Lockdown blessings

Message in coloured pens: Stay safe, stay clean, stay sober, be happy - Yeldall Manor

Lockdown recommendations from one of the residents at Yeldall Manor

Rachel Burton joined the CMS pioneer course as a student in 2018, after returning from two years as a CMS short-termer in Bolivia. Here she helped establish a contextually appropriate rehabilitation ministry inspired by Yeldall Manor near Reading, UK, where she previously worked. Rachel is now back on staff at Yeldall, still helping residents stay with the rehab programme. Thanks to coronavirus measures, she has also had to postpone her wedding to fiance Alex. Here she shares her lockdown perspective.

Rachel Burton

This time in lockdown is a struggle for all of us in different ways. My heart sinks when I read articles that write about the impact of Covid-19 on society and the likely long-term need for social-distancing. I wonder when I’ll be able to see Alex, friends and family again. I feel for those living on their own… for those who are living in stressful home environments and can’t escape… and those who have lost loved ones at this time. Having acknowledged these sentiments and the reality of these challenging times, I am keen to focus on some of the blessings I have experienced during lockdown.

I am part of a scaled-back staff team at Yeldall Manor, with some colleagues having been furloughed and others working from home. I’m grateful for the change of scenery and routine this provides.

We are continuing to run a full rehabilitation programme, with a simple timetable that is easier for us to implement.

Restrictions for residents (particularly not being able to go off-site or receive visitors) are challenging, but overall, they have been in good spirits and appreciate being in such a spacious and beautiful place at this time. It is a privilege to work there.

Rachel (far right) helps lead a team activity in the grounds at Yeldall Manor


One resident posted on Facebook:

“Thank you to the powers that be at Yeldall Manor while the world’s going mental outside, they have done what they do best!! They’ve thrown their arms around us n heaped more love on us. They’ve adapted the programme to help us in isolation so we can keep progressing. While other treatment centres are closing their doors n basically leaving clients to their own devices Yeldall do the opposite! It’s truly humbling I thank god every day… I’ve never known such love n commitment. I sat out the other night having a ciggie, thought about all this n what’s going on n it brought me to tears man. Feeling blessed”.

It has been interesting to see how churches have responded to this crisis. It reiterates the question that I already had in my mind following my recent ‘Missional Ecclesiology’ module at CMS, which is ‘What is Church’?

Churches have been forced out of their buildings and pushed to think creatively about how to maintain a sense of community and help people to engage in worship and prayer in new ways. As a pioneer-in-training, I think this raises a healthy challenge for the church, and demonstrates that we can (and must) adapt, do things differently, and still be ‘church’!

It has been encouraging to see how online services, prayer events and homegroups have been made possible, though I wouldn’t want to worship and have fellowship only through zoom or other virtual platforms in future. I have particularly appreciated joining some ‘Examen’ prayer sessions (a contemplative prayer of reflection looking back over your day with God), which my curate is running each evening over zoom.

Some other lockdown blessings include having more quality time with my housemate, including fairly regularly cooking for each other and eating together; connecting with neighbours through waving across the street during claps for the NHS and a mutual support WhatsApp group I created after putting letters through doors of everyone on my road. There has also been more time for baking, crafts, gardening and exercise; family zoom chats and baking/walking/praying/reading video dates with Alex!

As for the wedding, we are looking into making this available for people to join ‘virtually’ and still thinking through options, which are all dependent on how and when restrictions are lifted.

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