OK so we’re not – yet – at crisis point in Australia. In fact, despite the postponement or cancellation of many events, and the lack of gatherings at sports fixtures, most people are not social distancing. However, some schools, the one in which I teach included, have made the decision to transfer to a home learning program for students. State schools in Victoria are preparing for the eventuality that this might be the case after the holiday.
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from our experience in schools, it’s that the important thing to students at the present moment is connection. They are anxious, yes, but more importantly, they feel like sending them home to learn from afar (which is what we are doing from Monday) means they are going to have to go solo. Of course, that’s far from true, and thankfully we have a whole range of technologies that can help us to stay connected. But their learning will have to be more independent for the moment. Of course, we knew relationships were the basis of our teaching anyway, but this more than ever has highlighted the role teachers play in daily reassuring students that they are innately valuable human beings in whose lives we, as teachers and fellow human beings, are deeply invested. So we need to make sure we continue to do this from afar.
More importantly, this gives us an opportunity to rethink what it means to be a Christian community. Again, we know it doesn’t mean the buildings we construct in which to house our rituals, or even just the people who turn up to the rituals. It means the way in which we live our lives, our daily ministries, as we follow the Gospel. The connection with others we are trying to maintain amidst social distancing reminds us that being in communion is precisely that – relationship. So let’s think about the ways we can minister to others, especially the most vulnerable, at this moment – i.e. stop buying all the meat, pasta and toilet rolls! And have a look for people you can assist – there was a beautiful example of a young girl buying and delivering toilet rolls to an elderly community. And for the common good, get on board with social distancing!