In the latest profile of our ongoing series, we speak with Reuben Edmonds, who has moved from WA to study at Pilgrim Theological College.
What is your connection to the Church?
I’m a candidate for Minister of the Word for the Presbytery of WA. I have just started my studies at Pilgrim and am a Chapel Verger for Queen’s College, University of Melbourne.
What is your local church?
My home congregation is Star Street UC in WA, but given I have only just arrived in Melbourne, I haven’t yet settled down into a church. I have visited Brunswick UC and plan to visit Church of All Nations, Carlton, which is linked with Queen’s.
How has your work/study/life been affected by the COVID-19 crisis?
All of my studies have been moved to online classes. This has been easier for some units, but challenging for others. While the online lectures are good, I came to Pilgrim to be able to complete face-to-face studies so it has been a tough start.
Formation for candidates has also moved online with Zoom sessions. It is great to still meet and see each other, but it is very different from the community you build when you meet face-to-face.
My winter placement in a congregation is also affected and, at this stage, I am not allowed to return to WA because they have closed the borders
My work at Queen’s has also been affected, chapel services have been cancelled, along with the larger events and dinners. Life at Queen’s has been very different, with many restrictions to ensure the college is meeting the new laws and government guidelines. Much of the socialising between students is restricted to protect us and the larger community. But it is still open, we have a home and the Queen’s community for support.
How have you responded?
There is no doubt that it has been tough, but you have to try to find new routines and keep up social connections. I walk around Princes Park each day to get some exercise and ensure I still get out and chat to students and maintain those social connections. While chapel is cancelled there are still opportunities to have conversations with students about the church and ministry.
What do you most want to preserve or focus on during this period?
Well I have a lot of free time to focus on my studies and assignments so I definitely don’t have any excuses anymore! It is important to focus on my spiritual discipline while churches are closed.
What is most challenging?
It is challenging to have all these changes while also being far from my home, family and friends. But I have made many new friends and both Queen’s and Pilgrim have been great in providing support and doing the best they can to continue to provide a community feeling.
Has there been any positives to come out of this?
It certainly helps you to reflect on what is really important and to not take for granted the little things in life. The personal connections with friends and the support and strength you get from gathering with your community of faith are easy to overlook.
I can’t wait to be able to hug a friend again.
Do you have any ideas or advice from your experience to share with others?
The opportunity to exercise has been important. The one hour of my day at the park helps to keep me a little active, but more importantly it is often the one part of the day where it feels like normal.
Walking around you can see people going for a run or kicking a ball around. There are lots of dogs and even the occasional cat! While all of this is happening in twos and physically distant it feels relaxed and normal. While it’not possible for everyone I recommend getting out to your local park and enjoying that little bit of exercise and community.
Thank you for these uplifting interviews, showing what needs there are and how UC people are meeting them in various ways. Being well past retirement age and living in a retirement community I am largely protected from the stresses that so many are experiencing, but it’s good to know that there are people out there helping in the name of our church communities. I enjoyed the comment from the young student from Queens who finds his daily walk in Princes Park uplifting. I’m another of the throng (carefully socially-distanced) who walk there, and it’s a highlight of my day, with the dogs and the children being a particular joy.
Blessings on all of you as you do God’s work!