A Pastoral Note from Jenny

Dear friends,

“What a year this week has been!”

This was a meme I saw on Facebook – one amongst many that seek to express the bewilderment people are experiencing. Things are changing around us at a rate that seems to leave us with increasing uncertainty, and possibly fear and anxiety. We can be left reeling when we consider that only a few days ago we were still allowed to gather at a café or restaurant and for worship, even if there were some new rules about numbers and how close we could sit next to each other. Now walking down the street the cafes seem like empty shells, with forlorn staff members wistfully watching passersby, hoping someone will come in to order a takeaway coffee.

So, how are we feeling? I’m not going to presume I know how you might be feeling, so will simply share some of what’s going on for me. Maybe some of it will resonate with you, and maybe I’m simply giving you a chance to laugh – either way I’m ok with it!

I admit to reeling as I try to keep up with news and restrictions. Some of the changes are relatively easily managed (I can keep away from pubs, food courts and beauty salons, and if I cannot attend a boot camp because I’m the 11th person, well – I’ll learn to live with that  - I have for the entirety of my life so far!). Other changes feel like they are twisting my stomach in knots it might not recover from – the latest (disclaimer: this was true at time of writing) being restrictions for no more than 10 at a funeral and no more than 5 at a wedding.

I’m also struggling with adapting to technology. This one feels a bit ironic, because as an introvert I think I should be feeling ok about being in a room by myself and having people on the ‘other side’ of a computer screen! However, the truth is I’m missing the person-to-person interactions that make up my ministry and life. And it’s taking a fair bit of effort to learn how to use things like Zoom for meetings – and that’s with some awesomely technology-savvy people available to me to help! The problem is that I’ve used this technology so few times until now, that I’ve always relied on someone else to set it up and access it for me. Now I have to learn to use it for myself. (And I can’t believe I just sighed deeply as I wrote that last sentence!)

Probably the most prevalent feeling I have is one of worry – how can I best support the people whom I have been called to serve? How best can I encourage them as they serve those whom they have been called so serve? How can I ensure, to the best of my ability, that the mental, emotional and spiritual health of these people is as strong as possible?

Luckily, I have the answer!! It is surprisingly simple. I don’t have to do any of this alone. In fact, I can’t do any of this alone. And neither can you. In that age-old adage, we’re in this together. Yes, we have to find new and alternative ways of being together, and I have enormous confidence that we will continue to explore and improve those ways. I also know that we are going to have to be very intentional about this. Which brings me to my next point…

I am calling all our Ministry Agents in placement (ordained, Ministry of Pastor, Chaplain, whether you are in a congregation, school, with Uniting, or anywhere else) to join together with me and others from the Presbytery team in groups of 10 to meet weekly via Zoom (because I know how to do that now – or at least I am learning). The purpose of these meetings is to connect together regularly (weekly), to hear from each other how we are coping, to share our concerns as well as things we might be learning, and to find out how the Presbytery team can best support you and how you might support other colleagues. You should shortly receive a phone call from Poppy asking you to nominate a time that will suit you. If you do not receive a call by Thursday (26 March) afternoon, please make sure you contact me so you can be included.

There are many people who are struggling with the isolation they are experiencing. It is so important that we look after our mental health in this situation. The link below is to an article written for the New York Times a few days ago by Scott Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station – which is probably more isolated than most of us will ever experience. The article is called “I spent a year in space, and I have tips on isolation to share.” It is worth a read if you have the time to do so.

Friends, I want to remind you that you are loved, you are valued, and you matter more than you might be aware. You are being held in my prayers: may you be sustained and blessed in your ministry and mission through this time. God is with you. You are not alone.

Blessings and peace,