2020 was meant to be a year of wonderfully perfect symmetry and catchy usefulness for vision and mission statements. Instead, it’s turning out to be a year unlike any we have ever known.
In the midst of so much uncertainty and change I’ve found myself preoccupied with two main concerns. The first is how social distancing and isolation will effect me as a single person who lives alone. It would be so easy for my “aloneness” to morph into a truly awful “loneliness”.
The second is this. If I’m being really honest with myself (and with you), I know it would be very easy for me to pay lip service to my “trust in God” in the midst of these troubled times… while in reality being quite lazy about growing in that trust and truly depending on the one in whom it is grounded.
A few days ago it occurred to me that there was a creative way for me to proactively respond to both of these concerns, at the same time. I realised that I could commit myself to spending time reading God’s word and praying to him, but in a way which also encouraged community and connection with others.
And so I devised ‘Alone with God… together’.
In a nutshell, I’ve committed myself to a personal quiet time for half an hour every day. BUT… I have also invited others to join me to do the same thing, at the same time in a video-teleconferencing room. We don’t talk to each other. We don’t interact with anything more than just a wave. Some of the people in the room don’t even know each other. But that’s more than OK. We all just sit there quietly, spending our own time with God, in each others’ (virtual) company.
‘Alone with God… together’ is still only very new, but I am already loving it. It is helping me build some routine into my days and keeps me accountable in making my quiet times a priority. Not only is it really lovely to see the faces of friends in the morning, but it is so encouraging to be able to glance up at my screen and see each of them also immersed in their alone time with God. It really does foster a sense of community in the midst of isolation.
If you are keen to have a go at this with your friends, here are my top tips:
Pick a time that you know you and others are likely to be available each day/weekday. (I’ve gone with 8.15am in the hope that it will help me to not lie around in bed all morning!)
If you haven’t already, download Zoom (the base level plan is free) and then schedule a new meeting for the next day, at your selected time. Set the meeting up as a recurring meeting and select Personal ID. Disable the password feature and turn on video functionality for both yourself and other participants. (You can also explore other advanced functionality options or features that come with a Pro account if you have one)
Once you have scheduled the meeting, copy and paste the meeting invitation and extract the URL from it. This will be the URL you and others use to join the meeting every day.
Jump on social media and invite your friends to join you by sharing the URL with them. (At the bottom of this post are a few images I’ve created which you might like to use along with more info in the text of your social media post.)
Right before your meeting’s scheduled time open the room up in Zoom, make sure your video is enabled and your mic is muted. (I’d also encourage you to have closed any browser windows that are likely to send distracting notifications.)
Put your computer down out of arm’s reach (but with your camera still pointed at you) and get busy spending some time with God as your friends arrive to do the same.
You might like to wave hello as someone enters the room, but remember not to talk to each other. This is about spending time alone with God in the (silent!) company of others.
Clicking these images will open a new window for you to save them from. See below for example text for a social media post.
A sample social media post
Here is something new I want to try. I'd love you to join me. Each day at [TIME] I'm going to be in this Zoom meeting room [URL]. I'll have my microphone on mute but will just be sitting there reading the Bible and praying. If you would like to join me, just click the link (it will be the same link every day). We won't talk to each other. We'll just be alone with God... together.