Covid 19 Community Reporter, Dianna Djokey, interviews Laura Rook, who works for Portsmouth City Council’s Mediation Service, about her personal experiences of the pandemic. In the second part of this interview, Laura explores how her faith has supported not only her and her family during the pandemic, but her neighbourhood and community. Read part one here.
Dianna Djokey: How has your faith supported you in the last 6 months of Covid? What has that been like for you and your family?
Laura Rook: That’s been a really important part for us as we made it a habit to pray more as a family, praying and thanking God before dinner. We would do devotional times, not every day with the boys but most days, and what we’ve learnt to do during lockdown is choose the right moments. I’ve prayed more on my own during lockdown. In prayer life, God has been my counsellor, so I off-loaded to him all the time.
God has gotten me through in that way, I can talk to Him. I think also just reading the Bible; I tend to sit down and read God’s word so in that way I’m spiritually feeding myself. I read the words and God just speaks. I’ll read a different verse and there will be something that jumps out and it feels like it’s just what I need to hear for that day. It encourages me. My faith lightens the load because God carries the load. There is hope, so much hope when you’ve got a relationship with Jesus.
I think having that hope for myself but also having a purpose of sharing that hope and being a bit more intentional about it during lockdown has real joy [as] a part of my faith. Being active in sharing my faith – not to preach or push it down people’s throats – but in terms of if there’s anything you want prayer for, I’m here to help you and also actively just loving people, whether they believe in your faith or not; to show that kindness represents Jesus.
My faith has been really important and lockdown made me think more about my faith in God and how my faith could help others. We actually started doing praise and worship outside our house, although I moan about all the craziness, we felt this passion and excitement to do something. [This] was another thing to add to our list [of things to do] but it felt like something we could do so we had music outside our house every Thursday on the NHS clap [for carers] days.
At first it was just one song, then it was three, then four. The purpose of it was to bring some joy back into the streets. Firstly, to acknowledge what the NHS workers were doing, all the key workers, neighbors that are helping out and going that extra mile to look after each other; just to acknowledge that and clap; but also to bring hope back into the streets, singing words of hope and positivity. I think there has been so much doom and gloom on the TV, we really felt like we wanted to create a positive atmosphere whether people had faith or not and people had respect on our street. We are really confident and strong in our faith, and for those that weren’t sure, they were like, ‘Well this feels good, there is something about what you’re saying that feels good.’ When we pray our hope is that they would discover God too but they definitely felt something good and I think that lifted their week.
Did you notice a rise in people’s curiosity about religion and your belief in God?
Definitely, we’ve had people asking questions, having gentle conversations of why we are doing what we are doing, really just showing appreciation. People haven’t asked questions about God but what we have found is we would be singing The Lord’s Prayer or sometimes we’d say The Lord’s Prayer and they’d all say amen. We don’t want to offend but obviously it’s outside our house and if people didn’t like it we would stop, It was quite clear that we were Christians but they would say ‘Amen’ afterwards, and then later [people would ask], ‘When are you next singing, when are you next going to play again?’ There was no mention of anything negative about our faith. Although they might not be asking questions specifically about God there was something about what we did that they were really attracted to.
Jesus was with us and helping us, there was this love that was attracting them. They definitely were interested and we’ve had one guy that lives round the corner from us – [we] didn’t even know him at all, never even said, ‘Hello,’ to him until we started playing music. [He] and his wife really got to know us well. We said we are going to have them round at some point for breakfast. He’s been watching, because he is on our Facebook page where we talk about the music [and also about] if you need shopping or need help or you can’t get to the chemist, we can help. So this guy – going back to the question of faith – he then added us on his normal Facebook page and we put all of our sermons on there. The sermon was straight from the Bible preaching and he was blessed by it.
On the last Thursday of clapping [Clap for Carers], he came and asked for the microphone and he said, ‘I just want to thank you both, for bringing joy to the street in this really difficult time, it has been just amazing and we just want to thank you for it.’ That was such an emotional moment for me, I felt so moved and valued by those words of gratitude.
What kind of support have you had locally?
I have contact with the Council [in my role in the Mediation Service] and it feels like we have quite a big role in supporting the Council with neighbor issues, which were further impacted by Covid, including a rise in mental health problems. I think everyone’s mental health has been affected, so I felt like we’ve done quite well in the work that we do. We also work with the housing department who send us referrals.
I don’t know about everywhere in Portsmouth but within our church, Oasis Church, we’ve got a charity called Personal Choice that is linked in, they help older isolated people. A lot of the work, it’s funded by the Council but there was a lot of partnership taking place. I feel the Council has been good with that.
S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:
- voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
- small businesses and self-employed people
- BAME communities
- people with disabilities
We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.