In this strange new world of sheltering in place, I am exploring the modern world of remote connections. I have participated in Quaker worship using Zoom and in a Voices Chorus rehearsal using Zoom. Next week my book group will meet using Zoom. I enjoyed seeing the familiar faces of friends on my laptop screen. It’s perhaps a poor substitute for in-person visiting and does take some getting used to, but it’s the best we have for now.
At first I was skeptical of holding silent Quaker worship via Zoom. I mean, sitting in silence in a room full of Friends is one thing, but doing so with my laptop on the coffee table in front of me is another. Nevertheless, Dave and I sat on the couch and clicked the link our host had sent. This time was an experiment with the Ministry & Worship Committee and a few others for a trial run. As people joined, their smiling faces popped up on the screen. We were welcomed and given instructions. Run your cursor over the screen to view the mute button in the bottom left corner (it looks like a microphone). Click on it to mute yourself as we settle into worship (you will see a diagonal red line appear across the microphone). If you have a message to share, click the mute button again to allow your voice to be heard, give your name and your message. Then mute yourself again and settle back into silence. All properly muted, we began to center down. I closed my eyes and was surprised how much like worship in the meeting room this felt. A Friend spoke and her face moved to front and center of the screen. Others were arrayed in small squares along the top of the screen with an arrow indicating how to access the rest of the lineup. I opened my eyes to watch her face as she quoted Teresa of Avila, a message of being of service to others. I settled back into silence. One couple had apparently not figured out how to mute themselves so I could hear shifting in the chair and other noises from their room. Sadly, when one of them felt moved to speak, she muted herself. Then we were cut off. The Zoom free session is 40 minutes long. We had miscalculated.
Lengthy email conversations followed in the next few days. We decided we liked this method of worship enough to open a low cost basic account to allow a longer time. An invitation went out to the Meeting as a whole to join us next Sunday. And we’re off.
The next experience I had was with a Voices Chorus rehearsal via Zoom. Our Voices president, with a premium Zoom account, set this up for us. Our conductor and accompanist gathered at his church while the rest of the small group of 16 joined from their living rooms. He used his Verizon phone hot spot to get online, and we began. Dave and I sat at the dining room table in good light with music in hand. Because there is a time lag of a few seconds, we were not able to sing together. We each muted our sound and sang along as Stephen conducted. Of course I, a soprano, was singing next to Dave, a baritone, and had the challenge of holding my part while hearing his part. I discovered a button at the top right of the screen that let us go to gallery mode. This gave a mosaic of small squares of faces of those on the call. Even if we couldn’t hear each other, I enjoyed seeing the faces of my fellow choristers. Singing for me is soul food. Despite being unable to hear the group as a whole, I found it refreshing. After we worked on several pieces, we all unmuted ourselves for evaluation. We agreed this is better than nothing. We will invite the entire chorus of 100 people for next Tuesdays regular rehearsal. This should be interesting.
Ah, technology, what a gift. To see our friends while we self-quarantine at home. A fellow singer called this a choirantine and gave us all a good laugh. Another friend told me that Zoom is our new best friend. I agree.