We tend to think of seasons as defined periods of time, moving as we do from Summer to Autumn, through Winter into Spring before the new Summer emerges, supported by imagery such as the above.
Even the Wurundjeri seasons – reflecting the local experience in Melbourne – still divides into six defined periods.
But we know that seasons in Melbourne and much of Australia are not so clearly delineated. Consider the experience of January in Melbourne this year:
- January 5th – maximum temperature of 16.7°
- January 13th – smoke blanketed the city
- January 19th – a severe thunderstorm – golf ball-sized hailstones
- January 20th – 44 mm of rain recorded at Olympic Park
- January 31st – maximum temperature of 42.9°.
Hardly consistent summer weather, is it? It is a stark reminder that seasons are never uniform. In the same way, we need to recognise that the seasons of life are never uniform. In seasons of grief, there remain moments of joy and hope; in times of loss we discover new things; in moments of uncertainty there are things we can hang on to for assurance…
As we draw near to the end of 2020, we might ask what this COVID season has brought for us, even as in Melbourne we celebrate over two weeks of zero new cases or deaths. We do well to consider the ways in which it has been an Autumn experience – a season of loss; reflecting afresh on what may have been a Winter season of bare life. These are aspects of the experience which perhaps come more readily to mind. But what new “Spring” life has emerged? What has been birthed and perhaps even blossomed into a new summer?
As we draw near to the end of this year, still in this COVID season, take a few moments to contemplate:
- What do we grieve losing in this time?
- What have we feared to lose, but still hold in uncertainty?
- What new life have we seen emerging in this season?
- What do we look forward to … the new summer?
Contemplate this prayer by Richard Foster:
Spirit of the living God, be the Gardner of my soul. For so long I have been waiting, silent and still – experiencing a winter of the soul. But now, in the strong name of Jesus Christ, I dare to ask:
Clear away the dead growth of the past,
Break up the hard clods of custom and routine,
Stir in the rich compost of vision and challenge.
Bury deep in my soul the implanted Word,
Cultivate and water and tend my heart,
Until new life buds and opens and flowers.
Amen. (from Richard Foster, Prayers from the Heart)
Recognising that each of us has a different experience of this COVID season, and that we reach the end of the year facing different futures than we might have imagined as the year began, let us continue to uphold one another, that through time we all might emerge strengthened and hopeful.
Rev Dr Gary Heard is Academic Dean at Trinity College Theological School and senior lecturer in Pastoral Theology and Ministry studies.