It’s the end of the month (how did that happen?!) and it’s Pentecost Sunday – the day on which, according to Acts, the Holy Spirit blows into the gathering of women and men followers of Jesus and encourages them out into the world. According to the Gospel of John (20:19), those women and men, Jesus’ disciples, locked themselves into a room in fear after Jesus’ death. We, who have been locked away in our houses since before Easter, perhaps now have some understanding of what it is to be isolated in fear. Yet lockdowns are beginning to lift around the globe. Obviously, there are as many differences as there are similarities in context and story, but this gives us food for thought.
We are only just breaking through into the Pentecost of Covid19 – the time at which we can come out of isolation. Jesus’ followers at Pentecost, after the Spirit blows in, go out and speak, and are understood by people from many different places. The question is, though, whose voices will/can we listen to? With so many (unfounded) opinions heard louder and publicised more widely than empirical research and intellectual discussion, are we able to discern those voices who speak truth?
More importantly, what have we learnt about ourselves and our communities during our time of locked doors? What sparks have lit that can grow into inspiration (literally, the breathing in of the Spirit)? My top three ponderings are around Reflection, Re/connection, and Renewal. There have, of course, been many challenges (though I am grateful that on the scale of struggles around the world, these are very small, merely a drop in the ocean) but I will save them for another day.
Reflection: Being in lockdown has forced me to rethink how I spend my time. Teaching in a new virtual environment has had its own demands, very different in lots of ways to the usual demands of teaching (more reflection on this to come!). There have been a plethora of learning opportunities made available online too, and I have been able to access some of these – including a course on Theology, Aesthetics and Liturgy, and the University of Chester’s Theology and Religious Studies webinars. I have made time for the things that matter: people, making music, reading books, learning. I have been nourished and challenged by listening to things (The Guilty Feminist, Julia Gillard’s A Podcast of One’s Own, Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us), watching things (including Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, Mae Martin’s Feel Good, The Handmaid’s Tale) and reading things (way too many to list! – but include Charlie Holmberg’s Paper Magician series, Lisa Fuller’s Ghost Bird, The Bible for Grown Ups and theologians including my running buddy Teresa Brown, Sallie McFague, Lieven Boeve, Kathryn Tanner, Bernard Lonergan). I have also been fortunate to have been a part of virtual faith communities organised by the Marists, Voices of Faith, and more local groups. The juggle has made me more intentional about who and what I give my energy to.
Re/connection: Pentecost was the firm establishment of the first Christian community. There have been many new (virtual) communities established during this time, on the basis of shared values and interests. I have been fortunate to join a book club established by a friend in the USA, reading Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. This was a gift in making new friends around the globe and sharing experiences. The global nature of the pandemic has meant that friends from all over the world have reconnected with me also, and it has been a reminder of the importance of maintaining relationships (and, of course, the energy that requires). We have shared experiences of what is keeping us entertained and getting us through the lockdown.
Renewal: Everyone has had to rethink the ways in which they live – especially economically and environmentally. I’m fortunate to have secure employment when so many people are struggling. So my context here is very privileged. I had reached the stage where I didn’t think twice about getting on a plane to travel 4,000km across Australia for a conference or gathering. In some ways, this lockdown has been a time of a renewal of the everyday. Instead of living from one big event to the next – for me that was from a conference to a concert, a restaurant date to a social – I move only from one day to the next, one small thing to another. There are many cliches that now ring true about doing small things well. There is meaning to be found in the quotidien!
Fire and wind are the two powerful images of Spirit presented in the Acts story of Pentecost. It is this Spirit that challenges the women and men to leave the locked room, renewed, having had their time of reflection, to connect with the community outside the locked door. We too have all been challenged in this lockdown in different ways. These few things I have written about are the fires that have been lit for me during lockdown. I want to fan these flames over the coming months.
The Spirit blows where she wills.