This is not the first time that the ACR has seen a pandemic. From 1880, the Church Record, as it was known, reported on all the news relating to the Anglican Church in Australia and New Zealand. So I did a bit of research and trawled through the archives to find out what the Church Record said about the 1919 influenza epidemic. I discovered that the ACR has ‘seen this movie before’ and has some wise advice for us today.
Here is a snippet from Volume VI, No. 6, 14 March 1919
Writing from Hobart, under date February 18, the Archbishop gave some good counsel to Brisbane churchpeople. His Grace wrote:
“You, like everyone else, will have been reading the daily reports of the influenza. All I will say now is that if it should come to Queensland, we churchpeople must regard it as a God-given opportunity of showing how useful, from a purely external point of view, Christians can be. I hope that all will volunteer, if opportunity is given, for every kind of work – visiting houses, helping in households, nursing, etc. Still more I hope that, one and all, our people will set an example of quietness and cheerfulness. The presence of an epidemic causes a lot of inconvenience and worry: we stranded Queenslanders have found this already in Tasmania. But we must show by our common sense, our patience, our mutual helpfulness, and above all by our utter freedom from any kind of fear, that Christianity is something worth having in an emergency.”
While our situation is obviously different, and our volunteer visiting and helping will mainly be done remotely thanks to our technology, the Archbishop’s words ring so loudly, 101 years later: “we must show by our common sense, our patience, our mutual helpfulness, and above all by our utter freedom from any kind of fear, that Christianity is something worth having in an emergency.”
Let’s do what our forbears did in the face of their epidemic: use the opportunity to set an example, and to speak of the Lord Jesus Christ as we will stand out by our behaviour.