22 April 2021

Major Deborah Robinson currently serves as a corps officer (church minister) in the city of Perth, Western Australia. Her community has been minimally impacted by the pandemic, having gone over 10 months with no community transmission and a modest lockdown period between March and June 2020.

During this time, she became 'concerned by those leaders who seemed overly keen to use the challenge of the pandemic to embrace the new and too quickly dismiss what had been and what was.’ The following is what Major Deborah determined to matter most:

Firstly, we must acknowledge the angst. In days of not being able to embrace others – to shake hands, to hug, to place a hand on our neighbour’s shoulder – we feel a deep angst, because it is in our Christian nature to reach out and embrace. We serve an incarnational God and our ability to embrace demonstrates God’s embracement of the world in which we live. It matters that we acknowledge the angst, within ourselves and those whom we serve, and to name the grief and sorrow of feeling isolated and physically removed from one another.

Embrace our mortality

Secondly, we have to learn to embrace our mortality. The pandemic has certainly reminded us of the fragility of life. There has been and continues to be so much sickness and death. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and so we embrace our mortality and recognise our reliance on the sustaining grace of God for each new day. I’ve given up on planning anything during this pandemic! My daughter lives on the east coast of Australia and we have now been separated for a year. Just as we think the border will open, and we book flights, they close down again. It is wise to heed the words of James 4:13-15: ‘Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”’

Communicate tenfold

Really, communicating widely is a given for anyone in leadership, but during the pandemic, we must communicate tenfold. Our corps leadership strategically set about to increase communication with our congregation through live-streaming our services, sharing weekly video updates from the corps officers and having an increased social media presence. We made a conscious decision to live-stream and not pre-record our services, ensuring they looked similar to our regular Sunday meetings, so as you joined you felt you were in the room with us. The interesting outcome is that our online presence has seen a significant increase in viewers. While other places of worship have seen decline, we have seen an increase in our congregation’s size both online and in the room. Weekly updates allowed me and my husband to still connect, to relieve a little of the angst of not being able to visit pastorally or engage on a Sunday. As we move into 2021, our live streaming and weekly updates are continuing, even though we are now allowed to freely worship in person.

Love well

John Wesley taught that our calling in life is to perfect our love of God and others with a love that is pure in heart, pure in motives. To love well, we must know ourselves well – know our limits, when to take a break, to allow ourselves to feel, and to remember we are spiritual beings – acknowledging our own angst and embracing our own mortality.

As you lead and as you live, my challenge to you is to embrace the angst, acknowledge your mortality, communicate tenfold and love well. Much grace.

 

Major Deborah Robinson

Major Deborah is a corps officer at Perth Fortress in Western Australia. A passionate Christian leader, Deborah is committed to the proclamation of God’s word and the empowerment and encouragement of others. She is married to Alwyn and they have three adult children and one son-in-law. Deborah describes herself as 'lousy at craft and cooking but excellent at eating chocolate'.

 

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