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Well, here we are in Melbourne, Australia, after 112+ days of living through Stages 3 and 4 lockdown and as restrictions are gradually lifting, we can now emerge and begin to live again. Sounds rather dramatic, does it not? Quite possibly, for what we all need to realize is that we have not lived through this pandemic-enforced lockdown in a vacuum or a time warp. We are emerging onto a street, into a neighbourhood, a community, a city, a state and a nation for whom time has not stood still. The world has moved on, taking us on the journey. As we emerge into this new reality, we need to be mindful of allowing ourselves and those around us time and space to adjust.
Suddenly everyone (other than children) is masked outside of our homes and you can’t greet people so easily as before. From a distance people are harder to recognize and when you get close we are easily not aware of each other’s facial reactions until we speak! The new order means things like maintaining social distancing making for longer queues and considering other people in negotiating public places, shopping centres, supermarkets and cafes. Hand sanitizers greet us everywhere and registering our presence in pubs and cafes has become part of the new norm. Spots and circles have been painted on the grass in parks and other public places to ensure distancing, and by and large I see people doing their best to observe these guidelines. We understand the need for these so we comply, as no one wants any kind of return to stage 4.
And for Christians, streamed (live filmed) church services and/or zoom participation meetings have become the Sunday norm too. Indeed, in the harshest and most depressing weeks of staying at home through a cold winter amid the mounting despair of climbing statistics in infection and death tolls of a second COVID 19 wave, the zoom church meeting became a time of much anticipated relief in our otherwise drab and now repressed existence. So, discussion has now turned to what ‘future church’ may look like and how do we do this? The new world order has likewise ushered in new challenges in evangelism – and a new awareness of the need to reach out, even in the smallest and most practical of ways to people around us, being much more mindful of their immediate and personal situations.
And so for us, as we step outside our doors and begin to venture beyond our 5km (then 25km) limits, we have to become accustomed to making (more major) decisions again. We also have to plan and execute these decisions. In isolation, the jokes flew around social media, of over-walked dogs, cars with batteries flattened by lack of use, our rubbish bins achieving more outings than ourselves, and being able to live in ‘tracky daks’ and moccasins as these can’t been seen under the desk in zoom work meetings! In fact, one friend posted a comment of pulling into a petrol station to fill up his car, but not remembering how to do it! Thankfully, the gift of humour was one of the great panaceas of coping and I came to appreciate many a chuckle from a funny comment or cartoon posted by friends, especially in the darkest days of stage 4.
But now, we have to think more quickly as we decide the course of a day, a week, a future holiday or trip and beyond… Pictures of empty roads and city freeways had spooked many of us, and in the flash of opening up again, our roads are fast becoming choked again because widespread public transport usage has yet to be reclaimed. So for many people, emerging from lockdown to live again is simply not as easy as it once was, hence my ongoing pleas and prayers for all to be kind to ourselves and others as we adjust to living out of lockdown.
So, now is the time to emerge, as butterflies into the warmth of spring and summer to rediscover and appreciate anew the wonders and goodness of God’s world. It is also a time to reconnect with family, friends and (when we are allowed) our communities of faith. Having been permitted to take part in a funeral service last week as part of the small gathering of a family farewelling their mum and grandma, I was deeply struck with the preciousness of experiencing real people in real time and in a real place. There simply is no substitute for human community. So I urge you all to do likewise. Step out slowly, treat yourselves and others with greater kindness and compassion and give thanks anew to God for the wonder of it all.
As I write this, South Australia begins a period of strict lockdown as authorities try to prevent a second wave of the virus from spreading far and wide. So to all the people of South Australia, I say, “Hang in there everyone, this time will pass. You can do it and you will emerge stronger for the experience.” (from a survivor of lockdown)
For now, I am plead with people everywhere to send your loving greetings to South Australia as we offer you our prayers for patience, kindness, compassion and strength plus thoughtfulness towards others in this time. May God be with you and protect each and every one of you.
Glynis Dickins has ministered in churches across the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Living through isolation with her husband Richard, she spends time reading, writing, knitting and walking their much loved chocolate lab x pointer doggie, Boomer.