I have heard that some within our church have been asking, and recently clergy have been asking each other, whether “the church” is doing anything to support those who have been affected by the Bushfires. By “the church” I take it that people are referring directly to the Anglican Church in Robina and more widely they are referring to the Anglican Church in Southern Queensland. After making some enquiries this week, I can report that the simple answer to the questions is – No.
From time to time the wider diocese, normally through the leadership of the Archbishop, will launch specific appeals. Last year for example, the Archbishop launched a Drought Appeal (which you can certainly still give towards). There are also a number of Anglican agencies that we can give to and support prayerfully who do amazing work supporting various causes, situations and needs. As an individual church we also have grouped together on a number of occasions to support prayerfully, financially, and practically when needs arise and our intentional support is called on.
So given the magnitude of the impact of bushfires in our country and given the enormity of the present need and the ongoing implications for our nation as lives and livelihoods are rebuilt, what should we make of the fact that there is no intentional action from our church and the wider Anglican Church in our region.
It might surprise you, but right at this very moment, I am actually pretty content with the knowledge that the church hasn’t launched its own appeal. While I haven’t ruled out creating or answering an opportunity to specifically support, either as our individual church or collectively as a group of Anglican Churches, right at this very moment I don’t see any need for us to do something different or unique and label it as ‘our effort’. I do however, believe passionately, that there is much we can and should do – the problem is that what we can do will probably go unnoticed by most people. But I actually think going unnoticed is OK to do… most of the time.
I am aware that a number of people within our church have given generously to the appeals run by other secular organisations like the Red Cross and other churches like the Salvation Army. I am aware that many are intentionally praying earnestly for those impacted by the bushfires and for relief to come in many forms. I do suspect, however, and I am very confident in my suspicion, that there are many more who I am not aware of, that are doing the same and even more.
I think there is a common misconception that for our efforts to be effective, they have to be noticed and acknowledged. I just don’t believe that is true. I am of the strong view that our most effective impact is doing the many things that we have opportunity to do that we rarely get noticed or recognised for. Being noticed and recognised does give a sense of worth and impact but giving and serving and particularly praying without a need or desire for recognition is, I believe, incredibly powerful. It is never wasted effort.
Much of what I do in my work and my ministry is public and so I do often get tempted to evaluate my effectiveness by the feedback that I get from others. While this is important, I have come to realise that I am often at my most impactful when I am doing things that most people are unaware of and my most valuable offering is the time I spend one on one with God.
I would encourage all of us to be praying purposefully for the many needs of our world, particularly the fires and drought in our country. I do believe that part of our calling as Christians is to give generously and to serve generously when we see a need. But we do not need to own or label this before we jump to action. If we are noticed, then we should humbly receive the recognition but our call to serve is not conditional in any way. We are just called to serve, support and show care and compassion as we see the need arise.
I thank God for the quiet, unnoticed and impactful service and generosity that comes from the people in our church and the wider church across all the denominations. I thank God, that God is powerfully at work in us and others whether it is noticed or realised. I pray we can remain open to the many opportunities we have to serve and support.