Today marks one year since the UK entered its first COVID-19 lockdown. All of our lives have been profoundly impacted by the events of the past year. Some of us have experienced illness and grief, others have lost jobs or homes. Some have encountered significant shifts in personal and professional relationships. At some point we all came to the realisation that there was no going ‘back to normal’. Life only moves in one direction- forward.
Thanks to the lightning speed of modern medicine and the monumental efforts of all the NHS staff and volunteer vaccinators, we’re finally taking steps towards returning to a world in which we can meet face-to-face. And that means that hopefully, soon, our amazing community will be able to return to our beloved Conway Hall to laugh, sing, and connect in deep and meaningful ways. But it won’t be exactly the same as before, because we are forever changed by our year of virtual events.
Holding ‘virtual assemblies’ on the internet has meant that we have increased our web presence, so we can reach out to more people and grow our community. We are no longer bound by geography; people attend our assemblies from all over the world! There are also people who have wanted to come to our assemblies in the past but couldn’t because the day or time didn’t fit into their schedule. Now that the assemblies are recorded and saved on our YouTube channel, people can tune in anytime.
And we’ve been able to connect with other chapters of Sunday Assembly in ways we never have before. I realised that even though each community has its own culture and standard practices, the Sunday Assembly values of Live Better, Help Often, and Wonder More have tied us together in so many beautiful ways. Eight years into this experiment, it’s clear that Sunday Assembly truly lives up to the goal of being a global movement for good.
But the part I love the most about online assemblies is how inclusive they are: they benefit people who have physical disabilities which may have prevented them from attending before, or people who are neurodiverse and need different ways to participate. Our Board of Trustees and Coordination Crew have begun to explore what being ‘radically inclusive’ means in the 21st century. We have appointed three short-term contract employees who specialise in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, to help us learn how we can do our best to meet the needs of anyone who wants to be part of our community. And when we return to Conway Hall we intend to continue livestreaming our events so our online family can still be included.
Thank you all for continuing on the Sunday Assembly journey with us over the past year. I know it hasn’t been easy, but together we can have more fun, care intensively, ask deep questions, be moved, and move mountains.
Stephanie Pollard, your producer and booker