From the Goldfields
The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields
The day is hot, and increasingly blustery. The wind is coming from the east and the north, instead of the usual westerly. There is thick cloud cover, with the sky ominously tinted with pink by the dust being picked up and blasted about from bare minesites and cleared bushland.
The noise is astonishing; it’s not just the swish and roar of the wind around the eaves of the house and the trees in the back yard, but also the thump and clatter of falling debris on the roof. The street is littered with twigs, and on the verge across the road a decent-sized branch has broken off a tree. Every hour or so, there’s a flurry of raindrops, but it’s not enough to cool the air or settle the dust.
I’m not surprised when the power goes off. A neighbour’s burglar alarm starts blaring, and there’s no more wifi where I’m working at the computer. I head from home down to St John’s church to say Evening Prayer and to lock up. In that part of town, the power is still on, so I can charge my phone a bit, and plan some takeaways for dinner. But though the wind has spared the downtown electricity supply, it has made its usual mischief with the deep deposits of dust that lie between the church’s steel roof and its lovely timber ceiling. Every pew, bench, table and floorboard is coated with a layer of dust you could write a poem in. I mentally change my weekend plans to include a couple of hours of dusting and vacuuming on Saturday, to reduce the amount of grit that Sunday worshippers will experience. Meanwhile, the gale is still blowing. It won’t ease until the early hours of the morning.
I’m swirling around in my own willy-willy of excitement, fear and pre-emptive weariness. Excitement at the extravagant power of the storm, and those masses of rapidly moving air; fear for the damage that is surely being done to infrastructure, and possibly to people; weariness at the thought of the clean-up that lies ahead.
In my spiritual life, the same factors come into play. I love the feel of the Spirit moving, and I stand in awe of what that rushing wind of holy energy can accomplish. At the same time, I know that this power is not mine to control, and that sometimes the Spirit shakes and breaks, as well as soothing and healing. And ministry means following up on the Spirit’s wild and wonderful movements. I watch to see who has woken up more alive after the Spirit’s visitation; who is feeling bruised; where the tidying-up needs to be done when the excitement is over; and when to begin again the more pedestrian, everyday work of discipleship.
“Come, Holy Spirit!” is one of the riskiest of prayers. Will the answer be a gentle breeze wafting heavenly perfume towards my jaded soul, or a storm-wind snapping me out of complacency? I pray it anyway.