Unexpected fruits of COVID-19

Recently I experienced one of the most satisfying moments of my ministry to date and it was all thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic…let me explain.

For a number of years I have been serving the residents of St. Laurence Court (Benetas) in Eaglehawk, first through being appointed to a pastoral care role and later as the visiting priest. Over that time I have had the privilege to build relationships with many of the residents as we gather on a fortnightly basis to worship God and share fellowship together. When it became clear that the pandemic posed a risk to this group, some of our most vulnerable in the community, I was advised that ministry would have to cease for a time and I could no longer serve in what I had always considered the ‘normal’ way. My mind was at a loss as to how I might continue to pastor that community in such a challenging context. Additionally, the demands of parish ministry and the implementation of new forms of gathering overtook my ability to know what to do for ‘my people’ at Benetas.

Questions around ‘remaining unified in isolation’ had become the foremost questions on my mind and my first response was to quickly adopt the Zoom technology for all of our gatherings. Much time was allocated to preparing for regular morning and evening prayer, our cluster wide Sunday worship and assisting others to adopt the technology. Over the pursuing months the residents at Benetas started to feel like a distant memory and I was feeling helpless to know how I could ever get back to serving them faithfully given the strain of the circumstances. Enter Anne, a member of Common Ground in Maiden Gully, who has recently stepped into the role of Pastoral Care Practitioner at St. Laurence Court!

Anne has been a regular participant in the Harvey Town cluster morning and evening prayer meetings and I was absolutely gob-smacked when one morning she ‘zoomed’ into morning prayer from St. Laurence Court with a large majority of ‘my people’ in the room. I cannot tell you how excited I was when I saw each of them and we could speak face to face, albeit over the screen. It was unexpected, surprising and absolutely delightful to worship with them again. What was even more satisfying was that the technology had bridged the gap between those who worship in our church context and those who worship independently in aged care.

So thank you COVID-19! Without being coerced into change and new ways of gathering this would never had happened. It is precisely the unexpected fruit, such as this, that I believe we need to take stock of as a Church when we consider our future and discern the provocation of the Holy Spirit.

Brendan McDonald
Harvey Town Cluster (Eaglehawk and Maiden Gully)