Sunday in Inverell I gathered with people in the Town Hall to pray for rain. Council members and even a Senator joined the gathering and a personal letter from the Prime Minister was read. I was dressed like a civilian and no one knew who I was but everyone knew that people were hurting. With no control of the weather people fell to prayer. Where else does one turn but to God when hope cannot be found in ourselves?
You may not be a person who prays and maybe you even think it’s an exercise in futility, but something more was being expressed in that gathering of the prayerful that should not be missed.
In every prayer, concern for others was expressed. It would be true to say that the compassionate heart of love for those in need had shown itself above the usual self-interest we have become familiar with. No point scoring, no divisions, just a united concern for those in need. Just a united desire to want to serve, encourage, and help those within a community that is suffering. As we prayed, recognition was given to all those who stood in the breach for others during the recent fires near Tingha.
I write this article asking you as a member of the community to stand in the breach for someone else. You may not be able to fight a fire, step into a crisis centre, or perform some rain dance to end the drought but we can all do a work of encouragement within such contexts. If you’re older and can’t get out, try praying for people. Make a phone call and tell the struggler you care. If you have the means, buy some groceries and deliver them to friends in need. Invite a farmer into town and buy him/her a coffee, even lunch. Stop and listen to them for a while without offering advice…just listen. When you’ve finished, if they’ll let you, take them to the servo and fill their car with petrol.
In a culture that complains of identity politics, describes people as elites, and where the ingrown, self-centred protestor would shut down all other speech but their own, we have the opportunity to be different. We can challenge a culture bent in on itself with a decision to live lives bent away from self toward being a blessing to others. It might require some effort but the return on effort will be productive. It might require you giving away some wealth but the investment will pay dividends that will make a community more joyful. It might require the rediscovering of love and that can change an entire community and turn an individual away from despair. As strange as it may seem, it is often in giving something of ourselves away in the service of others that we discover something in ourselves of much greater worth.
In the past month I have driven through the aftermath of a firestorm, stood by yards where animals were as gaunt as the faces of the ones who have to sell them, listened to the news of floods and mass stock burials to our north and sat at table with farmers in need. In the past month I have listened to the news and read headlines that suggest a nearing obituary for an Australian society that is losing its ability to gather for prayer, to love one’s neighbour as we love ourselves and to lay down our lives in service of the interest of others.
We can change this! People standing side by side to fight fires to protect the property of others, people gathering to pray and individuals taking responsibility to perform acts of kindness to those in need confirms for me that we can all contribute to better headlines for the future.If you would like to join with a community to pray for rain and rural communities, such a gathering will be held in the Armidale Anglican Cathedral on Wednesday 13th March from 7pm.