As part of our ongoing series, we speak with Dick Straw, member of Foster Uniting Church.
What is your connection to the Church?
When I was 11, I was singing a hymn, can’t remember what it was, and I suddenly realised that the words had meaning, part of a special story. That was the start of my faith. I was brought up in the Methodist Church and was made a life-elder in the Presbyterian Church, so I’ve always tried to justify the church community putting me in that position in the Uniting Church. My wife would have been better, she was more outgoing. I’m the communion steward and often make the bread myself.
What is your local church?
Foster Uniting Church, part of the congregations of the Shearwater Ministry Team in Gippsland.
How has your work been affected by the COVID-19 crisis?
I’m 90 years old and have been living alone since my wife died (30 years ago). The isolation is something I live with anyway, because I’m no longer driving. I’ve tried to phone people in the congregation, but I’m hard of hearing and the sound distorts on the phone, which makes it hard.
How have you responded?
I pray every day and use the With Love to the World for bible study. I receive the Shearwater Ministry Team worship resource in the mail each week. There’s the red Pentecost fabric blowing in the breeze outside to remind me of the breath of the Spirit.
Are there special challenges being in a country town?
I don’t think so, people haven’t been coming to see me like they usually do, because they can’t. The neighbours keep an eye on me and some of my family live close by. Earlier, people were more concerned and we didn’t have easy access to testing.
Are there special advantages being in a country town?
People seem to be much more relaxed, maybe they feel we are safer here. I went down the street on the scooter today and talked to five people.
What do you most want to preserve or focus on during this period?
Nothing really; I’ve had 30 years of living on my own and have no fear of dying if I get the virus.
What is most challenging?
Missing out on worship and the fellowship of being together.
Has there been any positives to come out of this?
During this lockdown, I got out my spinning wheel after a long time of leaving it idle and am enjoying spinning again.
Do you have any ideas or advice from your experience to share with others?
When I moved here on my own I established the garden, although these days it’s hard for me to safely work in it. I kept going to church and being connected with others.
In this time of challenge and for many distress, do you have a personal message or faith reflection that you would like to share?
When I was younger, I was a cross country runner and I’ve always found this verse helpful: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2a )
I do pray but I’m not very good, I seem to keep going back over the same things. I find comfort in the assurance from Jesus that there is room for us all in heaven, and that it sounds like a happy time when we can be together with our loved ones.
Thanks for the inspiration from the various projects mentioned above, particularly those which take congregations out into the public domain. Ours is a small town on the Western Highway with four churches, all different, all special and widely dispersed in the surrounding countryside. it’s a tight knit community which has had to deal with some issues during the lockdown. I’ve been encouraging our people to be very intentional in involving our communities and I ma so pleased to have examples of what’s possible to encourage that movement outwards.
We’ve decided to take re-opening slowly, with the aim of being fully operational be September- so many ideas just waiting to be put into effect when that happens.