• Xindi Wei

How a prayer session has freed me from hopelessness

“It is so difficult to stay positive; I have tried.”

“Living on my own in lockdown is torture.”

“The future seems bleak.”

Over this past year, these thoughts have been replaying in my head. I do not often talk about how I feel in lockdown to my friends or family because I do not want them to worry. But the reality is that every new day feels like a tragic repeat of the day before.

I never thought I would be revived simply by chatting to a group of elderly church goers this week. I never go to church of my own free will, and I am certainly not Christian. The only time I enjoyed an experience at church was when I got to chat to the Queen after attending mass on a university trip to Cumberland Lodge, Windsor. We greeted her after the service at All Saints Chapel and she asked us how we were, but that is a story for another time.

Two years on, I surprised myself when I came across a “virtual coffee and prayer session” hosted by the Hackney Methodist Church and was intrigued to find out more. I contacted the priest and was invited to come along.

The melodious tune and the uplifting lyrics instilled a sense of calm in me; I started to let go of my worries and stress

The informal chat of East London residents filtered through Zoom as I logged on to the call. One elderly woman was talking about how her friend didn’t know how to use Zoom; another spotted my presence and was saying “hi” to me. I was shy about turning on my camera at first, but Rev Andrew welcomed me into the group warmly, so I did hesitantly.

Everyone in the group seemed to know each other very well. The small group consisted of about 11 other participants including Andrew. Most were not holding a cup of coffee or tea apart from Andrew and me, but they all looked quite happy sitting in front of their laptops.

The casual atmosphere of the session started to ease my nerves. It was not how I imagined a prayer session to be. There was no solemn chanting from the Bible or any loud prayer. Instead, Andrew only read a brief section from Psalm 133 and played Oh, How Good It is by Keith & Kristyn Getty.

I glanced at the participants listening to the song, all of them were immersed in the rhythm. Some were singing along silently, and others were moving with the music. The melodious tune and the uplifting lyrics instilled a sense of calm in me; I started to let go of my worries and stress.

I did not realise the other participants had begun to chatter to each other again until Andrew called out to me to check how I was feeling. He told me that the purpose of this session was to try and keep people in touch with one another since they are not able to meet for church services.

Perhaps this session was my moment of “hang on”, a moment to stop my negativity

One participant called Valentine chipped in and told me he loves these Wednesday coffee sessions because they offer a chance to feel connected with the other church goers. He told me he loved having this kind of fellowship in lockdown in spite of “geographical boundaries”.

Another fellow participant, Ernell, agreed and expressed how grateful she was to be still alive. She said the world was moving too fast and would eventually “swing backwards” like a pendulum. “We need this moment of ‘hang on’- god is in charge, and out of evil comes good,” she said.

We spent the last few minutes talking about Covid, the vaccine and some loved ones who have passed away. But my mind had wandered elsewhere. I was thinking about the participants’ words and was admiring their optimism. They have found companionship with each other in the pandemic and have come to terms with it.

Have I? I ask myself. Have I learnt to let go of my despair? Perhaps this session was my moment of “hang on”, a moment to stop my negativity. Should I look up to God for strength like the others? I still think not. But one thing I do know for sure is that this prayer session has somehow given me hope and a tranquil mind to keep looking forward.