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EFAC Australia

As I write this it seems that everything has changed. A number of media commentators have already begun to speculate as to what life will be like once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. Will there be a new ‘roaring 20s’ post-pandemic as there was post-WW1 and Spanish Flu? Will there be a reassessment of value and meaning after so much upon which we have come to depend was so radically upended?

In 1625 an outbreak of the bubonic plague killed more than 10,000 people in London, during which time the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral was the poet-priest John Donne. In his biography of Donne, John Stubbs writes of the fear that gripped London during lockdown.

‘Certain of waking up with the telltale sores on their bodies any day, people were gripped by criminal fearlessness to seize and enjoy what they could while they were still alive. Donne understood what motivated the spirit of suicidal hedonism that was loose in the city. [In a sermon he] described those who said to themselves, “We can but die, and we must die… Let us eat and drink, and take our pleasure, and make our profit, for tomorrow we shall die, and so were cut off by the hand of God”.’ (John Stubbs, John Donne: The Reformed Soul, Norton and Co. 2006, p. 424-5).

Will we see a revival of this same worldly fearlessness and hedonism, much like was witnessed in the 1920s? What we can be certain of is that even as the world stops its ears to theAs I write this it seems that everything has changed. A number of media commentators have already begun to speculate as to what life will be like once the COVID-19 restrictions are eased. Will there be a new ‘roaring 20s’ post-pandemic as there was post-WW1 and Spanish Flu? Will there be a reassessment of value and meaning after so much upon which we have come to depend was so radically upended?

In 1625 an outbreak of the bubonic plague killed more than 10,000 people in London, during which time the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral was the poet-priest John Donne. In his biography of Donne, John Stubbs writes of the fear that gripped London during lockdown.

‘Certain of waking up with the telltale sores on their bodies any day, people were gripped by criminal fearlessness to seize and enjoy what they could while they were still alive. Donne understood what motivated the spirit of suicidal hedonism that was loose in the city. [In a sermon he] described those who said to themselves, “We can but die, and we must die… Let us eat and drink, and take our pleasure, and make our profit, for tomorrow we shall die, and so were cut off by the hand of God”.’ (John Stubbs, John Donne: The Reformed Soul, Norton and Co. 2006, p. 424-5).

Will we see a revival of this same worldly fearlessness and hedonism, much like was witnessed in the 1920s? What we can be certain of is that even as the world stops its ears to the word of God and lives for the present moment, the word will not be chained. The eternity set in the hearts of each person will certainly be reawakened for some by the failing of earthly confidences and the collapse of worldly forms of security.

This edition of Essentials includes good food for thought in our ‘lockdown’ state, as well as continuing to make a contribution to issues that will no doubt return to the prominence in the not too distant future. Jodie McNeill reflects on some flexible ministry methods and opportunities during the recent bushfire season, and now during the suspension of public services. Chase Kuhn asks a theological question about the nature of church particularly relevant to those with an ecclesiology centred on gathering and fellowship—are we still the church if we cannot meet? Chris Brennan thinks through the issues of ministry resilience, expectations and burnout. In two separate but related pieces Andrew Judd and Steven Daly contribute to the ongoing conversation on same-sex marriage and human sexuality. We also join Ivan Head as he leads us into the deep riches of Romans 8. Finally, the issue also includes several book reviews, on the assumption that, while some of us are working frenetically at the moment, others among us might have some spare time to dig into a worthy tome!

Gavin Perkins
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