Thoughts about thoughts

Thoughts about thoughts:  How Thought for the Day came about, feedback from the recent survey and the plan going forward

Back at the start of lockdown, when we didn’t know where this pandemic was heading, an idea emerged from the team at St Chads, All Hallows and St Michaels.  A regular “Thought for the Day” to create connection and space for reflection as churches responded to restrictions and change in access to worship.  Reflections were shared from Monday to Saturday through Facebook, church websites and email lists.

Contributors, drawn from clergy and lay people in the churches, were landed in it.  Some turned to Radio 4 for inspiration and others trod another path.  All looked to the lectionary either with familiarity or horror at the task before them: to find morsels of hope, truth, comfort or challenge that related to the now.  Nigel, and a tiny team, took on the task of making sure the message got out.

Months passed and in August, the band of writers got together on zoom to say hi and chatter about the Thought for the Day journey.  Many wondered what you, the reader, thought of it all, and whether you found the reflections useful.  A question lurked – was this for a season or something to continue?

Over a 2 week period at the end of October, during local tier 2 restrictions, everyone normally receiving reflections were invited to respond to a short survey.  62 individuals took time to share their thoughts and what they’d like going forward. 

Overwhelmingly, the responses were positive.  You shared how the thoughts had provided moments of reflection, comfort and connection during the challenges of lockdown.  Strong in the feedback too was an appreciation of variety and diversity in the contributions.  You set a challenge too, to keep the length and complexity of writings in check, to keep the interest of readers and the time available.  Though many preferred written text there was encouragement about using other styles.  Over 75 percent appreciated other media such as videos, songs, poems, images, photos and art.

The question of whether to continue?  40 percent supported the status quo and a further 32 percent using different formats in Advent, Christmas and Lent.  Only 10 percent felt time was up.

So, what does that mean for Thought for the Day?  Well, the plan is to continue into the new church year trying some new formats.  For Advent, contributors will use songs, carols and Christmas music as their inspiration – so get used to playing an audio or video through your phone or computer.  (If wifi or getting online is an issue, chat to your friends at church about where you can listen to songs without using all your data).  From 4 January to Shrove Tuesday, we will take the theme of “God with us in Hyde Park and Headingley” and some contributors’ photos.

Just like when this started, the road ahead is uncertain.  But we tentatively step forward again.  Hopeful that God will continue to walk with us in our daily lives and learning as a church to find new ways of being.  Praying that as we come through this pandemic we find moments of comfort, support and connection with the divine.

Janet Lindley (All Hallows’)

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