LOCKDOWN has provided us all with many entertaining insights into the family lives of friends, colleagues, and fellow churchgoers. Parenting a toddler in a global pandemic has afforded me more cringeworthy moments than I would like to remember.
But the most embarrassing of all came during the online launch of my book with Church House Bookshop in May (Podcast, 28 May; Books, 11 June). I was completely “in the zone” in my office upstairs, answering questions from Dr Sanjee Perera, who was interviewing me, when suddenly in walked my three-year-old son, with an adorable and yet unexpected “Hello, mummy!”
I tried to ignore it, to keep my game face on, silently praying that my husband would notice that our son had escaped from downstairs. I decided that the best course of action was to stare into the camera and keep talking. Keep talking, until the little guy got the picture. Instead, he decided to go exploring around the office.
To my horror, those attending the book launch watched as, in the background, my son decided to start typing on the typewriter tastefully placed on my decorative ladder — which, it turns out, was a little unstable — alongside photo frames, ornaments, and succulents. What followed was the sound of the aforementioned ladder display crashing down, with my little one shocked and flailing beneath a pile of fallen books.
Luckily, it was at this point that daddy came to the rescue, and I took a deep breath and returned to my online audience, with a “Sanjee, could you repeat the question?” While I was completely mortified, I realised that the scene was representative of the juggle that so many women face, of keeping everything going while keeping our game faces on amid the chaos. Cheers to us.
EVERY time my son sees me on a Zoom call, he asks: “Is it church?” Such is the strange year that we have had that he now thinks this is what church is: a virtual meeting of people in square boxes. In the early days, as church online started, he protested. “I want to go to real church!” he would cry; so we thought he would be delighted with the return to our church building.
The first week was great: he sat, wide-eyed at old familiar faces in 3D. We realised later that perhaps it was the novelty of it all that had kept him entertained, because when, on the following Saturday, I told him we would be going to church again, he said, “I don’t like real church! It’s too ‘sing-y’!”
Sink or swim
IT IS strange how parenthood alters your perspective. I used to love watching psychological thrillers or true crime series; once I became a parent, however, I discovered that I could no longer find entertainment in the idea that we live in a world where bad things happen.
Similarly, although I was aware of the impact of climate change, it was only when I had my son that it felt as if I suddenly became alive to the reality of the crisis that we are in. So it was, when he was just a few months old, that I found myself on my first ever protest march through London.
We had joined the march organised by Mothers Rise Up: a group who describe themselves as “a fast-growing movement of ordinary mums, worried sick about the climate crisis”. The thing I noticed on this march, however, was that not many of the mothers looked like me. Black and brown parents are often missing in the climate movement, although the climate crisis particularly affects those in communities of the global South, who are predominantly black and brown.
Part of my job at Christian Aid over the past couple of years has been to find creative ways to tell the story of how climate change is affecting the poorest and most marginalised communities. It recently involved asking on Twitter: “Do I know anyone who knows anyone who could build a 60ft wooden boat?”
Music of the spheres
ONE of the proudest moments in my working life was walking into St Paul’s Cathedral, in May, to the sound of one of Europe’s most famous orchestras rehearsing a piece of music that had been conceived over a kitchen table, as we explored how we could tell the story of the global climate crisis in a new way.
We commissioned the Chineke! Orchestra — Europe’s first black and ethnically diverse orchestra — to work with black British composers to create a new piece of music to highlight the climate crisis (News, 14 February 2020).
Song of the Prophets: A requiem for the climate was originally supposed to be performed in front of a live audience in St Paul’s in May last year, but the pandemic, of course, meant that we had to postpone, and move to a digital recording, which was released in June. Walking in, as the orchestra performed alongside amazing musicians playing instruments native to Kenya, Bangladesh, and Nigeria, was like walking into a dream that had existed only in my head.
THE Revd Joel Edwards was a hero to many of us in the black community and beyond. His death last month (News, 9 July; Obituary 16 July) came as a profound shock to people across the spectrum of the Church. I will be for ever grateful for his kindness, his encouragement, and his cheerleading as a veteran black Christian voice in public life. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Chine McDonald is a writer, broadcaster, and head of public engagement at Christian Aid.