“Only connect! Live in fragments no longer.” This cry for human connection echoes to me from EM Forster’s novel Howards End, written from 1908 – 1910, a time when the author witnessed an explosive growth of technology and urbanization. There are some lush cinematic portrayals of this novel. (I love the one with Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Helene Bonham Carter. Oh my!)
“Only connect!” As drama unfolds, this cry for human connection plays out in the relation or disconnect between social classes, between genders, between siblings, between industrialization and nature. Forster paints a profound sense of connection with the land and the history of the English countryside as the drama increasingly centers on an ancient home – a sense of place! – called Howards End.
“Only connect!” This cry has come from my lips all too frequently lately as I have struggled with a new Internet service provider. We have not yet arrived at functionality. (That’s me being polite.) So here I am, trying to meet you lovely people, trying to step into a leadership role with various teams and commissions … and I can’t even hold a WIFI connection! Voices break up, the visual freezes … the connection is dropped altogether. Eventually it fades back in, but the meeting is disrupted.
There is something about this fragmented connection that really pushes my frustration buttons! It’s probably a less-than-helpful perfectionism … being new, I want to prove you have hired a competent person! Instead, I can’t even get to the meeting! Aaah! My fingers poised over the keyboard, waiting; powerless. “Only connect!”
How do you start a new job in a pandemic, a new ministry? How do you lead a community of people when even meeting them is a challenge? How can we gather our people to discern how God is calling us to respond to the twin pandemics around us - COVID19 and racism? The WIFI struggle – “Only connect!” - is a microcosm of the larger question.
I am loving meeting you individually and in small groups at our Gazebo. Small opportunities for connection in this devastating season. But how can we gather the whole community?? It is still a question of safety, literally a matter of life or death. We struggle to connect. Some still feel incredibly isolated; others, masked, are out and about.
One of my daughters is teaching a classroom of 4th graders, and it’s all virtual. She calls me at the end of the day, tells me how hard this is! My other daughter is starting graduate school, and the whole thing is online. “Only connect!” As school begins, across this nation and world, we are all in this astonishing challenge together! There will be moments of frustration and fatigue for all of us.
I beg your patience with me as I seek to connect. Perhaps there is an invitation, for all of us, to be patient with ourselves as we navigate this autumn with its manifold risks and challenges. We are being stretched and shaped and changed in ways we cannot even fully fathom! So let us be gentle with each other, and with ourselves.
“Only connect! Live in fragments no longer.” This is our prayer. May God help us find the way! Amen.
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The Rev. andrea castner wyatt
The Rev. Andrea Castner Wyatt is honored to accept the call of Trinity Episcopal Church to serve and lead as Rector. She looks forward with joy to walking with the people of Trinity Church, and to discovering with you what Jesus is up to in Newtown, CT. Contact Rev. Andrea at email@example.com or by calling 203-426-9070.