A year like no other

Curfews! Virtual house arrest! Families not able to visit each other even when they live in the same town! Schools closed! Churches closed! Most businesses shut down! I would never have expected to see these things happening in my lifetime, but we in Victoria have had to bear these restrictions for most of the year.

The first lock-down from February to May was bearable, and we gradually got used to shopping once a week, speaking to neighbors from a distance and using the telephone and Zoom to keep in touch with family and friends. The two-week long reprieve in May was wonderful. And it was a joy to be able to worship again in the church, even if each service had a limit of twenty people. Luckily, my son in Melbourne, and his family, came to visit during that time, because if families did not quickly take that option, they would not be able to see family in Melbourne for nine months.

Then came the hotel quarantine fiasco, and we were into lockdown again. Talking to my friends and neighbors, many said that this became a burden. One friend, who lives on her own, said it was the loneliest time of her life. Even though she was able to talk to people on the phone it was not the same as being able to move about. Another friend said that she felt guilty going to the doctor, as her family insisted on doing all her shopping. For some of us, as soon as the lockdown ended, we were getting together, having a meal out, or travelling away for a few days, just to see something different for a change.

A teacher told me he grieved as he had not been able to get to know his students from years 7 and 8, and children who were going into “prep” or first-year high school missed out on the excitement of that new start in their lives. I truly wondered how families managed with parents working from home and having two or more primary children to supervise. When I asked my grandchildren what it had been like, they said that they had really missed their friends and the liveliness of classroom interaction.

Where families had a mother or father in a nursing home, it was almost unbearable not being able to visit them. It was even worse for a husband or wife, who could not visit their spouse of many years. During this time people who had a relative seriously ill in hospital were frustrated that only once a day one family member could visit them for one hour.

Victoria was called the disaster state, but I would have said it was rapidly becoming the depressed state.

Were there any blessings that one could find in this time? The main one was, that as members of a church family, we made sure that we deliberately kept in touch with each other. Lay Assistants in my congregation divided up the congregation and phoned people regularly and many others did the same. We thank God for our faithful pastors, who fed their congregations through printed services that came over the internet, or with online services of various kinds. People without the internet had printed copies of the services delivered to them. We truly were brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another blessing was that we yearned for the time when we could gather together in God’s house, to receive the Sacrament and share in Christian fellowship. Like the psalmist, we said, How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the Lord … For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere (Psalm 84:1,2a, 11). Our time in worship as a congregation was no longer taken for granted and we were able to truly appreciate how precious that time is.

Despite the frustrations, many families found that this time spent together helped them build strong relationships between parents and children. My grandchildren said the hour of exercise that they took together every day as a family was particularly special. Walking and talking for an hour gave them a chance to use up energy, get rid of frustrations and see something other than their laptops. Unfortunately, for other families, the stress and burdens must have been almost unbearable at times. Who knows what changes this time will bring in the workplace, in our churches, and in society? I know that the elderly, and people in remote locations, are already asking, “Can we continue to have live-streamed services?”

God promises, Behold I make all things new … Write this down, for these words are true and faithful (Revelation 21:5). Through all the times of frustration, loneliness and depression, our faithful God did not leave us, and will never leave us. And, as we heard in the Bible readings for last Sunday (November 15), we truly experienced the power of Paul’s words: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

About the Author

Norma Koehne

Norma Koehne is a retired teacher and former LWA President. She is enjoying living in a retirement village, and the great sense of community one has there. She is still involved with her local women's fellowship and has some roles in the congregation.

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