Snail mail, solidarity and spiritual sustenance
Canon Sarah Plowman spoke with a number of clergy recently, and has been struck by some very moving reflections and activities keeping Christian community alive
While creating and curating ministry resources and having conversations with people in various parishes recently, I have heard some heartwarming stories about how churches are keeping community connections strong. Parishes are reaching out and living the love of Christ in simple and effective ways, demonstrating that physical separation need not be a barrier to caring. Here are three things I observed with a grateful heart.
Firstly, our parish clergy and staff are continuing to do what they do best – pastorally care for their parishioners and the people of their community. They are not doing this in the ‘usual’ way, but are finding new and creative ways to connect and show the love of Christ.
Fay Nolan, from The Parish of Green Hills, shared how her parish has been engaging in ‘old fashioned’ activities like the writing and delivering of pastoral letters from their priest, The Rev’d Canon Bruce Boase. These letters have been variously emailed or delivered by hand to letterboxes and are a key connection between priest and people. Parish of Green Hills leaders have also combed through the Parish Roll, name by name, to make sure that no-one missed out on receiving some kind of pastoral call or contact.
Out in Dalby, The Rev’ds David and Zoë Browne have been delivering ‘care packs’ with a liturgical twist. In their Palm Sunday care pack, as well as a prayer booklet, they included a tea bag and a small packet of biscuits, so that their congregation members could have their normal morning tea together, but apart. In this month’s pack, there is a small LED candle, which every person can light in their home during the live-streamed services, knowing that everyone else in the congregation will be doing the same thing, with Zoë saying: “We went out on a road trip and did a letterbox drop. It took a few hours because people don’t live close together out here!”
Secondly, our clergy continue to feel deeply the call to ‘journey with’ their community and stand in solidarity with them. The Rev’d Dan Talbot, from The Parish of Jimboomba, shared with me his decision to not celebrate the Eucharist during this time of physical distancing, saying “If my people can’t, then neither will I.” He is looking forward to a time when he can celebrate the resurrection of Christ together with his gathered community when they emerge on the other side of the coronavirus challenges. “We are on this journey together. We are still a strongly connected community,” he said. Despite being physically distant, in places where there is deep sense of a shared life within a community, that connection – social and spiritual – is evident in spite of not being able to gather in person.
These three examples are merely a small reflection of the great good being done in our parishes to maintain a normal sense of Christian community. Many hundreds of people are working across our Diocese, in person and online, to connect and encourage the people of God.
Finally, I am struck by a sense that we are returning to a life more closely resembling the Early Church, when believers met for worship and prayer in their homes, and were diligent in caring for one another and those who were vulnerable in their community. They relied on the goodness and generosity of the people of God (the Church) for their spiritual sustenance, just as we are today. I encourage everyone to continue to uphold their clergy and leaders in prayer, to reach out with kindness, and to continue to financially support their parishes if you are able.
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