Participating in the Pastoral Placement Program has made this year one of great change for me. I have gone from having a very predictable routine and set of particular tasks and goals as part of previous roles in early learning and then in primary school education, to having a schedule that can change at much shorter notice and can be made up of many different tasks and expectations. It has been a very interesting and character-building change for me over the past few months.
But do I feel this is a bad thing? Would I wish to change it? Most definitely not.
And this is why; I simply trust God. I trust that when I signed onto this program it was because God had heard me say to some close friends that I would like to be involved in ministry work. And so, three years later, here I am.
So, what has the journey looked like so far? Let’s call this part Chapter 1: “Love in Action”.
For my first taste of this new role I was blessed with the opportunity to be placed at Mums Cottage, West Wallsend, where I was very warmly welcomed by Sr Helen-Anne. With her warm, humble and enthusiastic spirit she introduced me to the life and happenings of the Cottage, which I learnt is a very special and treasured place for all who enter. Whether you choose to participate in the daily activities, take advantage of a selection of services or just sit with a “cuppa” in fellowship with others, it is a most welcoming, faith and loved-filled place nurtured by wonderful volunteers.
Keeping with the values of the Cottage, and the value of fellowship, I was encouraged to be a listening ear to people who needed someone to talk to and just to “be there” for others. To the unknowing eye this could be mistaken for appearing to be “just sitting around and doing nothing”, but for those who really needed it, sitting together and chatting over a cup of coffee or tea and being that support for someone was exactly what I felt the Cottage needed to be for that person. As it was said to me at one point: “If all you have done for the day is drink tea and talked with someone who needs it, then that is a very productive day.” I had just learnt one of the most critical roles I have as a participant in this program. I had “demonstrated God’s love”.
In my time at the Cottage I was trusted with some of the admin responsibilities. Having completed a short course in basic business admin, I was able to put some of these skills into practice. I found it to be a lot of fun, and a new challenge. And the best part; all for the glory of God.
Following, in Chapter 2, my journey was to change and look quite different to the original plan. It entailed a placement in the offices of Pastoral Ministries. Instead of continuing to action out my love of God by serving others, I was to discover that Chapter 2 was to be titled “Love in Prayer, Reflection and Contemplation”.
While becoming familiar with my new “office” space, thanks to the proximity of my new staffroom (kitchen) to my desk I learnt how much time I could save on commuting for those cups of tea I need probably way too often. The novelty of learning how to do part of your life differently is fun and it was a discipline I’ve never had to master before, but one I would learn very quickly. Honestly, in my mind I was thinking “great, this means I can work in my PJs, have as many morning-tea and afternoon-tea breaks as I like and … I promise I’m joking … maybe a cheeky glass of wine over lunch”.
The best way for me to learn this particular discipline was praying and asking God “how can I show your glory and love and teachings while working from home? I’m so accustomed to demonstrating God’s glory and love by putting these into acts of service.” God answered me through conversations with Natasha, Rose, Mary-Anne, Teresa and the rest of the Pastoral Placement Team. The second answer came in the blessing of the online Holy Week resource, “Holy Week 2020: In the Midst of Social Distancing”, where I was to have the opportunity to contribute my own reflection of what Holy Saturday means to me. I was very enthusiastic about this new challenge as I’ve never really had the opportunity to contribute to such an important resource or to have my own thoughts conveyed on such a platform. It was a real honour and I pray that the resource was able to bless and encourage many others in our community.
“Love in Prayer, Reflection and Contemplation” has continued to be a season with the team and I; exploring the Alpha course with videos, prayer and conversation and a few other focuses throughout the week when we meet over Zoom. While reflecting on these moments I realise that the past few weeks have been a much-needed time with God in prayer. Because I’ve fallen into the habit of just “running the rat race” of life and tend to be a bit of a “task master”, I’ve never been really good at welcoming God into that part of my life. But participating in this program has really encouraged me to let God completely in so that, in some way, I have hopefully been that one who “cared for (that) one” who needed it. Stepping up when God needs me.
While participating at a diocesan level, I’m also involved at a parish level and been given the opportunity to work with parish leader Brendon on the Sacramental team for the St Joseph’s Parish, Kilaben Bay. As well as beginning to walk with people through their Baptismal and Sacramental Journey, I have also been given the opportunity to work with Brendon on creating a facilitation handbook for delivering the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation and First Holy Communion. This continues to be a work in progress, but I feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity to collaborate on this resource and am really looking forward to the finished product.