Dear Sydney, here's something we should remember in lockdown

I live in Sydney and yesterday I went to church – legally. In my loungeroom.

As soon as the two-week lockdown was announced Saturday afternoon, our church staff team and many members rapidly adjusted to going back to Sunday gatherings being entirely online.

I’m really grateful to them for all they did, while knowing that not every church or Christian community would have been able to move so swiftly to livestream its weekly service again.

Whatever your church family was able to pull together yesterday at short notice, well done. Seriously. That was a mammoth task. But the way churches had to instantly recalibrate due to the New South Wales’ shut down is just one example of the widespread upheaval happening across the state – and the country.

Arriving just in time for school holidays, the Sydney-and-surrounds lockdown has ripple effects which I can barely comprehend. From trips away being canned to local cafes, gyms or cinemas staring again at revenue collapse – not to mention the impact on funerals or weddings – the fall-out is problematic and painful. And what about the huge toll on relationships, emotions and mental health?

Another consequence of the latest NSW lockdown, for me at least, is registering afresh that the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. All over the place, including my place (NOTE: Our test results came back negative. Phew). No, NSW, the pandemic didn’t end after the Northern Beaches cluster was reined in after Christmas. Not by a long shot.

Remember when Melbourne seemed to get locked down every few minutes? Or when the USA resembled a COVID bushfire? What about when India first exploded with more cases than your mind could boggle at? And when our neighbour Indonesia started erupting with cases and transmission?

I would watch on with polite empathy and spend some time trying to register what it must be like to constantly live with COVID restrictions or outbreaks which stifle your life or livelihood. I’d even pause to consider all the sickness and death unfurling from this newfound global menace. Sometimes, I prayed with sincerity and focus.

But then another COVID-free day would pass in Sydney and I’d go back to forgetting the Worldometer. I still wore my mask on the train, while gradually taking for granted that I could leave the house for any reason, not just for exercise or scrounging for toilet paper.

Fast forward to the past week, though, and it’s amazing how something affecting me suddenly makes me think about everyone else … who were already dealing with what’s going on here.

I hadn’t even noticed that the entire country of South Africa is poised to possibly lock down against a wave of cases of the same COVID variant as NSW. The whole country.

As I settle in to (at least) two weeks at home, I’ve been more deliberate about praying for others – in Sydney, and elsewhere – who are impacted by COVID. Friends who live alone, or are going through marriage problems. People who can no longer work, through no fault of their own, and may not have the housing, savings or social services which I have access to. Older people already wrestling with health issues. Medical professionals working tirelessly to help protect us all.

Anyone and everyone, really, who is not just me and my household. I’m aiming to keep up such prayers, even after our latest outbreak is (hopefully) quashed.

Oh, and I’m also working on making myself reach out more and keep in contact with loved ones during this lockdown. I noticed in the past that I started to embrace The Hermit Life while confined to home, rather than being there (as much as I can be) for others who might need comfort, contact or support.

Perhaps you might want to do the same. Even if you don’t live in this lockdown.

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