From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing
Last Sunday, Andrew Smith and John Squires represented the Presbytery at a service of worship to mark the Closure of Ministry that Pastor Amy Junor has been offering in the Queanbeyan Congregation and community for the past four years.
Amy has been serving as the Youth and Community Pastor at QUC. Whilst laying down this ministry, Amy will have space to undertake discernment about the future pathway for her ministry. Amy will be continuing her part-time role as Administration Officer with the Presbytery.
In speaking to the Congregation during this service, Amy told “the parable of the Zip Tie” – a creative and insightful offering, framed as a “letter to Mother Church”, which is worth repeating here for the benefit of people across the whole Presbytery. Here is what she said:
"Dear Mother Church, For my 21st Birthday, a family member gave me a toolbox as a gift. Inside were a collection of very useful items like a hammer, a craft knife, some screwdrivers of various sizes, WD-40, an adjustable spanner, and amongst other things, two packets of differently sized zip ties. A love affair was born.
Even though I now cringe at the single use plastic that zip ties are, and the scourge such things are on the environment, at the time my life felt forever changed.
For those unfamiliar with zip ties, they are plastic strips lined with ridges on one side and smooth plastic on the other. On one end is a plastic ‘zip’ that allows you to thread the opposite end through and create a loop that can then be tightened but not loosened; this is very handy for holding bunches of cables together neatly, connecting plants to a stake in the garden and I must confess there have been times where parts of my car were held together with zip ties and their cousin, duct tape.
All through our thirty-something year long relationship, Ma, we’ve been talking about how we just need to get back.
‘We just need to get back to the Bible’
‘We just need to get back to more theologically sound hymns’
‘We just need to get back to basics’
‘We just need to get back on track’ ‘We just need to get back to preaching/outreach-in-schools/teaching/worship/mission/pastoral-care/tradition/progress/prophetic-action/welfare/charismatic/contemplative/evangelical/reformed…’
We JUST need to get back.
‘Just’, as if the solution is simple and there is but one way of approaching things.
To get BACK.
‘Back’ as if we are able to travel through time and re-do the thing we tried back then but this time better/more enthusiastically/with more resources.
‘Back’ as if the Bible and its wisdom are contained in some imagined vault of the past. As if we have not been carefully studying it for generations to figure out how to respond to the world we live in here and now. As if scripture is silent on the realities of today. As if we do not need to continue evolving our understandings and findings with wisdom and discernment.
‘We just need to get back’... Surely not!
But wait, says a small part of me, we can’t just ignore our history.
There is so much to be gained from reviewing our past, learning lessons and then proceeding with informed, considered ideas and goals.
Isn’t that how we keep ourselves from repeating mistakes of the past?
Isn’t that how we learn and evolve?
You cannot simply dismiss the past and its lessons as if they have no bearing on the future.
Besides, there are pains, joys, mistakes, injustices and stories that are yet to be witnessed and given voice, and very much deserve airtime.
The confusion that I encounter here, Ma, is in how we deal with the dichotomy of honouring, respecting and naming where we’ve come from, and still being focussed on moving forward.
We don’t want to forget the lessons we learned, and we mustn’t. We have witnessed the past, there is an important role for us to carry those stories and lessons to inform our future, to discern with all the knowledge we have acquired what might need to happen next.
It is vital to honour our history; the good, the bad and the boring.
But we must not imagine that we can live there again.
We must not try to go ‘back’.
Here I think grief becomes a most pragmatic, sensible and unavoidable task. We long for the days we remember fondly. Our younger selves, our friends and family who are no longer with us for whatever reason.
We long for the food and drink and songs and smells and sounds we remember (or imagine we remember). Yes, Ma, there is a sadness in leaving those things behind; especially as our present feels so insecure and scary.
I pray for us the blessing of the zip tie.
Not to bind, or refrain from movement; that’s absolutely not where this metaphor is going.
I pray that we may remember where we came from, the lessons we learned. I pray that we would squarely, resolutely and irrevocably move forward with the insight we have gained. I pray that we would not try to go ‘back’.
May we be ever moving forward, progressing over the intimidating climbs and cliffs that lay before us, listening to and learning from the deep slumps and seemingly impossible hills that lay behind us - but not affording them any more time or attention than they sensibly deserve.
May we search for fresh joys to grieve over and fondly miss when we take our next step.
May we search for and find joy in our present and not tie her exclusively to the past.
May we take the present fears and anxieties in hand instead of wishing away difficult and scary questions.
We are not going to become younger or more energetic, our world is not going to become less crazy, we are never going to be in a better position to deal with those scary questions than we are today.
I pray for us the blessing of the zip tie.
May we continue to move consciously in only one direction, forward."