, listening to birds and biophony in general.  It has made all of us aware of this list relationship and the disastrous effects of this loss. 

The Music of April’s Stillness

There is a stillness deepdown things today

I can nearly hear the worms’ journeyings

and the wriggling of the tardigrades in the water butt

The curving edges of the skyclouds are no longer straitened by crosslines

and the fountain burbles an undertone

The falling catkins noiselessly pattern the sunmottled lawn

and the scrabble of the squirrels offers a tooloud rattle

in the pianissimo symphony

The burgeoning green leaves

Will soon be big enough to rustle

Finely tuned branches 

perform a graceful dance of varying rhythms

over the bench on which I sit.

All is at rest.

And I long to join.[1]

I have worked at a new theology of the earth and the environment. It has given me time to think.

The wild goddess

I was alone in the church

The vaults curved above me

And I heard a scratching

On the roof

Under the floor

On the door and all the windows

And there was a rushing mighty wind

And a figure flew in

I had not seen one like it before

For her flame filled the temple

And her skirt flowed with serpents

Her hair was filled with honeysuckle

And Old Man’s Beard

Frogs leaped from her mouth

And played gambolling around the statues

They found the font

And the figure sprayed water from her toes

And the font filled 

And the frogs laughed 

And spewed out tadpoles.

I saw that the floor was becoming transparent

I could see the traversing worms

The burrowing beetles

The termites and the ants

And then I noticed the roof

Was filling with birds

They were attached to the strings in her hair.

Branches were growing out of the walls

And suddenly a fully grown oak tree leaped out of the floor

No sooner was it born

Than ivy started to wind itself around the trunk.

And then I saw people were emerging

From her belly

Of every shape and every age

The hopped, they jumped

They crawled, they limped

They lay in her arms and started to find places in the corners of the church

And I noticed that she was a woman

Struggling to birth all these creatures

For some were minute, some huge

They contained every rainbow colour

Some were still and some moved

Some appeared to be made of wood and stone

And the winding ivy and the honeysuckle fronds bound them lightly together.

“Who are you?” I said

Enveloped in the swirling of the multifarious creatures.

And she replied: “I am the Wild Goddess.

Thank you for letting me in

I have waited so long!”

She raised her hands

And vines circled from them

Dropping grapes 

And all were trodden

And the wheeled chairs ploughed over them

The juice flowed into 

The silver cups which were appearing everywhere

Shaped from buttercups and daffodils

And all drank together.

“I am called Joy”

She said

And we all laughed

And the sound filled the temple. [2]

What have I lost?  I miss being hugged especially by my family.  I miss meals in restaurants. I miss shopping but have got good at ordering on line.  I miss going away for a break. I miss singing in church. I miss preparing live performances but have devised ways of improvising on the internet – the ZOOM peace choir and creating films from workshops such as Path through the woods – which is about surviving the pandemic. 


[1]  June Boyce Tillman May 3rd, 2020. NOTE: Tardigrades are very small creatures. They are never more than 1.5 mm long, and can only be seen with a microscope.

[2] June Boyce-Tillman June 24th, 2020

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