Circles with God
Talking in Circles with God
On a sunny Saturday afternoon just a couple of weeks ago almost 90 parish clergy and chaplains from across the Diocese met together at the sprawling Swan Valley Adventure Centre. This is the first time that we have been able to gather in such a large group since coming out of lockdown, and possible under the requirements of Western Australia’s Roadmap Phase 4.
The intent of our day was to take time for focused conversation and listening with and to each other, to pray together, to share in Holy Communion, and catch up with friends and colleagues. Our talking and listening took place using a practice known as Talking Circles. Small groups, speaking one person at a time using focus questions to help guide. The four focus questions we considered were each aimed at reflecting together on the last five months (COVID-19) of our experience in ministry. The clergy have been outstanding in their response to the needs of this time.
- The questions we reflected on were:
- What have you learned about your leadership?
- What have you found energising and life-giving?
- What’s been difficult?
- Where and how have you seen God at work?
People spoke of the grace and generosity of the people in their communities; of the loneliness of an empty church and a camera, the loneliness of church members, some spoke of the exhaustion of those weeks of lockdown and the accompanying anxiety all around us, many spoke of new things coming to light for them in God’s grace and goodness, and of a deep sense of God’s loving presence in prayer and the dispersed community of faith, the discomfort of disturbance and new learnings, as well as having a deep sense of purpose in ministry, and of course, our continued concern for those from whom we are separated, family and friends across Australia and the world.
The need to be continually vigilant, watching alongside the vulnerable and frail in our communities, remains a high priority, and the terrible situation of aged care has been one of the most distressing and alarming parts of these past COVID-19 months. Every day we pray these words:
Lord Jesus Christ, healer and friend,
come and care for all of us through the danger and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
To people who are sick, bring healing. To people who are displaced, isolated, or cut off from family, friends or work, bring comfort and companionship.
Work with medical staff as they care for the sick,
and protect them from harm.
Give skill and fruitful research to scientists as they work on treatments and a vaccine. To public health authorities, give wisdom to decide the best ways to manage
both this crisis and our anxieties. When communities are fearful, give a calm spirit,
and kindness to neighbours and strangers. Through this testing time,
and through all the risks we face together,
teach us once again how we can love one another as you have loved us. Amen.
Recently news came that of the many vaccine trials around the world, the Oxford University vaccine is looking very hopeful and is one that the Australian Government is pursuing. Some Church leaders have raised ethical concerns over the processes of development for this vaccine, one calling for a boycott and suggesting that this would not be a vaccine they would take. Ethical issues of such medical research are complex and have been considered by the Church over many years. My own ethical priority is with every precious and vulnerable life: the life of the frail aged, the young and seemingly strong and the life of the newborn baby being vaccinated against measles and whooping cough.
We can keep on praying that those who are seeking a vaccine for the life of millions of people around the world are working for the flourishing of human life. I thank God that vaccine research and treatments mean families in this country no longer need fear the ravages of viral infections such as polio, or meningitis, or that those who are particularly vulnerable can now have an annual flu injection. Let’s pray that when a vaccine is finalised it will be easily and affordably available for people across the globe.
In the face of all this, and taking heart from the witness of believers who across millennia, in many different circumstances we too can continue to hold fast to the promises of God’s loving purpose. The psalmist’s reassurance shines through in the words of Psalm 121:
I will lift my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord, who made the heaven and the earth.
He will not let your foot be moved: he who keeps you will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in From this time on for ever more.
Peace to you all