It is rather obvious to say that the unfolding COVID19 Pandemic is changing the shape of our daily lives; the way we live, and work, and the interactions we have with others.

“Social distancing” is the new catch cry, and even though it is against all my instincts I am working hard at it.

Last week I was still automatically offering a handshake and felt really rude when I remembered to refuse one offered to me. We introduced a new “social awkwardness”, but even that is becoming a new normal.

At least working from home, where it is usually just the dog and me, I have little opportunity to make a mistake.

The physical and health effects of COVID19 on our society seem pretty bad, but the social effects will be catastrophic if we spend the next 6 months distanced socially from one another.

I’ve started to talk about “physical distancing” and “social connecting”. Now more than ever we need to stay connected to one another.

Disconnection was already a major problem for our society with 1 in 6 Aussies already reporting prolonged periods of loneliness.

The Beatles Classic “Eleanor Rigby” tells the story well: “Ah, look at all the lonely people. Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been; lives in a dream. Waits at the window, wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Who is it for? All the lonely people. Where do they all come from?”

Or more appropriately for me, verse 2: “Father McKenzie writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near.”

In all the challenges that face us in the next months, we need to rise to the challenge of increased social isolation. This will be especially important for those who have lost their jobs and are contemplating an increasingly uncertain future.

We are facing this in the Church where our very name means “assembly” or “gathering”. We are learning to do that in new ways, with on-line church, social media groups, and Zoom groups gathering across the state. See our website to take a peek: www.anglicantas.org.au and call us if you need a chat.

But whoever we are, we have the privilege of reaching out to people and offering connection. It might need to be old school, like using the phone or writing a letter, or dropping a note to a neighbour, but do it we must.

We’re planning a weekly “virtual dinner” with our kids who live interstate. I just bought stamps for the first time in years. I’m trying to think creatively.

Let’s see our special state of Tasmania beat the Corona virus through physical distancing, and beat the loneliness virus, by coming “together” as never before.

The Right Revd Dr Richard Condie
Bishop of Tasmania

[This article was published in The Mercury on Thursday 26th March 2020]

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