Certainly, the Mass attendance at the Sacred Heart Church at Clear Island Waters was down, and you could see that people were more guarded and cautious in their interactions with others.
Interestingly, the Gospel story for the weekend was that of the Samaritan woman at the well at Jericho. She was an outsider who dared to go to the well at midday, and Jesus, a Jew, spoke with her in a real encounter, offering her living water. She recognised him as the Messiah, the one sent to bring unity and salvation to all humanity.
During the week the members of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Council visited the Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints at Charlestown. Some of their members have been attending some of our Ecumenical and Interfaith events, recognising that we have more in common that what separates us. Jesus, in having a conversation with the Samaritan woman wanted the tribal groups from Samaria and Judah to be one, in fact for all of humanity to be one.
What was evident in our conversations with the “Mormons” was their joy, pride and commitment to their interpretation of how they are called to live the Good News. Their tradition is based on the restoration of the movement begun by Jesus Christ. Their whole beings ‘glowed’ with their belief in who they are called to be, and what they are called to do. There were four young missionary women from America serving in that community. As we asked questions of the ‘elders’, the young women were invited to respond and they certainly knew confidently the tenets of their faith. What became evident to us was the place of families in the handing on of their faith to their children. There is an expectation that, each day, the family will spend time teaching their children. Families are the most important aspect of being followers, and as such, they expend a good deal of time and resources ensuring this is supported. Almost all of their lessons can be found on-line and they are the same lessons for each week around the globe.
Keeping holy the Sabbath day, not drinking of alcohol, not using illicit drugs and not drinking tea or coffee are some of the ways they choose to live a good life. Amazingly, none of their leaders are paid and so what was apparent to me was their life choices of work, family, the church and the community of believers. God comes first and is at the forefront of their daily lives; they are fully committed to their faith and its practices.
I also met with the Hunter Interfaith Network, a meeting of faith leaders from Christian (Anglican, Uniting and Catholic), Judaism and Islam. We spent a couple of hours together sharing personal and faith stories. Once again the leaders of these major Abrahamic faiths recognise that, as people of faith, we share in common so much more than what divides us.
In spending time with our children and in light of the experiences of this past week, it appears to me that each generation of parents struggles to bring up their children of the next generation. However, in conversations with one of our daughters about her children and the difficulty in living with them as pre-teenagers, I shared with her the notion that we are living through a change in epoch, not an epoch of change, and that we just don’t really know what this means for us or our children. I have no doubt that these are challenging times for all of us, no matter the generation. Families are struggling with the technology revolution and their children or themselves always wanting to be on devices. Some of this struggle is the result of restrictions placed on them, with the resultant moodiness and reaction. She also spoke about their apparent lack of gratitude and respect for themselves, their parents and all that is provided to them. I know this is not an isolated experience for families.
One of our sons-in-law, who is a primary school teacher, also shared with us the difficulty with students in Year 5 taking responsibility for their own actions and opting out of learning at the beginning of each day, preferring to be removed from the classroom to spend time ‘playing’ in a time-out space. It appears that the ‘rights of the child’ have taken precedence over discipline and learning.
This week’s experiences have left me pondering what the future holds for the next generation of adults. What I sensed with these encounters was a sense of despair and distress. The joy of having children, of teaching them, of handing onto them previously held strong values appears to be breaking down. My own children appear to be struggling to provide the strong foundations for a good life for their own children, because of the many competing factors facing those of us who live in the western world. The fast pace of life and competing opportunities – school, sport, dancing, music, parties, clothing etc. are placing so much pressure on all families. I felt the stress of life in visiting our children and their families, and these are families who are working towards owning their own homes. What must it be like for those who are struggling financially?
I am also conscious that as many of you read this message the program on ABC, ‘Revelations’ is going to be aired. This is distressing at many levels.
I wonder how the Plenary Council might begin the address the many issues I have raised in this simple weekly message:
- The struggle of families
- Unity in diversity
- Interfaith dialogue
- Sexual abuse in the Church
- The pandemic
I know that as a person of faith, I turn to a higher power, the person I call God, to journey with me, care for me and to provide me with guidance and hope. Having a purposeful life is reassuring. How do we continue to show people that this is worthwhile? Humans will continue to be seekers and yearn for more, however, what they fill this void with continues to be troubling.
On this St Patrick’s Day, I implore you to continue your prayers for our diocesan synod, the Plenary Council, for our young families, for those who are struggling as a result of the drought and summer fires, and for those who are unwell with the coronavirus or who are affected by the virus-caused restrictions on businesses and society. We are in need God’s wisdom and guidance.
Next week John Hayes from the Social Justice Council will be providing this weekly message in preparation for Earth Hour on Saturday 28 March and also to provide some thoughts on the environment.