What will you remember 2020 for? It seems strange saying that in May, but what a year it’s been so far.
This has been something that has been on my mind for a few months now. Sure, COVID-19 has had a tangible impact upon our society in general, but what has really impressed me, is how the Uniting Church here in Queensland has responded.
Everyday I hear examples of the good work that our people are doing within their communities. It is something of which I am truly proud. But before I start to tell some of these stories and look at the good news, it is important that we don’t forget the impact of COVID-19.
Folk dear to us, and who influenced our life as a church, have been “promoted to glory”, and we haven’t been able to gather in support of those grieving, and share the stories as we used to. People who have worked tirelessly to support the mission of the church have lost their jobs. Some of our folk who run businesses have had to let go of valued staff, as we did in the Synod office. Anyone who has been negatively impacted by COVID-19 should know that the rest of the church is in solidarity with them. COVID-19 has also been a circuit breaker for many decisions. Congregations who might have been on the verge of closing have now closed. There is no doubt that the Uniting Church has had to make some serious changes as a result of this pandemic, and more changes are to come.
But then there is the good news. I am particularly proud of the innovation that ministers and leaders in congregational life have shown during this period. In an extremely short timeframe, they have completely revolutionised the way that they provide pastoral support to the members of their congregation or community, be that engaging through social media or livestreaming services. That innovation will have to continue to experiment and develop, for the world after this immediate time of isolation won’t be the same.
I am also extremely proud of the collaboration that has been occurring across churches. In the past, we have tended to operate in silos with every congregation looking after themselves and then coming together a few times a year as a presbytery. But this pandemic has bought us all closer. Online meetings are happening all over place, where leaders are discussing what is working and what isn’t. Just this week there was a video meeting attended by 50 ministry agents from across the Synod. This is just one example of the collaboration and connections that have been forged during the past few months.
Finally, the work of the Synod office in providing support to congregations has been tremendous. It is clear that people want to move to the next step in what future we can create, and the Synod office is working around the clock to resource this. But it is not just the Synod office who are working hard to support their stakeholders. Take Blue Care for example. Whilst aged care facilities were going into lock down and stopping all visitors, Blue Care took a different approach. They trained volunteers and equipped staff with the tools they need to make sure that even during this time, they were still able to receive visitors. For Blue Care’s fundamental philosophy of residential aged care is, “This is their home”. These are just a couple of examples of how the Uniting Church has responded to COVID-19. In the future, when I look back at 2020, these examples will fill me with pride. I won’t remember the year for a virus, I’ll remember it for the Uniting Church, our response and the support we have provided to our communities.
I’ll remember that the Spirit inspired us to be our best; to be a blessing wherever and however we could be.