How easy it is to judge! - A Pastoral Note from Jenny

Dear friends,

How easy it is to judge! I was reading a Facebook post written by someone I respect hugely. She was writing about a recent experience in Melbourne with their current lockdown. Walking around her neighbourhood (for essential shopping and exercise), she wrote that she was angry and frustrated by the people gathering on footpaths and in parks, drinking and eating their takeaways together with no due respect to the rules about mask-wearing and physical distancing. She was honest enough to admit that her emotions arose in part from the long queues outside the places from which she wanted to get her own takeaway drink and food, and her sense of “righteousness” (my word, not hers) stemmed from the necessity of having to keep wearing her mask and keep walking back to her home.

I will admit I’m something of a “news junkie” at the moment. Each day I look out for the press conferences from around our country. What are the numbers doing? Is there progress in the right direction — are numbers coming down (especially the number of people infectious in the community)?  Are there changes to restrictions? How far has this spread in the past 24 hours? What I am noticing is that my anxiety levels increase in the lead up to hearing the news, and how depressed (sad) I feel after. Then I hear stories of a few individuals who are not following the orders, and, like my Melbourne friend, I feel very ready to judge, to condemn, to criticise.

Time and again in conversations with people at the moment, everyone is feeling either challenged, worried, stressed, depressed, or exhausted. Or a mixture of all of these, and more. Whether the conversations have been with an individual or in a group or committee meeting, or even via messages and emails, everyone is expressing the same thing. Anxiety levels are high. Feelings of helplessness, and often hopelessness, are acute.

So I find myself pondering the constantly recurring question: in what ways can I help as we go through this? In a lockdown situation, this is really difficult. And what I offer feels so insignificant. Yet, if it is of any help to you, I will trust God to use my tiny offering to bring whatever comfort and hope it can.

First, my prayer for you is that you will be kind to yourself. That includes doing what you need to do to take a break from the endless cycle of news and information. It includes finding distractions for yourself that bring you joy or at least some relief from the anxiety. Over the past 18 months, many people have shared ideas of things they have tried, including finding a new recipe to try; reading a novel; indulging in a TV series they haven’t yet found time to enjoy; or creating something at the front of their house to be of interest for families as they walk past (a bit of a ‘treasure hunt’ idea). Some have even picked up a pen and some paper — that “old technology” — and written a letter to someone. I really believe that as we help one another, even in small ways, we are helping ourselves find new and renewed meaning and hope in our own lives. Also, sometimes, being kind to yourself might mean eating chocolate (or something else that is your “sometimes food”)!

Second, I am available to listen if you need someone to talk with about what you are experiencing. Please make contact with me if you would find this helpful. I am not offering counseling or solutions, simply a listening ear and a caring heart. Other members of PRC are available as listeners also.

Third, some people have expressed their hope that the pastoral check-in groups for ministry leaders might be reinstated. The PRC is seeking to gauge the interest and need for this, recognising that some have created other groups and connections that offer the support the check-in groups sought to offer. We don’t want to add another commitment to those who have found their own support, and we certainly don’t want anyone to be feeling unsupported during this time. If you are a Sydney Presbytery Ministry Leader, please look for a short questionnaire that will be sent to you in the next week or so. If you don’t receive it, please let me know so we can make sure you are included in this as well as in our database.

Initially, I thought this was going to be a shorter pastoral note and you could have more time to be kind to yourself. Turns out I had more words to write than anticipated. Thanks for making it through to the end. Now I hope you can go and be kind to yourself!

Blessings and peace,