Common Ground Editorial: Edition One

Welcome to the first edition of Common Ground. Throughout COVID-19 Alert Level 4, we’ll be offering Common Ground to point you to sources of nourishment, to feed your imaginations for how you might serve God and your families, friends, colleagues, and neighbours, and to remind you that you are not alone. You belong to many communities and we value your part in the Venn community. Nourishment, imagination, community (and also just helping you to get through these coming weeks) that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish with Common Ground.

With the rising number of cases of COVID-19, we’re all concerned for family and friends who are vulnerable and essential workers, especially health-care workers, who are on the front line. Beyond this concern, lockdown will have provoked a range of thoughts and emotions. Some of you will be feeling grief because your plans for the first half of 2020 have been disrupted – you’ve had to cancel trips and holidays; delay significant occasions; abandon enjoyable work projects. Some of you will be feeling anxious about the future, perhaps for your own health or for some of the economic challenges ahead. Some of you will be thinking about getting through the coming weeks with your spouse and children or housemates without much alone-time, and others will be feeling uneasy about too much alone-time.

In this edition of Common Ground, we’ve pulled together some things to help you adjust to being in lockdown. Like all things Venn, we hope you’ll find them both thoughtful and practical. We’ve included (part of) a talk by Nathan entitled The Way of Anxiety and the Way of Faith and Hope. The talk is a few years old, but we sense it is a “word in season”. Speaking from John 14:1-6, and his and Bronwyn’s own experiences with anxiety, Nathan encourages us to heed the words of Jesus to “not let our hearts be troubled” and to move from the Way of Anxiety to the Way of Faith and Hope. In this talk, Nathan mentions the practice of “handover prayer”, which he was taught by John Dennison, so John has put together a guide on Handover Prayer to accompany Nathan’s talk.

You’ll be pleased to know that Andrew has started blogging again. For his first post, he offers a reflection on C. S. Lewis’s sermon, “Learning in Wartime”. Those of you who are Venn Fellows would have read this sermon with Luke and Nathan, so Andrew’s post will bring back memories (hopefully good ones!) We encourage you to read Lewis’s sermon and to ponder Andrew’s blog post.

Julia offers a reflection for those of us living with children during this time and shares some ideas of activities to do with them in the coming weeks. And, finally, in Staff Notes, Nathan offers a very short reflection on Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer.

The drawing you see in the header was created by alumna Kareen Durbin (Internship, 2010/11) in response to what is currently unfolding. The drawing reflects on the harakeke (flax) and on the well-known Māori proverb below.

Hutia te rito o te harakeke,
Kei whea te kōmako e kō?
Kī mai ki ahau;
He aha te mea nui o te Ao?
Māku e kī atu,
he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata

If the heart of the harakeke was removed, where will the bellbird sing? If I was asked, what was the most important thing in the world; I would be compelled to reply, it is people, it is people, it is people! 

The harakeke is representative of relationship and the strength of our interwovenness as people. The lamp is representative of Christ in the midst of our situation.

Common Ground will evolve over the coming weeks. We’re planning to introduce interviews with people from the Venn community; call on the artists within our alumni to offer creative reflections on this new season; and bring back some things from the archives. Please give us your feedback to help us as we develop Common Ground. And please forward this on to others who you think might find it helpful.


The Venn Team

P.S. In the coming week, we’ll be launching some new initiatives, including the new Venn Lockdown Radio (hosted by Sam and Julia Bloore and launching Thursday, 2 April) and giving you an update on our all-new SPACE evenings. Stay tuned!