'Collects in the Time of Virus’ by Julie Perrin

Collects in the Time of Virus, Series 1
by Julie Perrin

During this confronting time of COVID-19 we are being asked to live differently for the good of our community. These short prayers or ‘collects’ are my offering. Writing them each day has become a spiritual practice during Lent.

A collect is an ancient form of short prayer which addresses an aspect of God and makes a plea. ‘Collects’ gather up the needs of the day and state them in a brief form.

This solitude is the ideal time to reflect on our inner spiritual journey. Looking back we will ask one another, ‘What did you learn from losing your familiar world?’

The prayers are accompanied by Ian Ferguson’s photographs from fire-ravaged regions of East Gippsland. May they bring you comfort and clarity during this difficult period.

God of those who are numbed,
stunned by loss.
Enfold us in a gentle darkness,
a hidden sleep,
a long stillness.
Re-member us to ourselves
awaken the courage we’d forgotten we had.

 


Fierce Lover of life,

give strength to our arms and our resolve.
Critical is this time for cleaning, swabbing, scrubbing
and washing our hands again.
And again, and again.
Let us join ourselves to the task
with readiness, steadiness, clarity.
Because we, too, love life,
our own and our neighbour’s.


Julie Perrin is a Melbourne writer and oral storyteller. Her narrative non-fiction is published in The Sunday Age, Eureka Street and short story collections including her book, Tender, stories that lean into kindness. Julie is an associate teacher at Pilgrim Theological College in Parkville. You can find more of her stories and prayers on her website.

Blog: https://tellingwords.com.au/collects-in-the-time-of-virus/

Photographer: Ian Ferguson, East Gippsland Photographs

Collects in the Time of Virus, Series 2

by Julie Perrin

I write the collects day by day as news of the impact of closure and isolation grows. After visiting older family members bewildered by the news, I wrote God of the frail. Listening to the radio I heard the shaken voice of the owner of a once flourishing regional café. He had to send home 15 valued employees. God of the Shadows is the prayer that followed.

I learnt this practice of prayer making from my friend, Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama. You may like to try it. The opening addresses God, focusing on one characteristic of the Divine and elaborating on that quality. Then the plea or petition is made, gathering up a particular situation or need. There may be closure with what Pádraig called “a little bird of praise” or some sense of our confidence in being heard.

A theologian I know calls the Kingdom of God “The Kindness”. We can seek the Divine in our ordinary daily activities. Writing can be a way of seeking.

God of the frail in body and mind,
be a companion in loneliness,
a consolation in absence,
a balm in mystified sorrow.
When doors, through determined kindness,
must stay shut,
let love arise in memory of gesture and embrace.

  

 

 



God of Shadows,

give shelter to hollow, shaken humans
bewildered by sudden closure.
Sturdy structures shattered, hopeful trade ended,
meaningful work gone.
In the shocking silence where nothing can be said,
let birdsong be heard.



Collects in the Time of Virus, Series 3

by Julie Perrin

In a time of social distancing, the belonging prayer is a celebration of goodwill and connection. You will see it does not follow that ancient pattern of the collect, this one became a short song of praise.

The second prayer recognises extremes of emotion. I wrote it following an expression of grief that ended in hilarity. The comedy of errors in misdelivered attempts at consolation was consolation in itself.

Once, when I was a school chaplain in the midst of a maelstrom, I received a postcard that read, “The love of God will sustain you, but only if you bask in it.” We need to lament in sorrow and absence and bask in loving kindness.

Great God who calls us to belonging,
You delight in curiosity, invention, ingenuity.
Praise be for minds that bend and flex despite restriction,
for bodies that signal love by staying apart.
Praise be for neighbours talking across fences,
calling from balconies, waving through windows;
for greetings that cross the space between us.
Praise be for strangers, careful on footpaths,
for children asking their questions,
for truth tellers who earn our trust and speak to our fear.
Praise be for friends who warn and chide and encourage,
for human warmth in time of distance.
Praise be.

Spirit who is breath and life,
You are our weather.
Blow through us,
release the clench in our throats,
unwind the press of our ribs.
You know our whispered secrets and our strong fluencies.
Breathe through our tides of sorrow and gales of laughter.
When we are struck dumb and our breath is lost to us
return Great Spirit, small dove at the horizon.


Julie Perrin's Blog: https://tellingwords.com.au/collects-in-the-time-of-virus/
Photographer: Ian Ferguson, East Gippsland Photographs

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