Centre of the Village

Dear friends,

I read a story posted on Facebook a few days ago. Whilst I haven’t checked it for validity, I found its message to be helpful and hopeful, so I share it with you (paraphrased for inclusivity).

In this African tribe, when someone does something wrong, they take the person to the centre of the village where the tribe surrounds them and for 2 days say all the good the person has done. The tribe believes each person is good but sometimes people make mistakes, which are really a cry for help. They unite to reconnect the person with their good nature.

“Lockdown sucks!” It’s a common cry. And yes, it does. This pandemic as it has raged through our communities and the world around us has also brought conflict between us. Sometimes even within ourselves. We have been conflicted about whether the government can tell us we have to stay at home, or how far we can travel from our home. We have been conflicted about whether it is right that we have forced physical distancing and have to wear masks. We have argued about whether vaccines should be mandated, and whether it is appropriate for those who are vaccinated to be given greater freedoms than those who are not. We have conflict over what is the greater good, or how we should achieve it together, and whether there are greater risks from COVID-19 or from social isolation. I am not going to weigh into any of the arguments in this note. I simply affirm that “lockdown sucks!” and the pandemic has brought enormous hardships, stresses, and brokenness in so many ways.

We have all been enduring this tough time. Some have been able to cope more easily than others, some have coped for a time, fallen into a bit of a hole, then risen again. Perhaps over and over again. Some have struggled immensely right from the start, and are not sure how they will be able to get through. And this is where I turn to the story above: not because you or anyone else has done something wrong, rather because the encouragement from other ‘villagers’ might support you and hold you through this season.

So, this week I am taking you to the centre of this village that is Sydney Presbytery (wherever you are located or in lockdown), and I remind you of the strengths you have already shown. You are resilient. You have made it to this day, and that is a great achievement. You are courageous. You have had to make changes that have probably been uncomfortable, energy-sapping, and even highly confronting. You are creative and adaptable. You have found ways to communicate and engage with people in changed circumstances, sharing worship, connection, relationship. And that is extraordinary! You are loved. Held in God’s grace, surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses, sustained by prayer (in those times when praying has not been easy, others have been praying for you), and led by hope.

I wonder if you can accept these affirmations for yourself? Your village (the Church, family, friends…) are supporting and encouraging you, and finds support and encouragement in you. Right now, I am a village for you, putting you in the centre and cheering for you, reminding you of the good that is within, and the God who will never let you go. To totally misquote Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Be affirmed. Be very affirmed!”

Blessings and peace,