May you find Blessing in unexpected ways
Letter from John, Delia and Judy Co-Chairs Canberra Region Presbytery
We have had two days of lower temperatures, some scattered rain, and clearer air although smoke haze continues. People are tired and exhausted and thankful for the pause, weird though it feels, yet some rest for those on the frontlines of firefighting and those providing nurture and care at evacuation centres and community safe places are welcome.
Folk now are returning home from these places but so many are dislocated, grieving, hurting, very distressed, trying desperately to be courageous in light of huge loss, dislocation and uncertainty. Gabrielle Jones’s bushfire captures for me a place where we must sit and listen to the stories. John Squires has written us a pastoral letter which calls us to sit and be gentle with each other, to sit and listen to the stories.
In our stories perhaps we will slowly find the strengths we need. We are in a pause…folk are very tired…yet tomorrow and then Friday are predicted to be a return of the conditions of last Saturday. Will it ever end? Charles Ringma writes “ God has placed is in the midst of life and it is there that we are to work, learn, fellowship, marry, witness and care. Our Church community should strengthen us for our work in the world”. The church is not the true fellowship of Christ if it draws us from the world to live for ourselves. Rather it should empower us to live boldly in the midst of the world with all its needs and challenges”.
In the midst of the world, our chaplaincy team ( Pam Skelton at Eden, Ian Diamond at Quaama, David Russell in Merimbula, Karyl at Cobargo, Terence Corkin at Moruya, Kath Merrifield at Batemans Bay and David Mossfield at Goulburn) and members of our congregations tells stories of folk who are kind, generous and compassionate, though often grieving. At both Bateman’s Bay and Narooma, a number of homeless men and have been sleeping in swags and old vans in Church carparks have become the hands, heart and feet that clean toilets, wash dishes, clear gutters and are the protectors of church property and drop-in centres.
In Narooma, Monty’s kitchen continues to provide meals to the evacuation centre and the buildings are distribution points for food, clothing and staff need when you lose all or are suddenly evacuated. Yvonne Stevenson tells of a Sydney Uniting Church sending $2000 to the Congregation so they could offer cash vouchers to families who had little and who were in need as jobs are lost and income disappears. In Eden, Michael Palmer stayed on after evacuation and sat with folk who just had no means to move. Today they indicated how good it was to see his face again and to know he stood with them on the edge surrounded by anxiety and uncertainty. So Charles Ringma’s words ring true to where we are and where we are called.
As we think of what we might do…
We in the UCA are small and we could think that against the huge resources of government and wealth of the private sector we can do little. But support for the Moderator’s fund is a way that will make a huge difference in the longer-term recovery. We are inspired by this image from The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse by Charles Mackesy. What about you. But one way you can make a huge difference is by your prayer.
Maybe you would like to use the prayer written by Dr Byron Smith for Common Grace:
Beauty Creator of life, this beautiful land cries out. For the disfigured splendour of charred forests, blackened soil, ashen skies, we grieve. For the hundreds of millions of creatures that perished in smoke and flame, for the millions more who emerge after the inferno to starvation or predation, for the twisted, frayed and torn strands of ecosystems that may never recover, we mourn. For smoke-filled lungs, dread-filled hours, anxiety-filled evacuations, for ruined livelihoods, incinerated sacred sites, smouldering homes, for bereaved families, inflicted trauma, gutted dreams, we weep. Lord have mercy.
Generosity Jesus our brother, all generosity echoes your own. For the dangerous labour of firefighters, for the kindness of strangers, for neighbourly bonds reforged in calamity, we offer thanks. For sandwiches made, the shelter provided, funds donated, we are grateful. For accurate reporting, insightful forecasts, skilful logistics, we acknowledge our debt. Christ has mercy.
Justice Spirit of truth, your justice flows like water onto parched soil. For too long, our notions of prosperity have been dominated by theft, destruction and fire: stolen land, poisoned rivers, dirty fuels. May we rediscover true wealth in mutual trust and care, in treasured stories and places, in clean water and air. May justice fall like rain, pouring like grace on the tongues of the poor, settling like ash in the mouths of those who profit from lies. Let ancient wisdom be respected, careful science heeded, the worship of money rejected. May we truthfully embrace our full history, honestly acknowledge our present crises, humbly nurture a shared future.
May you find Blessing in unexpected ways.
John, Delia, and Judy
Co-Chairs, Canberra Region Presbytery