#36-Issues and Challenges as we Emerge from Covid Shutdown ft. Dr. Radford

 In

Coming Together in Community

 

Dr. Radford speaks on the topic of Covid-19, and how it is affecting our communities. Through this podcast, Dr. Radford will discuss the psychological aspect of how people are adapting to this new way of life, and how as leaders, you can support and encourage your community through this challenging time. One of the many ways is by reminding people of God’s love.

 

“The fact that God is love is quite an amazing thing. So, for me to experience God is for me to experience love . . . So, wherever I am at in my struggle, particularly in this pandemic season, that I can be open and honest and just real with him.”

– Dr. John Radford

 

Topics Covered Include

  • Leading Through Covid
  • Heightened Levels of Anxiety
  • Children and Covid
  • Coming Together in Community

 

Show Notes

 

 

BCMB Pastor to Pastor
BCMB Pastor to Pastor
#36-Issues and Challenges as we Emerge from Covid Shutdown ft. Dr. Radford
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Transcription

BCMB 036 - Challenges as we Emerge from Covid.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

BCMB 036 - Challenges as we Emerge from Covid.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Dr. John Radford:
Covid and this pandemic, it's second order change and second order change, we don't really know the outcome in terms of where we will end up. And linked to that is we don't know when, we don't know when this is done. And I think I think that's been the the real challenge of the season, and particularly now over a year into Covid, the serious impact on everyone over a year. And it's still uncertain. There's a gap between the need and desire for connection. And that's love, and so in that scripture. In 1 John 4 God is acknowledging that, that the reason why we are even in faith and trust in God is to do with love. It's to do with connection with each other and with God.

Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 36, Issues and challenges as we emerge from Covid shut down, with Dr John Radford.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, everyone, this is a BCMB pastor to pastor podcast. My name is Rob Thiessen. I have the privilege of serving our BC Mennonite Brethren churches as the conference minister. And I am really excited to have today our guest, Dr. John Radford, who actually was our first guest on our first podcast, first two podcasts, actually, which still remain among my favorite podcasts and are used widely and listened to widely by different people. So I commend those to you. For those of you who are interested after today's podcast, like to hear more from Dr. Radford, we did a podcast on conflict and marriage right at the beginning of this series or this little endeavor two years ago as we started. So delighted to have you back with us, Dr. Radford. And you have a ministry or a business called Transpectives, and you do a lot of work with businesses, individuals, and you do help a lot of church leaders, Christian leaders as well. So I really appreciate the expertize and background that you bring to the situation. But for our guests today, I wonder if we could start with just a personal question where, whereby you might share with us a little bit of your faith journey and the community that helped shape your life. Kind of the, you know, some of the things that stand out as defining moments or defining people that God used in your life. So, yeah, please go ahead. Mic is yours.

Dr. John Radford:
Thanks, Rob, and thank you for inviting me back. It's always nice to be back, so thank you for that. And I've, I do I really enjoyed the time we have worked together on things as well. So thank you. I start life as a Christian in the sense that born into a Christian family, which was which was just a blessing there's no other way to say that. And then I met Lorraine in my 18th year of age. And and Lorraine is a Catholic and she belongs to the Catholic Church. And it was a fairly strict Orthodox part. And this was in South Africa. And so I could not marry her unless I became Catholic. So I did. So at, a good few years on, at 22 years old, I do my catechism as a kid in a Catholic, which I actually quite enjoy. I didn't like anything you take on the challenge of it, but I really enjoyed it. And so that was my introduction to the Catholic Church.

Dr. John Radford:
And then later on, her and I, we actually went, a friend of ours invited us to a, to a church service where they had a jazz pianist. And we love music. And that that was another whole journey and and a commitment to Christ at that point. I mean, significant for me in terms of community. So I do love and I love God. I, I, I, I have great deep respect for for people in wherever their faith is. But just just knowing the the absolute amazing part of Christian faith is for me, the experience of it.

Dr. John Radford:
So I, I think I'm experiential as a Christian, I, I need to experience God and we might come back to that a bit later, but so, so significant for me. One of the things that shaped me just in terms of of me trusting the Lord, I won't go into great detail about it. But I was in a situation where I was mediating some of the political conflict and the violence associated there in South Africa's civil war. And this was in the in the mid 80s. And I was under a situation where I was threatened and my family was threatened by by authorities. It is a very complex conflict. I won't go into that. But I remember that day when that happened. It happened at about one o'clock where I was, where the person said, I know where you live and I know where your family lives. And there was a direct threat not just to me, but to them and our lives. And people were disappearing. And it was it was a difficult time.

Dr. John Radford:
And I remember the state of confusion almost. I road, I drove around in my vehicle, my car, for about three or four hours, just almost desperate. I kind of wanted to run away. I just I wanted to just go and hide somewhere that was not feasible and hide my family, take them away somehow. And and I remember, you know, three and a half hours into that, and pleading with God in a way. And I made a commitment to God. It was in a it was in a difficult circumstance, obviously, that I was. And I said, Lord, I want to trust and depend on you to the point that if I step away from you one millimeter, I would, I wouldn't know it. I would fall on my face. I would know. I want to trust you. I want to be with you. I want to experience my life like that. And, and I, that was a commitment I made to God and asking, it wasn't a deal because I don't think God does deals, but in my mind, I was, as I was asking God, please, to look after Lorraine and and all of those that were associated with my home at that point, which was kind of an extended family. And and God honored that. And and I believe I find it ama-, think when I have in any way stepped away, I have fallen. And it's very clear and very clear to me when I when I'm not with God. So so I enjoy that. Rob, It's part of my journey.

Rob Thiessen:
Mmhmm. Oh, that's tremendous. That that's a fascinating testimony. And I didn't know you had joined the Catholic Church, you know, and you all our working together. You know, we've just talked about our dependance on the Lord and trusted know the Holy Spirit to guide through different mediation settings we've been in and stuff. But that's fascinating and you know, I'm sure there's many other stories you could tell us, but our topic today, Dr.Radford, the reason that I contacted you, was also just to have you encourage our pastors or speak to some of the challenges we're facing, like as we have this conversation, we've just wrapped up Easter here in British Columbia. Well, I guess around the world where people experience that at the same time. But what I wanted to say about that is, you know, we're just in the middle of of another kind of third wave of covid, further lockdowns and just a lot of a lot of disappointment, a lot of fatigue. I think everyone was hoping that with the rollout of vaccines that, you know, the threat of covid would would begin to evaporate and we would we would see things return.

Rob Thiessen:
And then so I think a lot of our our listeners are just reeling. They're just reeling from the disappointment and, you know feeling like they're out of options, maybe out of energy, and and so our topic today was, you know, what do what do leaders need to, to know, what do they need to be reminded of in this time of crisis, and what do they need to to do? And I think the first question you've already touched on it in one way, because I was thinking, as you were sharing about your experiences, what are what are what are the lessons that that you reflect on because you're going going through this as well. Now, you know, you're not you're not pastoring a church or counseling folks. So I think you experience it differently. But, you know, you're you're you're interacting with people and you know what their journey is when you think about your experiences, what what can give us as people what what can you remind us of today or would you remind us of that brings us hope and encouragement, a perspective of faith for today.

Dr. John Radford:
Yeah, thank you, Rob, I, I, I think, first of all, just to acknowledge the impact of this this pandemic, this global pandemic is is serious. And I just want to acknowledge that I I don't think well, the last time this was expressed was over 100 years ago. So people who are 100 years old would have some experience of it. But but so for most of the people on our planet, we have no experience of this type of situation. And even war situations, even the world wars, they impacted most of the many, many nations, but not all nations. And it's always been a percentage of nations. This has impacted every nation on the on Earth. And so and part of the, I think part of the challenges that it's what I call second order change.

Dr. John Radford:
So first order change is you can kind of the kind of thing you can plan for, you can predict. So, you know, you're going to have you're going to have some sort of ceremony, a wedding ceremony, so you can plan it, predict it. I mean, even that was change in Covid, right, in terms of how and what happened. But that Covid and this pandemic, it's second order change. And second order change, we don't really know the outcome in terms of what what, where we will end up. And linked to that is we don't know when. We don't know when when this is done. Right. And I think I think that's been the the real challenge of the season, and particularly now over a year into covid, the serious impact on everyone over a year. And it's still uncertain. So I was just reading this morning the latest on my news feed and seeing the impact here in Canada. And I won't go to those details, but to but again, there's uncertainty. And and so we've lived with uncertainty now as communities, as nations, as a world, as a globe.

Dr. John Radford:
And in uncertainty, it has a toll, particularly we, we're actually geared as human beings to live with uncertainty for short periods of time, actually, not for a long period of time. So and I'll come back to a bit later, Rob, in terms of what goes on for us and our brains and our heads when we're faced with threat to uncertainty. But so in Covid, we've actually got this rollercoaster ride where we, there's this hope and that's kind of up. And then and then bang, we go into this dive and we wonder we wonder when, how, at times, even if if it's ever going to be sort of similar to to what we used to.

Dr. John Radford:
So, so I think the uncertain times that we are in and and so my experience of that is if I turn back to in a small way and I say small because I can't actually compare it directly, but my experience of working and living in a civil war, in South Africa's transformation, which was over people that realize that my little city of town that I lived in, I think it had two hundred and fifty thousand people. There are more people dying in my town in the 80s, in the mid 80s than there were in the Beirut War, which was the biggest war at the time, supposedly in the world. But so there was a there was this war going on in our country. And so so, for example, part of the uncertainty is we would hear across the valley where we'd hear automatic gunfire, we would have bombs going off, and then there were bombs in the supermarket.

Dr. John Radford:
And one of the experiences that I relate to here and I live in Gibsons used to commute to Vancouver daily, but not for a while now. And I remember going to the supermarket last March after we were in that lockdown. That's over a year ago now. And it was deja vu for me. It was like going back in time because I remember after a bomb had gone off in a supermarket where I lived in (inaudible) South Africa. And going into the supermarket after that, that following week, just wondering, is there going to be a bomb?

Dr. John Radford:
And and yeah, it's even because even more crazy in a way, because it wasn't just the threat of a bomb, but anyone in that could be a threat to us. So so human beings, the people we connect with are potentially a threat to us because of this virus. And then we isolated. So you've got this combination of we being a threat to each other and unable to discern threat. So what happens in civil wars and you're probably aware of it, is there will be people who listen to this who who've been in civil war. But people what happens in civil war and in fact, it's all war, the community divides up into the go zones, no go zones. What's safe and what's not safe. So you'll see in most civil wars, the most obvious one in time was in Ireland, right, in Belfast, and that even today you can go there and see how they used to divide up the city. And so so so there's division. And that's based on what we see as safe or not.

Dr. John Radford:
With this pandemic, no one is safe and the threat is with everyone around us. So, so it is truly, truly, I just want to say under we can't underestimate the impact of that on us as human beings where we don't know exactly, we know that there's a threat and it's a (inaudible). It's not, it truly is that threatening. We know it's there, but we can't discern exactly who, how, and what. So and so we lock down. And the very thing that we need to connect is not happening. So I just want to acknowledge that. So I'm setting that scene. It's we all know that. But I just the impact of that on the stress that we've experienced, not trying to estimate that. So so anxiety over time turns into stress, and stress we do things that that even make it more stressful. So so we and we've been in this for a year now and that's that's a challenge.

Rob Thiessen:
That's really, really helpful. So you're you're taking a sort of a like a deep dive as to what what is happening, that explaining the feelings that that we all have when we get into a line up and everyone has a mask or we we walk into Costco and and there's a crowd there and some people are coping fairly well, but people have different coping mechanisms. Some people shrug it off, there's deniers. And but there there's this sort of group uncertainty. And and then, you know, I think another weird thing about this is that the people that are very close to your own children, your parents, your grandparents, and you think, well, am I a threat to them or are they a threat to me? And some people take this very seriously to the point of complete isolation. And and these are things going on. Maybe it would be good while we're on this topic for you to just help us understand, like, how the brain processes this. And and I think a good thing for me hearing and for our listeners is, again, we've got coping mechanisms, so maybe we think we're doing OK. Maybe a person says I'm an introvert, like some people say, "I'm an introvert. So this whole thing doesn't bother me a whole lot." But as pastors and leaders responsible for shepherding people, if if we don't understand a little more deeply what they're experiencing, we won't be able to care for them decently. You know, we'll come up with our explanations why we just tell everybody to get a grip and move on without understanding just how deeply they have been affected. So talk to us a little bit about what this what this might be doing to, you know, the talk about brain wiring and brain plasticity and what patterns are being formed here that are going to they're going to affect us going forward.

Dr. John Radford:
Yeah, yeah. Rob, it's so important because so if we if we go back to the idea that we're always placed under threat, so let's go to simple threat. A bear, a bears in, pops up in my environment. Right. So so that threat, we are geared to deal with threats. So when that happens, our brains shift as literally our functioning shifts from what we are using right now. And even those listening to us would be using our neocortex, the part I'm touching my forehead right, it's the front part of my brain here. At the moment I am under threat and there's adrenaline, in my system. So that's hormonal and our systems are just amazing. Our bodies are quite beautiful in so many ways. And what happens is my brain functioning shifts, literally. They found it to and they can show it in all different formats. So it's almost, it shifts another part to move from the front part of my brain back to the amygdala, which is kind of center in the back. And and we call it the almost the more primitive brain. But it's a critical part, it's actually not more primitive. It's just it's (inaudible). But it what it does is it it thinks it processes so it's like a processer, much faster. If it's a computer, it's just running so much faster than this front part.

Dr. John Radford:
Simply because it can run faster because it's very simple in its outcome. So it's, it's gearing us up to for survival. And so we are either going to fight so prepare to to battle of the bears coming in us. Can we in any way defend. To or to flight to get out, to freeze, or and they've ended a fourth one, which is to form. And the form is to to pretend I'm I'm not a threat. Right. In some way to be to form. So and so that's that's what we get to do. And that's survival. That's critical. So when there's threat, we shift to survival.

Dr. John Radford:
The problem when this continuous and ongoing threat and unexpected threat and different circumstances, is our brains begin to, our brains are brilliant. So they begin to adapt to that in some form. And then generally a state of arousal for stress increases. And so we end up in a higher state of arousal, not almost, not knowing it. So so what's happened is not that there's not (inaudible), but the bear has shifted from being in the room to, in a way, being in my head because my thoughts are keeping it going. So. And you mentioned, Rob, that so even a child can be a threat to parent in terms of, and parent to child or parent and so on and so on. So, so suddenly the uncertainties where they were predictable. So what was safe and predictable becomes unsafe. So generally the state of arousal is higher for all of us.

Dr. John Radford:
And it's not continuous. But but the the threshold by which we are triggered to arousal actually comes down to it because we needed it, because we are in that state, so and so in that way, comparable to from for those who experience like a war situation ongoing, they will never relate to that. Over time, that in itself, can, the possibility of having trauma, in other words, and trauma in this sense is memories that are triggered that quickly come to the surface. And so I'm not responding then to the bear in my room. I'm responding to the memory or the trigger in my head to the bears become in my head. And Rob, that's the that's the challenge that we all face.

Dr. John Radford:
Now, just so what's the consequence? So one of the things I've noticed, you've got two things. One is that the general level of anxiety is much higher and so, so and a little bit harder to detect, partly because we're, we're not in community. We're not in constant. So we, our chance of, like so we don't we connect like we're doing Rob and I, right now. Rob, we connect on Zoom and we are recording. But we're actually not in community together. So we don't see what happens when I'm not in the recording. Right. When I, when I, when I go away and I think of even Lorraine and I went, so so the tears she has after we've spoken with a loved one that we haven't seen and we've been locked down for over a year for some time. The tears afterwards. And some of them happened in the meeting. But but many don't happen after, so we don't see that.

Dr. John Radford:
So the general anxiety is up and we are noticing I'm talking to leaders. And in fact, all of you lead in some form, even if it's leading in your family. Talking to you in that role, where you taking on a role to help serve others. In that role, I've noticed that leaders are making sometimes crazy decisions, not because they're crazy. But what I mean by crazy decision is that they almost seem like an experiment to make very big decisions about critical issues in their lives often. So I'm talking not just even the organization, I'm talking about decisions about role, work, jobs, family, moving, all kinds of things. And now it's OK to make those decisions. So I'm not saying making big decisions. Of course, we're in a crisis, so we need you to make decisions. But what I've noticed is that some of the leaders that I work with who I'd consider just normal leaders, they are really struggling when when you really talk with them, they're struggling. And I, so those of you who are listening who are leaders. I think all of us (inaudible). So the reality is we're all struggling, and I include myself. I'm not separate from you. I'm I'm in this with you.

Dr. John Radford:
So so that the anxiety levels and the decision making that I'm seeing is the kind of decision we make under stress, under threat. And that's, that because we've been here for such a long time, we don't even realize that we are making those decisions because the heightened level of arousal. So, so that's something. Yeah. We're thinking about.

Rob Thiessen:
One of the sort of extreme examples of this that that came up on the weekend. Over the Easter services was a little YouTube video of a Calgary pastor, and I don't know if you saw this, Dr. Radford, but I think the RCMP or Calgary police or whatever, and maybe a health officer showed up at the church and they were in the foyer and the pastor had his camera out and he went ballistic on on those officers yelling at them to get out without a warrant. And he filmed the whole thing and posted it and I think YouTube has gone viral. It's probably like five to eight minutes of him yelling and he ends up calling them Nazis, Gestapo, out, out, out. Just he won't engage them. He's yelling at the top of his lungs. And you can tell the officers are kind of bewildered. They they're standing on the steps and it's four or five of them. And they they slowly, finally back away and turn and walk out. And he kind of walks outside and continues calling them fascists and and on the street. And yeah, you watch it and, you know, I'm sure people will respond in a variety of ways to that, I think a lot of people will cheer it on and say, you know, good for him. You know, somebody's standing up. But when you describe the heightened level of anxiety, like I think in the long run, I think that pastor and Christians in reflection are going to they're going to be embarrassed.

Rob Thiessen:
You know, of an unchristlike way to to lash out at people with anger and calling them names. And, you know, I mean, these officers, they're not, they're doing what they're told to do. You know, they're not this isn't an equivalent to a to a Nazi. If that would have been Nazis, they would have they would have had guns and they would have killed people. So it a totally different situation, but it's the reaction out of heightened anxiety. And I think our people also like the conspiracy theories that come up, that the kind of reactions that people in the churches are having are giving evidence of what you're describing. They're operating out of the fight, flight thing. And so they jump to, I think, what you said, like moderately crazy. And I don't want to call it fully crazy because honestly, sometimes you think what's going on. You think maybe there is a conspiracy going on. Like it does, it does, there's enough going on that makes, again, the level of uncertainty about what is our government, what our government is up to, what are the what is big pharma up to? And there are like serious questions about where this is headed.

Rob Thiessen:
But, you know, I feel uncertain often. How do I react? Do I write a letter and protest? Who, are the pastors who are in prison? Are they doing the right thing? You know, the churches that are meeting, are they doing the bold and courageous thing? So, and maybe you can talk more to to those crazy decisions and how we could, like, how pastors can think about that and how do they, like, lead with some stability and support in the middle of that. And then the other one thing I want to talk to you, hear you talk about a little bit, is how is this affecting children? Because, you know, our kids are going to school and they, of all people, don't need mistrust of everything going on around them, you know. And I mean, kids that go through war, they're traumatized. Are our children going to be affected by this in some profound way? It looks to me like they're pretty resilient. Like I see kids and they're, as long as their families are stable, they're bouncing around and play on the playground. But but I wonder if there might be something deeper that youth pastors, for instance, and children's ministry people need to be aware of. So why don't you talk to a few of those issues, the care issues that might come out of this?

Dr. John Radford:
Yeah, sure. And I'm going to do it in two ways. I'm going to talk about, to leaders directly, so to us directly in the roll of leader and then talk about the people that you serve as leaders rights and those overlap clearly. But I just might be useful because it goes back even to I didn't see that video, but but as you describe it, we see it, much of it in different forms.

Dr. John Radford:
So so just in terms of that video, so the tipping point for us with this higher state of anxiety and arousal, the tipping point between when I'm tipped over the edge and lose it, in that sense, it's just that much it's just much easier to tip over the edge in that sense that we probably saw that in that pastor. So clearly, when we're under stress the the and the as I'm saying, the bear is in our head that bear, that memory can be triggered so much quicker and easily when we are in this highest state of arousal, when we start so, so, so that that's clear. And that's what's happening.

Dr. John Radford:
Just so tied to this, a theme here. And one of the themes is that when we're in this state of uncertainty for over time, there is kind of a disorientation. And I think everyone listening to us at some point there'll be odd days because I, I come I'm talking from my basement office, right. Which is a nice little of it's nice to kind of, fixer upper Covid year. So it's really quite nice to be a but there are days I kind of think where am I like what is this? So, and so what happens is when we, when we in this uncertainty, and, and feel in a way disorientated what disorientation means, is that is that the kind of things that I can normally rely on, right, around me and often they are in relationship and and so on, are not not there. They're not the same. So this Covid has fundamentally impacted basic relationship connector's right. And I'll come back to that as we go through this, Rob.

Dr. John Radford:
But that so that's happened. So we look for, we look for certainty. That's why people go for, go for this conspiracy. Then what conspiracy does is for people is it gives them well, now suddenly they've found the solution. They've found the reason why this is. And so it offers certaity, doesn't offer a solution, I believe, but it offers certainty, at least it looks like it's packaged and certainty. I believe in this, trust this and it's all it's all done. It's, this is what it is. So you can, so people got something to hang on to. I want to turn that into to war situations in war that's used highly effectively because you can use that latch to certainty to gear up to fight the other. Right, so to to fight the enemy. And it's been, it's used over the over the millennia in war, actually, for us human beings to come together, to survive, to fight the enemy. When the enemy is within, this Covid enemy, it becomes highly complex. That's why this thing is so such a challenge in so many ways.

Dr. John Radford:
So so that certainty is really important. And that's why people will latch onto something, someone and and so even going back to that pastor a situation. In that moment, the certainty was, OK, so these guys are the problem. And and he lost it in that sense because that's the disorientation you're looking for things to focus on, orientate you towards. That's critical as pastors and for us, as Christians, as men and women of faith. And I'll come back to that point quite strongly. The same, and I'm just going to jump quickly to children. For children, the same thing. They would also be looking for, they're times they also feel that it'll be probably different to us as adults. But they'll be looking for things that just remind them of, and its relational consistency, its relational certainty that they'd be looking for. Like you said it already, Rob. If the homes OK, they'll be OK. The challenge of the educational system, so many people are in, education would possibly be listening. They know it. The challenge is when that's not in the family. When that base is not there. Those are the children at risk. And it's one of the reasons why they've attempted and always to try and keep schools functional, open so that there's this other layer of connectedness and certainty for the children.

Dr. John Radford:
So if we take that, Rob, and tie it back to to pastors. So let's start with the leader first and then go to the people we serve. So as a pastor, I'm going to I'm going to use and I'm going to use a simple thing. I'm going to call it I call it the I've got a triangle. Right. A very simple concept. And I just find useful to help leaders in the situation but help anyone. And that is to say that, I mean, first of all, we know that in our Christian faith, it's based on the Triune, right, of God and Jesus and the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. And for us as leaders, it's important number one to, it's the old thing. And having worked, you know Rob, in the ministry for about 17 years and with leaders on transition and uncertainty for a season. Number one was put your own oxygen mask on before you can help someone else. And it's the same thing here. You, and what I mean by that is that is that that agape triangle is focussed on, just put yourself first. How are you? How are you in this in this crazy situation that we find ourselves in? And how are you in relation to two things, and so this is why use the triangle.

Dr. John Radford:
I'm a I'm a sailor. I'm a navigator. I can position myself anywhere as long as I've got two bearings, as long as I can fix on two places, I can then position myself. And so that's how GPS works. Got to have two satellites for GPS to work so it can fix fix us anywhere on the planet. And you've got three and you can do all kinds of things. So, so, so that's the triangle for me. Two things. One is God. So as a leader I need to be clear and in my, in my struggle with God. So God, I'm not bluffing. I'm really struggling with this today. So that's one. And the other is, the part of the triangle. And with God comes the Triune. So there's Jesus and the Holy Spirit to see that as that part of the triangle. The other part of the triangle is the trusted friend. The trusted, the person I can trust.

Dr. John Radford:
And and we need at least I'm saying I'm working in threes today. We need three of those. Idealy, someone who's really close. So someone who, like our spouse. If you're in a situation where you don't have a spouse, someone that you can really trust, that's close to you. If family if possible. That's great. So that's one. And then someone else in community. And it might be a family member, but part of the community you're in that you serve. And the third one, outside of that community. So I always say the three. So so someone that's really close, it's your spouse, if you are fortunate enough to be in that situation, with someone really close that's to you. Then someone in the community that you truly trust. And then someone outside. The reason why I go to the third one is because sometimes even community, it feels crazy. So so having a third person this is the ideal situation is often useful. That's outside your your your community you're serving is what I'm saying. And that to me is so important. And maybe I'll stop there before I go to the next (inaudible) community and orientation.

Dr. John Radford:
But that orientation, Rob, it's I'm saying I'm not saying anything new at all in this, but I'm just reminding us of the importance of, in this uncertainty that we have got fixed points. We have got certainty. It is based on our faith. It's based on our trust in God. But the trust in God, and the reason why I called it an agape triangle is because God actually lives through through others. And so I just I just, you don't mind, the scripture that I just love that supports is so strong is one John, chapter four. And you can look at a number of verses between four, seven and twenty one. But that it's around where God is love. It says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. And anyone who does not love, does not know God because God is love."

Dr. John Radford:
So so that triangle is, to experience God is actually to experience love, to care for someone and to be loved by them. To be, to be. And that's the trust. That's the closest thing. And so that's why I call it the agape triangle, because it's God in action. And in fact, if God, and the fact that God is love is quite an amazing thing. So for me to experience God is for me to experience love. To to love others in the way, and there's that unconditional love that God is talking in the agape sense. And to be loved by others unconditionally. So so wherever I'm at in my struggle, particularly in this pandemic season. That I can be open and honest and just real with him. Really, really, real. That wow, I'm really, really struggling today or this last week or this whatever's going on and be able to share that.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. You know, when you're sharing, I'm thinking about different biblical stories and for for for a long time of uncertainty, I think about Moses and the people wandering in the desert for 40 years. And and then when you said you need an outside voice. I though well yeah, Moses, he was going a little crazy and his father in law came along and said, you know, this isn't working for you. And he brought some perspective to him. And. Yeah, and the other thing that I thought about with uncertainty right away, I thought, well, we just came through Easter and it was a short period of uncertainty, but it was profoundly uncertain and disorienting for the disciples.

Dr. John Radford:
Yes.

Rob Thiessen:
You know, when Christ died and, you know, before before they encountered him and his resurrection and probably even after the resurrection, I gather they were they were they were deeply disoriented as to what was happening to them. Their world imploded. And and so, you know, the things you're describing about orienting ourselves in faith, I it's really you know, we we have like a brand new sort of challenge before us that that we of all people are uniquely equipped to navigate. We do have points of reference that that that our world doesn't have.

Rob Thiessen:
Like, we can get our bearings with one another in our community and and with God through his word and his spirit. And with those bearings, we can navigate this this season. Yeah. So that's where those are really good pictures for us. But but not to minimize the unusual like it it's it's navigating. And, you know, I do have done a bit of sailing too with the with my dad sailboat before he gave it, before he gave it away to missions. But my sailing was usually I took the courses and the charting and the navigation. But I it was always, it's called conning, right. When you're sailing within view of land, I said that's a kind of sailing I do. I have to see something and a map I never ventured out into really just where you're looking at your compass or the tools that you have to to navigate nowadays with the GPS, which is pretty certain. But but that's another level of navigating. And you're on uncharted, now you can't see anything any more just on the water and you have to figure it out. And and in a sense, we're all in that place. Right? We've lost the familiar markers.

Dr. John Radford:
Yeah, yeah, we have. And so and so one of the things, Rob, if we think about what you're saying and thinking back to the Israelites and the wandering in the desert. That is, so as leaders, there are many things, but but I want I want to focus on this conversation is how can we, what's our role in providing some of the beacons? So go back to the navigation theme for a moment. So if you're navigating the reason why they are beacons in around our coast here in British Columbia, is because you can actually see where you are relative to those beacons in the day. It's, at night it's flashing lights of various forms. In the day it's actually different heights and so on of these beacons. So you can say that beacons there, this ones out so I know where I am. Same thing, I think right now for our leaders as we, as Covid is in its hopefully it's in its it's in its stage of of of at some point coming back to some sort of new normality. But in that process the beacons are critical. So so just to think about that in terms about the people we serve in our churches and our communities. What are some of those beacons. Right. And and and and some of them are very clear. It's very clear to me that what is not changed in Covid at all is our human desire, deep need for connection. It has not changed.

Dr. John Radford:
That is that is not changed. And the reason why I said is because I've been tracking, obviously, in my work and and helping different organizations and leaders as they struggle with various parts of this this pandemic. From an organizational leadership point of view, I've been looking at that, at what people are doing. And people are connected. So it's not like they're not connecting. They are connecting. We're finding ways to connect. And in fact, even the one we're using right now, I mean, it's the value of Zoom is going up. You know, it's gone to billions of dollars over a very short period of time because people are using this as one connector. So people are finding ways to get and but also we're not finding ways. So so there's a gap. There's a gap between the need and desire for connection. And that's love, and so in that scripture in one John 4, God is acknowledging that that the reason why we are even in faith and trust in God is to do with love. It's to do with connection with each other and with God. So the connection that I call it, that triune, that triune connection of ourselves, God and each other is critical. That's a critical beacon. And and I think we haven't lost that at all. So how do we, and it's been maintained in different ways. And that's where we can come together as community leaders exploring and finding ways.

Dr. John Radford:
But our congregations and beyond them are finding ways to connect. That is worth remembering as we as we as we're in Covid and coming through Covid. And and that's across all forms of community organizations. People are doing that. So what Covid has done is it's hastened a transformation in terms of the way people are connecting. So in our churches, so I'm very clear about one thing. I think the need for face to face physical contact is not going to change. So that's not going away. That's that's going to be there. It might take different forms and frequencies and all that that we don't know actually how. So, so I the idea I have is two fold. Rob, the one is to to actually I'm, I'm suggesting to lead and church leaders that why don't you initiate I call it my agape triangle, God's not mine. God's agape triangle in our churches and it's a very simple thing. So I'm saying start with yourself, make sure you've connected with two other, three other people. But in your congregation say to them in terms of so they connected with their close people, then choose two more so and so in each challenge. And in a way, it's a it's not a challenge challenge. It's just something that's going to help you and help us together. And then find someone else who who you can just reach out to and connect to. So this is not it's not the trusted friends thing I'm talking about, slightly different. This is saying reach out to one other person within a community that perhaps, they just have a sense.

Dr. John Radford:
And reach out doesn't mean to say, "Hello, how are you?" No, it's it's it's a bit more detail. It's saying, "How are you really doing?" And and checking in. And it's not just a one off check and it's how you're really doing. And and who might that be. I think they really connect us to this. It's not like someone and maybe people come out of nowhere. And I've actually in Covid met three people that I never thought I'd meet before because I walk my dog in a community around here. And so that's one. And then someone who's outside of your community, your church, someone outside. The reason why I'm saying that is because I think we have an amazing opportunity in Covid. For, to bring not people into the church, but bring Christ to the people, it's I mean, it's always been both, but it's actually to bring Christ to to the communities that we're in in a new way because people want connection more than ever. There's no doubt in my mind. And if we sit around (inaudible).

Rob Thiessen:
They're out and they're out in the theater parking lot with a with a propane barbecue, you know, and they all all year long little little groups meeting face to face and talking.

Dr. John Radford:
Yeah, yeah. And I've seen it around here because this is a resort community that's part of the (inaudible) and people just, that decide to connect. So that's the one piece. And the other piece is I'm saying to leaders, think about parallel organization or parallel community. So so what's happened is at the moment we've got this online, whatever you call it, social media. And I'm not talking about creating a show of church. I'm not talking about this. I'm talking about connecting with. So you've probably I've seen it in some of the home sales where home sales have expanded. So home sales have actually got people across the world in that. But and not all. But but a number have. And so that interests me they way that happened with suddenly opened up to that possibility.

Rob Thiessen:
My son was having, he's formed a small group with the village and he's got two friends from Saskatchewan that that well they started it. So he said today I said, are you done in your room playing video games last night? He goes, I was in a group study of the Bible Dad I said, OK, I stand, I stand rebuked. You know, that's amazing. Yeah. Guys from across Canada, young young men, just having a Bible study around Mark Clarke's latest sermons. It's amazing.

Dr. John Radford:
There it is. There it is. And so and the next generations are actually much closer and into this. They don't even need encouragement. They're doing it anyway. And they weren't doing it all. But what's happened is it's actually taken on new forms. And so I want to add one other layer to this parallel. Just the idea of just keep parallel at the moment. Don't don't don't make decisions. So don't make decisions. I think even about closing down, selling buildings, I think people are premature. I but I don't want to give advice just another bit, but hold options open, hold the tension of the different options open. The one of them is how, so the importance of ritual. So how does connection happen. It happens by ritualist so even simply like shaking hands a ritual. But in our, in our faith we have rituals of coming together. We have ritual, obvious ritual is one of worship, which is a it's a it's a truly bonding ritual. Again, is that Triune, agape tri- of us together and God. And so, so, so those rituals which are together and God in presence in whatever form it is, those are useful. So continuing those is useful, but new rituals are emerging and I'm encouraging leaders to just be aware and look out for them and even encourage them that new way. So even your son's example. Right. So those become rituals because we are bringing God into community in new ways. So the chance of churches being even more deeply connected into family. Rob, I'm really excited about that. I, I think it's already happening and but I think we're not even seeing a lot of it. So I'm saying to kind of look up, look around as leaders about this opportunity that that's happened.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah. That's that's something that has been on my heart, too, that, you know, that this is there is a harvest opportunity here that's going to happen. And I know we're just feel like we're hanging on by, you know, onto the roller coaster ride. But I think the Lord is up to something very significant in our communities. And we need to be thinking about that. And like you said, have our eyes lifted up to to what the Lord might be doing. I know Covid already, even with this online format. Right. So many of us, and maybe it's just more traditional people like me and a lot of our pastors maybe are in their 40s, 50s and 60s, you know, just sort of well online. That's not real church, you know. And of course, during Covid, everybody's like, well, we don't have an option. So now we're going to do it and we do it. And we're like, oh, actually, it doesn't replace church at all. But it's a it's an incredible opportunity for a global witness that every church now has access to. So our our our capacity, our ideas of how, what's possible have been hugely stretched through this season.

Dr. John Radford:
Rob, just a very quick comment on that, because I think it's a key point. So one of the things that surprised me really is my work. So I work in conflict, sometimes very intense conflicts, bringing people together or whatever it might be. So and I've had to move away from physical into this virtual world like all of us and my situation I've locked down because of Lorraine's health. And so, the surprising thing for me is the degree of intimacy and connection and depth I can achieve through through this media. In fact, to the point that sometimes I've got to dial down the level of emotional connection because people can go even a step further than normally would go vulnerability wise. Partly, maybe because they're in their homes and they're feeling at least a bit more connected in that way and then they can share. And so I'm really, really pleasantly surprised. And so what's happened to me is even my work has opened up again. I used to do a fair bit of international work and I just traveling was became more and more difficult with just for security and other reasons. Now, that's opened up again because people are connecting across. So I just want to say, yeah, that's great. And that's a surprise to me. I you told me a year ago that I would have achieved more connection and in fact, sometimes better or quicker results, probably because it's deeper. I said no way! And yet here we are.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. Hey, one thing I were running close to our time for today. But you mentioned, you know, we talked a little bit about school and teachers and then I think we haven't really touched on medical workers or all the front line workers. So for pastors and shepherds, there are sort of some significant groups that are dealing with issues. What what can our leaders, like how can they think, how could they support those people intentionally? What what do they need to be aware of for for those people? I mean, this is everything we've been talking about. But, you know, for the care that pastors offer, are there are there particular groups that they need to think, OK, there are some there are some real unique care needs that I that that our community needs to address in this in this time.

Dr. John Radford:
I think front line for sure. And I know those of you mentioned medical for sure. I remember go back 10 months ago, people we were seven o'clock in the evening, we were knocking our pans together and celebrated support for frontline work. Note how that's stopped, not because people don't want to, but just it's fatigue. Instead we think we're fatigued by knocking pans. Think about how those people. And I think of the front line, I'm thinking people, wherever they serve, they need to serve in their jobs face to face. I think of the teachers. I'm married to a teacher and being part of that community, teachers under high stress in that. And so the fatigue of that. So for our leaders to think about how they might support that. One is just acknowledging, just acknowledging the struggle they're in. And sometimes it is it's just simple care because they are so just being acknowledged and met where their at. Right. And I and I think I was just you probably, I think we're all noticing this last literally last few weeks as we come end of March, into April here, that the toll on medical workers is increasing. And now the pressure certainly across Canada and Canada now has some struggle that we didn't have before, that's going to increase. So I think the support for for frontline workers, medical but beyond as well as the the risk is still very high. That is really important. So in some ways we want over, but we've really got to stay connected to those people in whatever way works in the communities that that that we serve.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, I think. Yeah, especially medical workers, you're right, we we started out banging pans and now I mean, think about, you know, here in Langley, say, Donna Kwantlen, where the, where the injection site or, you know, where people can get their their vaccines. You know, they're they're out there working there in the cold. Recently, my home church, North Langley, they organized a day for teachers. It was a morning event. So they they arranged at a local gourmet donuts. They got coffee. They talked to the principal and they said on this and this morning, we are going to be out at seven thirty at your school with coffee and donuts for the teachers as they arrive. Is that OK with you? And not every school said yes. Some school said no, that's not safe. We don't want you here. But most of the schools did. And then they got the parents of the children in those schools who are at North Langley to to serve the coffee and donuts and had a little banner out there. And it just so I said to the church that I want to say it again on the podcast. Any stupid idea can work. Like, it doesn't have to, you know, our pastors are coming up with, you know, drive through communion. They like just the craziest things and it touches people deeply. It brings hope to them. So, you know, that's, I think, part of what we want to communicate through this podcast. Yeah, these are tremendously challenging times, but the opportunities are are amazing in front of us. And, you know, this is a rich thing. Any final words you have for us, for our leaders.

Dr. John Radford:
Yes. Let me say this. It circles back to where you started and I started, Rob, which is so where's the certainty in this uncertain situation? It is in love. It's in the love that that God has given us for each other, that we have forgot. And there's certainty in that. And as we express and just gave examples of that. And that can be crazy ideas. It doesn't matter because behind it is the heart, the love for the other person that that is what counts. And people respond to that. And with that brings a degree of certainty because we know love when we are in it and experience it and give it and too it brings hope. Those are critical in this season.

Rob Thiessen:
Mm hmm. Awesome. Well, we're so thankful, Dr. Radford, for you taking the time to to encourage us to bring your wisdom and perspective. And I too pray that this, you know, this season will will end soon and we'll be able to do fellowship again face to face. But God bless you and your work and to all of our listeners out there in podcast land. Have a great week. It's been a real honor for for us to have you join us in this conversation. We hope it's been encouraging and look forward to seeing you next time we're hearing you next time being with you on the podcast. Thanks. Bye bye.

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