It’s March already. The busyness and excitement of the holiday period is now just a memory of good times amongst crowds at the fireworks, beach, cricket and The Canopy.
And yet not everyone in a crowd is necessarily happy. The late comedian Robin Williams is quoted as saying “I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It’s not! The worst thing is to end up with people who make you feel alone’’.
Many people believe that loneliness can never happened to them but in reality it is part of life. Being lonely from time to time is OK but persistent loneliness is a concern.
Loneliness and social isolation had a significant impact on people in both Australia and globally during the COVID-19 pandemic. New research shows that the health and social consequences of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come so now is the time to act to accelerate social recovery and build the strength of community.
The Lane Cove Community Chaplaincy is a member of Ending Loneliness Together – an Australia-wide organisation which aspires to address loneliness through both research and action. It holds the Vision ‘’imagine a world where everyone feels a sense of connection and belonging’’. What a fantastic aspiration!
The impact of loneliness is not restricted to particular age groups, gender or vocation. Those who suffer from the sense of loneliness often do so in silence – there-by deepening their sense of despair.
Phil McAullife [www.thelonelydiplomat.com], suffers from a sense of loneliness. He observes ‘’people do not know how to respond to someone who says they are lonely – typically they offer platitudes and then adopt distancing behaviours’’.
The activities of the Lane Cove Community Chaplaincy provide safe and supportive ways to offer friendship and connection. Community groups, especially those offering the involvement and engagement of volunteers, present an opportunity for the lonely person. However, joining a new group activity can be daunting and requires courage and persistence.
Let’s do all we can to look after one another. A friendly smile and greeting can be both therapeutic and maybe the start of a new relationship. Make a personal commitment to invite new people to your activity as together we strive to build and sustain a resilient, supportive and respectful community.
To learn more about Ending Loneliness Together, or if you are looking for someone to chat with, make contact with the Chaplaincy team.
Peter and the Chaplaincy team
This February will be a big month for our family. Two young people commencing at new schools brings both excitement but also apprehension. Long standing friendships may come under strain as the Year 6 cohort spreads out to different high schools. The certainty of the nurturing environment of an early learning centre will be an interesting contrast to structured learning and the energy and busyness of the school playground.
Media is typically filled with stories of the loss of permanence! The trauma faced by those experiencing the worst flooding in decades; the experiences of those new to Australia after fleeing conflict or political unrest; those grieving the passing of loved ones because of illness or misadventure.
Stability and certainty are qualities we all long for. While, as adults, we intellectually understand that life’s journey brings many instances of a loss of permanence, the reality remains that such episodes in our life are confronting.
Coping with such change is a challenge for each of us! The approaches followed are as diverse as the population itself but there is a common thread – the benefits which flow from the nurture of family and/or community.
A smile, a kind word and positive eye contact; physical contact (a hand on the shoulder or even a hug); a gift from the heart (a home cooked meal or perhaps something observed to be needed but not openly sought); the support of a buddy in the playground or a mentor in the workplace.
These gifts are of immeasurable benefit to the recipient – simple and uncomplicated but offered without thought of recompense or keeping score.
Information released by the QUT’s Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies shows that on all measures, financial giving from within the Lane Cove postcode is well beyond the NSW average. Such generosity is to be applauded and encouraged but maybe the more important data is not financial but human – not from the wallet but from the heart.
Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (The Bible, 1 John 3:18)
The various Chaplaincy activities offer the opportunity to join in community. To find out more or if you are seeking support, please refer to www.lanecovecc.com
On behalf of the Lane Cove Chaplaincy team, I wish you a heart-filled and happy new year!
Peter and the Chaplaincy team
Our daughter soon leaves home to be married.
There’s so much anticipation in the air! I ponder how we best say ‘goodbye’ to this phase of our lives with her, whilst celebrating her marriage to the man of her dreams.
My husband and myself are also saying our ‘goodbyes’ to the many friends we have here, as we prepare to leave Sydney after Christmas.
The big celebrations planned for both occasions are wonderful rites of passage, yet it is the personal conversations I treasure most, which convey deeper meaning.
Reflection and appreciation of what has occurred is important.
Joyful times, learning and growth, disappointments and struggles, all combine to weave the rich tapestry of life we have spent together.
We have changed during our 8+ years of dwelling amongst you.
As we move on, we seek to take with us those insights to helpfully share with others.
We look forward to what is new, while grieving what we leave behind.
Immersing ourselves in the community here, we’ve sought to construct something new, beneficial and sustainable.
It has been rewarding to see others thrive, find new friends, a love for the natural environment and, in some cases, find a deeper faith to enrich their lives.
Many are telling me it is a valuable initiative.
Lane Cove Uniting Church, who undergird the Community Chaplaincy, agree.
They have committed to sustain the wide range of Chaplaincy activities and to continue to care for the participants. They hope to engage a new Chaplain shortly, who will bring their own giftedness to the role. Exciting times!
May the hope and joy of friendship we have found here, be yours also, as you reach out to one another – especially during this Christmas and holiday season.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ The Bible, Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Amidst much anticipation and excitement, my husband and myself left our Adelaide home for Sydney 8 ½ years ago. Having always lived in Adelaide and raising our children there, it was a big step saying ‘goodbye’ to our family, friends, home and our many roles there. People around us were saddened by our choice. We knew very few people in Sydney. It was such a risk! Yet we were ‘called’ here and the timing was right for us, so we went with hope. Both the two-day relocation drive, and the packing and unpacking process, helped ground the transition in reality. There was so much we enjoyed about our new life in Sydney – yet some transitioning aspects were hard. Transitions tend to be mixed blessings.
It is nearly time for us to move again. This time, we will drive south for 5 hours to the ‘Sapphire Coast’, where I will begin a Uniting Church placement as a Community Chaplain for disaster-affected people. Again, there are mixed emotions for us – excitement, challenge and loss, all rolled into one. We will embrace the changes as best we can, regarding life as a journey of change, where we are called to make a positive difference wherever we can. We feel secure, knowing our God travels with us.
We are so thankful for our time in Lane Cove! We have appreciated the people –and many organizations - that contribute to building a strong community here. We love the beautiful, natural environment and those who selflessly fight to protect it. We have found welcome and kindness – so we say ‘thank you’ to those who have embraced, included and helped us.
The opportunity to serve in Lane Cove as a Community Chaplain is unique. This is due to the extraordinary generosity of Lane Cove Uniting Church, who, in true Lane Cove style, experimented with a brand-new approach to being the Church, embedded outside of the building in many different ways. Other churches have observed the unfolding of this initiative, and some have been inspired to begin their own, in contextualised ways.
We will be here for another month or so. We would love to say ‘goodbye’ to our many friends here over that time – so please contact me via the links below. Lane Cove Uniting Church will continue to support the role and current groups while they identify my successor.
I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination - Jimmy Dean
The Soul Care Conference was all go! From John Brogden’s powerful, opening story, to electives interspersed with more great speakers, to catching up with colleagues over refreshments, it was very rich indeed. On the final day, Sally Longley’s ‘Spirituality for Busy People’, based on her book, Conversations with Silence, struck a chord with my own life and practice of contemplative spirituality.
Longley explains the importance of the musical term, the fermata, as a ‘grand pause’. Claude Debussy emphasises ‘the music is not in the notes, but in the silences in between’ (p102-3). Those pauses give richness and emphasis to the notes around them and allow space for our own interpretation. These short silences add grace, majesty and expectation to the whole piece.
Taking reflective pauses in life also adds richness and clarity. They help us identify how we have changed, what emotional burdens we are carrying and the opportunity to respond. Although taking many forms, a silent time of introspection is involved, achievable in big and small bites. I value short, daily, quiet times in a set place and time. That place soon begins to feel peaceful, becoming associated with reflective rest, and for me, communion with God. Our weekly, silent, 20-minute mantra group meditation, promotes inner stillness. A 15-second pause to take in a ‘snapshot’ of beauty, and lodge it in our memory, is one of our contemplative walking practices. Our monthly group, Sacred Space, offers time to quietly explore our spirituality together, amidst natural beauty. You are welcome to any of these – see the links below.
A longer retreat allows withdrawal from the pressures of daily life, in exchange for restful introspection. We emerge refreshed and energised. If they are currently impossible, we must find the momentary pauses life offers us instead. Even pauses in conversation are a gift of reflection and part of listening well.
To pause in the midst of the demands of our lives may feel like a waste of time. It’s not – it’s a rich gift to ourselves and to those around us. The pregnant pause beckons new life in us, as we rediscover our value base. It helps push away the loud, demanding voices that threaten to overwhelm us. Start small and be gentle with yourself – it takes a little practice. Sally Longley’s widely-researched book, describes her courageous journey to deep inside of her Australian soul, making it a helpful guide.
“You will be delivered by returning and resting;
your strength will lie in quiet confidence.”
The Bible, Isaiah 30:15(HCSB)
Leaving a Legacy
A recent walk through Balmain and Birchgrove delighted our Walk & Talk group with its fascinating history and beautiful views. A memorial to Tom Uren, born in Balmain when it was a working-class suburb, enabled us to reflect upon his legacy. Uren was ahead of his time, speaking out strongly for peace, and conservation of treasures for future generations to enjoy. As a Japanese POW sent to work on the Burma railway, amongst other atrocities, he emerged with deep compassion for his fellow man, including Japanese citizens. His terrible experiences motivated him to find solutions, rather than become bitter. Uren was a loving father figure for our current Prime Minister. His legacy lives on!
It is easy to be critical of our forebears. Our planet is responding furiously to the indignities thrust upon it since the Industrial Revolution. We can try to lay blame at the feet of previous generations, but know we are also complicit. There are many situations where we can step back and choose our focus. Being appreciative of the many good, well-meaning contributions that have benefitted us, is uplifting for everyone. The attitude we choose affects our self-esteem, especially when it comes to our family history. Let’s be generous in our reflections, remembering our memories contain a certain bias.
Importantly, what legacy are we leaving? Is our response to the climate crisis a reduction in our energy consumption and the waste we leave behind? Do we stand for what is good, just and kind – modelling values that will help generations to come? Maybe our contribution is in our field of expertise, as part of a team and not so visible. But it counts, so work with diligence for the good of all anyway. Financial legacies contribute to wonderful strides forward in important new areas, which would otherwise be unattainable.
Groups can also leave an admirable legacy. As society changes its ways, institutions which previously thrived and contributed much to our community, are now in steady decline. Some find renewed purpose in leaving a legacy to assist new initiatives to thrive, which often hold similar values.
Leaving a legacy is our privilege to shape the future by supporting what we hold dear. Who we are, and how we live now, has an influence that outlasts us. Let’s make our legacy one to be proud of!
Legacy is not what I did for myself. It's what I'm doing for the next generation - Vitor Belfort
Walk and Wonder
‘Look at these tiny diamonds!’ Primed to notice beauty in our natural surroundings, we shared our delight in the glittering raindrops dispersed along the spiny needles of the Sheoak trees. We’d passed these Sheoaks every week, but the recent rain and sunshine had transformed them. As we walked amongst them, we wondered why the droplets stayed on those drooping needles, apparently defying gravity? And why were they so evenly spaced? A closer look showed the needles were notched along their length; and now we knew why! Each Wednesday, we walk familiar routes, but with the changing conditions, we continue to delight in new discoveries.
Child-like wonder stimulates joy and helps us to focus away from our problems in a healthy way. Sharing our observations with others lifts them too, connecting us positively. We utilise our senses to engage appreciatively with our surroundings. What do we see, hear, smell, touch and occasionally, taste, that brings delight? Appreciating our natural environment motivates us to care for it too.
Walking is great exercise and especially in nature. Even the effect of the greens and blues found there, cause us to relax. When busy minds relax, creativity returns. The air we breathe is fresh and oxygen-rich. The interdependent life around us inspires us to gain perspective on the crucial role of healthy, supportive relationships.
We encourage relationships of care. When a large group of varying abilities walks together, the distance between the leader and the last walkers increases. Hence, we pay attention to those behind us, watching they don’t miss the turns. We help each other through difficult areas. We accompany people so they don’t walk alone for long stretches, especially newcomers, unless that is their preference. We find that people who walk regularly in nature tend to be considerate people anyway. Maybe this isn’t a coincidence, but the result of becoming more in tune with nature, others and ourselves?
Lane Cove Community Chaplaincy offers three different walking groups, to encourage people to participate at their level and time availability. We’ve been offering walks for over seven years now and many people enjoy them. We warmly welcome newcomers, so check out the options on the Groups and Events page if you are interested. Alternatively, there is an excellent resource for local trails called Bushwalks around Lane Cove which will help you get started with family and friends. Plan to enjoy the many benefits of walking and wondering soon.
Wander often. Wonder always.
Looking for examples of the Spirit in our natural surroundings, we headed to the nearby rock ledge by Lane Cove River. What a beautiful sight awaited us! The recent rain was trickling in narrow, vertical streams from the edge of the overhang every few centimetres. Turning my attention from the beauty coming from above us, I noticed the effect upon the water below. Ripple patterns were everywhere – intersecting and forming ever-widening, complex patterns. Here was my illustration to share with our Sacred Space group – and blog readers!
There is a mystery about the Spirit – what it is, how it works, spreads and interacts with us. We have some clues from our experience: those mysterious moments where something speaks deep inside of us in an uncanny way. Or the way we feel so ‘connected’ with others at times. Or we just ‘know’ something and we can’t explain why. My mother wasn’t a religious person, but one night she knew there was something wrong with me while I was overseas. She was very worried, having no way to contact me. She asked on my return what happened that night. I had been very ill, amidst a new group in a foreign land. Her ‘mother instinct’ just knew her daughter was in trouble.
Ripples, like the Spirit, move outward in waves of power, interact with others to reshape, and change course. Their destination is a mystery, dependent upon what lies in their path. There is power there, capable of being harnessed, but it's mysterious too. The ripples don’t choose their interactions, but adapt as they happen.
Maybe we can learn from the adaptive behaviour of ripples? In our interactions with others, we can be open to being changed and adjusting our course to complement theirs. We can accept those with whom we are thrust together and make the best of it, acknowledging we both have a right to be there. We can choose to emanate a positive spirit, rippling warmth and kindness to those around us.
Even though our actions may be small, the ripple effect can magnify them to create extraordinary change. Who knows what effect your smile or affirmation really means to someone? As a Chaplain, I am often surprised how meaningful small acts of kindness can be in someone’s life. If we can uplift another, they in turn, will be encouraged to do likewise, creating ripples of inspiring change. Don’t underestimate your power to create the change you want to see in the world!
Small acts of decency ripple in ways we could never imagine. Cory Booker
Despite all the reasons not to trust these days, trust can still be enjoyed. At playgroup, little hands seek bigger ones to guide them up and down slides, along balance beams and to address inequities amongst small peers. Pre-schoolers’ confidence in their loving protectors is a joy to see and usually well placed. We see elderly people, whose sensory capacity has diminished, lovingly escorted into public places by those who care for them. There is a rightness to this (vastly simplified) circle of life, of trusting dependence to independence and back again.
During the intervening years, distrust takes root. We struggle to believe anyone in authority now, as seen in the last election campaign. Reasons to distrust are highlighted everywhere we look, with counter arguments and hostilities playing out before us. We are urged to distrust those who should lead us with high integrity, which creates confusion and disappointment. To add to our dilemma, there is no longer a common story to which we assent and find hope and direction. Even those with religious beliefs struggle, when their lives take unexpected, unwanted turns.
Maybe we expect too much of others? No mortal can sincerely promise to never disappoint. As much as we try, we can’t please everyone all the time. And my understanding of God’s promises is not to guarantee a trouble-free life, but an accompanied life, with some guidance and comfort along the way. Hence, lowering our bar a little, to allow room for imperfection in others and life, helps us become less cynical.
Distrusting everyone is not only exhausting, it stymies positive action. Sitting on the fence of indecision, fearing to trust either side, immobilises us. Conducting our research into issues of importance, from the credible sources we most trust, helps us move off the fence. Realising that some people really are for us, even if we don’t always agree, can be liberating. They allow us to engage in a real exchange of ideas, where doubts and uncertainties can be aired and sometimes laid to rest. Can you identify some trusted sources and people?
It's easy to be cynical, but most people I know, mean well. We can be part of the trust solution, by making good on our promises. When we let others down, an apology can restore trust for the occasional wrong. Be gentle on others for their sporadic slips too. None of us are perfect. Forming genuine relationships of trust brings joy and enables us to progress worthy goals.
Six months after adopting an adorable pup, we added a kitten to our family, hoping they would bond. Our hearts melted when they curled up together to sleep. Alas, six months later, the pup was killed on the road – and we mourned her deeply. Our young cat, Gemma, was clearly grieving too. Hence, we soon brought another pup home, hoping that, again, the two would become friends. Gemma cautiously approached the new pup, sniffed her, and drew back in horror! This one smelt awful! This behaviour continued until day three, when Gemma slapped a firm paw on Minka and licked her clean. Their relationship blossomed immediately. Soon after, her mothering instincts became even more pronounced. Minka would regularly plop down five wide steps from landing to backyard, to discover she couldn’t get back up. Seeing Minka’s plight one day, Gemma responded. With her extended arm outstretched behind Minka’s back, she guided the hapless pup up the steps! What an intrinsically selfless mothering instinct this young cat possessed.
Examples abound of inter-species, parent-like relationships. We wonder at them, intrigued by the innate love displayed. They remind me of some biblical images of God – often described as masculine – which show this maternal side.
Jesus said, ‘…how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings’ (Matthew 23:7 NIV)
The caring love of a parent for the young is embedded by the Creator, whose own parental love is unconditional. That sacrificial love dwells within us, waiting to bring mutual joy. Being the biological parent isn’t necessary, although it sharpens our instincts quickly. Foster, or adoptive, parents are a precious gift to those little ones who lack them. Grandparents have the privilege of repeating the process and sometimes to contribute wisdom into the intergenerational mix. A wider network of loving ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’ provides a rich benefit, especially for those who lack their immediate relatives nearby. An appropriate response to the unconditional love offered to us is to foster loving connections, where they are needed and welcome. I hope to facilitate some intergenerational mixing where this can naturally occur. Let me know if you are interested in connecting in this way. It is important for everyone to love and be loved for just who they are.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mums - and to all those who nurture younger ones with love. Thank you for your contribution towards a hopeful future for all.
The articles here were written by Peter Andrews on behalf of the Chaplaincy Team from beginning 2023.