“WORRY, anxiety, optimism, empathy, kindness, compassion, uncertainty, hopeful, alone are just a selection of words we have felt in the last few weeks, write Sheikh Irfan Soni, an imam, and Hafeezah Soni, a project co-ordinator for the Jo Cox Foundation. “We take comfort in knowing we’re not alone, we truly believe that we’re all in this together. As people who follow the Islamic faith, our relationship over the last few weeks has been a reminder of how we can improve ourselves, how to we can learn to self reflect and turn our daily prayers into a congregation in our home with each other, something we have never done.

Things have changed, many of our friends and families started to feel the loss of being connected to one another, the loss of congregational prayers and how to stay connected spiritually. We began to discuss how we could connect our extended family, many different generations together virtually and still feel ‘together’. There was mention of Zoom and Skype, but that soon proved to be to be a hurdle for the older generation, it was a step too soon to adapt to another new app since they had only just embraced smartphones. Many of the younger members didn’t have the capacity to download another app either.

After a bit of research, we realised there was no need to learn or create another tutorial for another app, instead we could use Apple FaceTime. And thus our evenings changed, over the course of the last seven weeks or so (we’ve stopped counting as this is our way of adapting and moving forward with hopefulness and optimism) to virtual gatherings. Every night with what starts off as a family catch-up with 50-plus people all asking each other how everyone is doing, what everyone has had for dinner, and how the weather was for that day, it slowly leads to Irfan starting off with a prayer, following onto an evening sermon, finishing with a prayer and an informal Q&A session. As a family, we have discovered new ways to develop our faith, rekindled our relationships and connected multiple generations together in a virtual way.

Praying together via FaceTime, with small faces popping up on screen, is something I never imagined I’d ever take part in, let alone my uncle, in his 60s, and the youngest participant who’s three. To cater for everyone and keep it lighthearted, we’ve had quiz nights, which evoked deja vu feelings of being together.

We count our blessings daily. One thing we are extremely thankful for is technology, and how it has allowed us to pray as a family and discuss our faith together. Every day, pre Ramadan, at around 8.45pm, we were all together. During Ramadan we ‘met’ virtually after Iftar (breaking of the fast), just before the last evening prayer.

For many this time is a way of learning or renewing their faith, for some it has been a lifeline to not be alone in their own thoughts, to not feel alone and to continue to be a part of something. This virtual time together has allowed many families to participate and sit together in the evenings rather than everyone being busy alone, they are connected together.

Many of us have a funny relationship with faith, when everything is going well we may forget to count our blessings, until something goes awry, then we take a moment to pause. The last few weeks have changed our outlook on life, we have taken this time to connect and repair lost and broken connections we have experienced personally and spiritually. I have taken this as a sign that it’s God’s plan for us to slow down, to re-analyse what is ‘essential’ and what is deemed a luxury. There’s nothing wrong with luxury, it is when we let it overtake our daily lives does it become an issue. Our natural habitat is to be around people. Soon InshaAllah (God Willing) we will all be together, sharing food with friends and congregating in our places of worship. Until then we are spiritually, virtually connected.

We continue to remember everyone in our prayers daily, those affected directly to those working on the frontline, essential workers and volunteers, charities and community groups, we thank you for your kindness and for keeping the world spinning during this surreal time.

* ANNA BLAND, Development Officer at Leeds Methodist Mission, which covers Bradford, writes: “Life is wild, disrupted, chaotic and even more so in this time. We are all feeling the impact on our inner lives as we attempt to comprehend and understand something so tragic and terrifying. For me, silence has proved to bring solace and peace as nothing else can.

In January I incorporated silent meditation into my weekday morning routine, before I start work I sit for 20 minutes attempting to clear my mind. If I get a few moments of complete calm in those 20 minutes I’m doing well. It’s a hard discipline to focus your mind absolutely on nothing, some days are better than others.

There is a rich Christian theology supporting a Christian silent meditation. It’s a practice shared by people of faith around the world. I find it intriguing, but perhaps not surprising, that all major faith traditions have stumbled upon the power of silence in their history/practice. The secular trend for mindfulness reflects this same desire for pure peace and connection that silence offers from those who don’t align to a particularly faith. Silence does not force me to try to put my fears, doubts or prayers into words. Words are limited in what they portray, particularly in this time when our experiences and emotions feel more allusive. Silence allows me to just be, even if that is just for a few moments each day.”

* To contribute to Keeping Faith go to keeping-faith.org