As the days edge closer to the year’s end, there’s no question 2020 has been a difficult one, full of trying moments taking their toll on communities. Even for those whose families have not been affected directly by Coronavirus, people feel dangerously isolated under Stage 4 restrictions; housebound, lonely and cut off from their communities.
That's why, on the last two days of winter, all Victorians are invited to come together to pray for an end to this pandemic.
- Sunday 30 August @ 2pm – Standing Together
- Monday 31 August @ 7pm – Light in the darkness
‘We've been through a bad year and it's been a hard winter,’ says Deacon Joe Leach, a member of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission (EIC) and the Archdiocesan representative on the Victorian Council of Churches. ‘We want to remember all those who have lost their lives to Coronavirus or violence this year. But now we're looking to spring. And we're looking to the future with prayer and hope.’
Hosted by the Victorian Council of Churches, the Standing Together initiative on Sunday afternoon seeks to unite people from across the Christian communities in Victoria for a virtual prayer session
. It will include a reflection led by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli. Then, on Monday evening, as we bid farewell to winter, everyone is invited to light a candle in the darkness
and look forward with hope.
‘We’re encouraging people to stand in their front garden or at their door or in a window and acknowledge that there’s now a light in this darkness; the darkness of winter is fading. And now we're coming into the light of Spring.’
Spring is a time for rebirth, Deacon Joe says, and for Christians this has ‘a very paschal resonance. As Easter, in the Northern Hemisphere, occurs at the beginning of Spring.’
Seeing the need for some light in the darkness of 2020, it was Sr Mary Reaburn, a Sister of Our Lady of Sion and a member the EIC, who initially suggested parish communities would benefit by doing something ‘to show unity and solidarity and remember those who had died, but also hoping for the future’.
Looking for a way to mark solidarity and unity from a place of isolation, Deacon Joe and Elissa Roper from the EIC, drew inspiration from Anzac Day’s ‘Light up the dawn’ personal reflection services, when people marked the day with a candle in their driveway instead of attending marches or dawn ceremonies.
‘We knew immediately that it had to have an ecumenical focus,’ Deacon Joe says. He presented the idea to the Victorian Council of Churches, who embraced it with enthusiasm, recognising the idea had broad relevance.
With individuals across the city living in isolation under Stage 4 restrictions, and missing their faith communities, Deacon Joe explains that they’d like to see a broad selection of people come away with a sense of being a valued part of the greater community.
‘We wanted to make it available to the broader community – to people of any faith and none – to say this is a ritual as a symbol of hope in the community,’ he says.
And the collective participation in ritual is important.
‘Ritual can express things that sometimes words can’t,’ says Deacon Joe. ‘The two big themes here are remembrance and hope; so big, perhaps, they can only be adequately expressed in ritual, they can't be adequately expressed in words. People really feel that that lack of ritual sacramental life of the Church and also the personal involvement in that. You can watch the Mass on TV but it’s not the same.’
According to Deacon Joe, while people can’t be near under lockdown, people can still be together.
‘This is a way of saying, we might be social distancing, but they're still members of the same community. We've been through these hard times together, now we can have hope together; everyone can have hope in the future. We remember the troubles affecting so many, but we look forward to the future with hope.’