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A learning community in lockdown

Blog — 15th April 2020

A learning community in lockdown

A few weeks ago, as the prospect of lockdown became more and more likely, when classes had switched to online and faculty and staff begun working from home, several resident students made the decision to return to their family home.

For some others, however, there was no option to return. Some of our students are from countries that had already closed airports. Others chose to remain because they had no other place to live, and NTC seemed like a good place to hunker down. For most, NTC is more than residence: it is home.

There are 24 of us left living on campus until the government restrictions lessen. Around half of those are dotted around the site residing in different flats and self-contained living spaces. The other half of us are living as one household, due to the shared living spaces in Hurlet Hall. We count ourselves very fortunate to be able to experience such community at this time, a time when so many are experiencing isolation and, as a result, loneliness. We have been able to eat together, pray together, and worship together in the same space. We have the run of these beautiful grounds for exercise. We feel so fortunate (and please – pray that none of us become symptomatic).

When this nightmare is over it’s the acts of kindness like this that will have made all the difference.

Despite our advantageous situation, like others, we wanted to do more at a time when so many are suffering. We knew that by limiting our trips to the shops and ‘staying home’ we were being effective but we were also aware that, as a result of the social distancing measures and/or fear of contracting the virus, some in our immediate community were likely struggling. So, 12 able-bodied students wanted to reach out.

And so after researching online we found a small slip titled ‘Hello! If you are self-isolating, we can help…’ which listed a few errands we were willing to run for anyone needing assistance: shopping, picking up prescriptions, posting letters. It also offered a listening ear over the phone. We printed off 200 and over an afternoon dropped them in the letter boxes of houses surrounding the college.

The requests have been steadily coming in. So far we’ve done numerous weekly shops, collected several prescriptions, tidied someone’s garden, bought and delivered cat litter, been on the end of the phone regularly for a handful of others, and made many new friends with our neighbours. Not everyone needs our help but some wanted to let us know they were grateful for the offer. One neighbour replied:

“Hi there, I’m in Westmorland Road. I’m self-isolating but fine as I have 2 teenage daughters… I just wanted to say thank you for putting the note through the letterbox yesterday. When this nightmare is over it’s the acts of kindness like this that will have made all the difference.”

At a time when ‘going to’ looks more like ‘staying away’ and the church has been shorn of events and conferences, we have to be as creative as we’ve ever been when it comes to engaging in the Mission of God. But I do wonder, in reflecting on my engagement with the above, if the answer to these challenges might be found, like never before, in the small, the local, the immediate, the conversation, the neighbourhood, the act of kindness on a personal level… In the Kingdom of God it is mustard seeds, after all, that move mountains.

Mick Kane is currently the Chaplain at NTC and lives on campus with Debbie and their son Mikey