In serious situations there are often moments of levity which keep us going. As the situation with COVID-19 developed, I was part of a school leadership meeting to decide how we would respond. One of the Assistant Principals made a joke about the Royal Family not travelling on the same plane and asked whether we should implement similar strategies! As it happened that was our last face-to-face meeting and we started meeting online.
When I think back to that meeting it feels like so much has happened, both for me personally and for the school community that I serve. There has been a massive amount of learning that has taken place for the students and the staff in terms of how to utilise the tools that we have for remote learning. There has been collective grief as we see what is happening within our school community, the Canberra community and on a national and international level. There has also been resilience, creativity, care and humour as staff, students and family members have adapted to the situation that we find ourselves in.
In many ways, the purpose of my role as chaplain remains the same, even as the way that I undertake some of my duties has changed. Pastoral care is different as I’m not running into people incidentally. I’m part of the Well-Being Team and we have found ways to promote connection and well-being in this time of increased emotional and mental load. Within the specific field of chaplaincy, Morning Prayer with staff has moved online. This was a source of joy and encouragement for me as we journeyed towards Easter. Together we have spoken the language of lament, love and hope as part of our vocabulary of faith.
In the last two days that students were at Radford I worked with Jon Holden from Cheeky Creek productions to film the Easter service. Students participated in leading the liturgy, storytelling, music and drama. Families watched the Easter service at home, which provided a new way of connecting. For weekly chapel videos at the end of Term 1, I interviewed the staff on campus, asking them to share what Easter meant to them and to send a message to the students. The Junior School teachers enjoyed taking the roles that the students normally perform in chapel services. I’ve recorded Godly Play stories for students in the Early Learning Centre and taught Religious and Values Education classes online (with mixed success!).
Taking off my shoes and being filmed saying an Acknowledgement of Country in Gossan Hill Nature Reserve for a pre-recorded assembly provided a new perspective on one of our regular practices. The video of me washing my hands for 40 seconds while saying the Lord’s Prayer was another assembly item which communicated a message for our times in a new medium!
Students have continued to look for ways to serve each other and the community. George Huitker, Director of Service Learning, has worked hard to maintain connections with our partners in service through the radCreates e-card project (https://radcreates.wordpress.com/ password: inthistogether). These e-cards have encouraged many in the community.
Overall, I was very glad when the school holidays arrived, and I could have a much-needed rest! There were moments that were completely overwhelming where I sent out an SOS to my friends who pray. Working with colleagues, connecting with other chaplains, responses from students, moments of grace and my regular professional supervision sessions were lifelines during this time of rapid change and uncertainty. The Easter journey reminds us that death gives way to new life in Christ and that God’s love and presence are with us. This is a message for all times, including our present time.
by Reverend Dr Katherine Rainger,
Senior Chaplain Radford College
The Radford College Easter Service can be viewed here: https://vimeo. com/404882494/e70d6fd0d6