'I work in the heart of Melbourne. Everyone has found lockdown harder than the first.'
Mark’s story | Living well while looking forward to the end
“I live about 11 kilometres from the centre of Melbourne and I work with Anglican Media. Our office is at the back of St Paul’s Cathedral, which is right opposite Flinders Street Station. Normally, it’s a really busy place! It’s about as central as you can get, in Melbourne.”
“But now, of course, we’re into our sixth week of lockdown in Melbourne (as I speak), with two more weeks to go, depending on the case numbers. It’s so quiet. I’m single, and I live on my own. Everyone has found this lockdown much harder than the first wave. We’re all struggling, in different ways. My sister has a disabled daughter. How does she explain it to her? My boss is trying to work with a three-year-old, at home. I’m really missing going out and seeing people in person. Normally, as part of my job, I go out interviewing people in churches – visiting many churches in our diocese – from as far away as Geelong, and to the Yarra Valley, and right down to Bass Strait.
“But now, we can’t travel more than a five kilometre radius. I’m doing all my work from home, on Zoom and on the phone, which is great of course, but it’s not the same as seeing people face to face. I really miss it. And I miss my own church and seeing the people there, especially the older ones. How many of them are going to be around, or able to go to church, when this is over? We’re allowed to go out for an hour of exercise, so I walk around the block. I try and vary the route and I pick up the daily papers.
“We’re all looking forward to it ending. But people are worried as well, not just about the health issues, but about what will come out of all of it, especially in terms of jobs.
“For me, I’ve found the online church services a sustaining thing. It’s not a substitute, but it’s a comfort. And I’ve appreciated some of the Old Testament exilic literature. It’s resonating more at the moment. The people of Israel were in Babylon, so they weren’t in their place. And now, even though we’re in our own homes, it’s as if we’re not fully here. We’re missing the small things. So those Bible passages have been helpful. And I’ve always enjoyed the beatitudes – the sense of poetry and that Jesus was telling the disciples how to live their lives. He said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…”’(Matthew 5:3-5)
“For me, that’s the most important thing, whether we’re in lockdown or not. How am I living the beatitudes, now? Maybe now is the time for living them in small ways – calling our friends and asking them how they’re going, and saying, ‘Can I pick up something for you and drop it on your porch?’ It’s small, but it’s a time to listen and to find new ways to encourage and love.
“This week, it’s been a bit easier. The case numbers are going down and spring has begun. I can feel the sunshine on my back, as I walk. That makes it easier. But our fixed point in life is not the case numbers, or even the arrival of spring after a bleak winter; our fixed point is our faith in Jesus, who himself suffered for us … and that’s what gives meaning, today.”