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To my congregation 

Like many of you, I had travel plans for this year. Right now, I might have been between conferences in Adelaide and Melbourne. I was meant to be in the USA by the end of the month, to deliver keynote sessions I have this week, instead, recorded for online delivery.

I had hoped to travel to Adelaide a few times this year, this first year of grief for my Dad. It has been especially hard to be far from family in the newness still of our grief. Among our congregation, we have others also experiencing the intensity of new grief for family members who have died this year, some during these times of restricted travel and gathering. As I write this, I have no clear idea when I’ll be with family, though it seems clear now that any hope we had of me being with them for Dad’s birthday on Friday is gone.

It’s the uncertainty that is particularly difficult, isn’t it? We were talking in the office this week, about the changing circumstances of these times, at first the almost daily changes to ever-tightening restrictions; now, almost daily changes as governments seek to establish eased restrictions while the risk hasn’t really lifted. As we learn about the lasting impact of the virus, our musicians are again rethinking how they can safely support our worship, not wanting to risk the lungs so necessary for our singers, brass, and wind players. (Here’s some more on what we keep learning about this virus, influencing such decisions)

As our congregation considers and tries out gatherings with appropriate physical distance and surface cleaning practices, we realise anew how difficult this is, and how vulnerable so many of us are. We will need to go forward carefully, slowly, and be prepared to step back or change direction, perhaps many times, as we work together to find our new practices for gathering together in a world besieged by Covid-19.

Being in the office this week, after four months working exclusively from the manse, I felt my heart lift with seeing people, being with them in the same space. I was reminded (if indeed I needed reminding) of the importance of our physical gathering together for our wellbeing. It is hard to balance that with the measures we must take to keep us safe from a virulent virus, I know. We are doing well in our congregation: we continue to reach out to each other in various ways to mitigate the negative impact of our isolation; we are creating safe environments and practices for getting together, bit by bit.

I want to thank you for your patience, your care, your collaboration with the leaders of our congregation and its various groups. This situation brings into stark clarity how much we rely on each other for our wellbeing, and it is a joy to serve a community that understands and takes that seriously.

May the Spirit continue to be known through our reciprocal care for one another: we are, indeed, fully human only with each other.

Flower heart