Perhaps it’s inevitable that any reflection on ministry within schools at this point of time is coloured by the events of 2020 (which, if we could imagine it as a movie, might get the title, ‘Living With COVID’). If 2021 is then the sequel (‘Living With COVID 2’??), we’re all hoping that on this occasion the sequel improves on the original – which, as we know, isn’t always the case when it comes to movies (‘Jaws: The Revenge’, anyone?).
At our school last year, we decided that we would have one of our School Values as our main focus for each term. During the height of our State’s lockdown, in God’s wisdom, the Value that we were looking at was HOPE. It ended up being something that affected our thinking and approach for the rest of the year – and it’s continued to do so in 2021.
Most of the time, we usually think of ‘hope’ as a forward-looking thing. Hoping for better things to happen this year. Hoping for lockdowns to end and not be required again. The hope that’s based around an expectation or desire for something to happen.
But that sort of hope for the future doesn’t come out of nowhere; it’s grounded in the past. Something that’s already been done – or said – that gives some anticipation or confidence that what is hoped for will actually happen. Such as the recommendation from a trusted friend about the plumber/electrician/builder who did a great job for them; based on that, you then have reason to hope – that they can do the same for you at a future time.
We have found ourselves in a world, though, where expectations based on what’s happened in the past have been badly shaken. The usual sporting activities and significant occasions in our school community’s year were largely cancelled or cut short. So were holiday trips, anniversaries, and many other special events that had been booked and paid for. Sometimes with only hours’ notice given. For so many in each of our school communities, the usual hopes in life cheated them in 2020; and there’s a nervous anticipation that some of the same sorts of things will happen again this year.
While we reflect with students and fellow staff members in this time about how so many hopes have betrayed us, there is one anchor of hope of which I’m continually reminded, which will not let us down: ‘And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’ (Romans 5:5) Pointing to God’s gift of love already bestowed on us in the past, as well as His unfailing love and faithfulness for the future – no matter what the “sequel” to 2020 will hold – gives you and me a sure hope for today, based on what has been done for us in the past. In the midst of so many dashed hopes from ‘Living With COVID’, it’s enormously encouraging to have this hope to hold out to those around us…