Ladies and gentlemen, almost to the day - our last face to face service was held 11 months ago. Little did we know that Sunday afternoon what was just around the corner and that in a manner of weeks (or one missed service) that we would be taking the CSA online across Australia and even across the world.
Of course that first service will not go down in the annals of history for an unforgettable healing meditation or the greatest philosophy ever given, as yours truly pulled together 35 minutes of a rough correlation to our usual service and tried to disguise my own pure technical terror. Little did I know, that those 35 minutes were about to open a whole new opportunity for sharing Spiritualism and the CSA was, in its own way, pioneering in the modern day.
Was it slick - no. Did it come from the heart - yes. And from around the world the doors of support opened. First, our now committee member, Denise Litchfield, reached out and offered her technical support and so the capacity to host mediums and a live congregation began. And then….the call went out to international mediums I had hosted as teachers and each didn’t hesitate to say yes to a request, some offered without being asked and even volunteered others to join the support CSA crew.
At our first online service I spoke of the challenges we had just faced - bushfires, hailstorms, drought and all the ramifications of those trials only to then be faced with the uncertainty of what was before us with COVID 19 and how, more than ever, there was a need for human BEINGS to be human KIND.
Within that challenging period of isolation, uncertainty, illness and loss - there was something else happening. The world was going quiet, and in the silence, an opportunity was presented - individually and collectively - to listen to the voice of our own Spirit so often drowned out by the noise of the hustle and bustle.
We were called to pause, to reflect and to reconnect in whatever way we could to our families, our communities and also to nature. In isolation, and at a distance, we were reminded of our need for connection.
The lack of physical connection with each other gave us a version of loss, a taste of grief for those not yet familiar with it. We reminisced about the importance of a hug, a smile, a conversation with friends over coffee, and time with loved ones. We were reminded that milestones are made special not only because of what they are but who they are shared with. A birth, a death, a graduation, a wedding, an anniversary, a celebration, a funeral - successes and failures - the meaningfulness and the memories of these experiences are made richer by those who share in them.
Equally, the life experiences that are fuller and sweeter when shared are tinged with sadness through to depths of grief when they aren’t.
The ongoing lessons of Covid 19, if we can call them that - perhaps even ‘silver linings’, do not just call us to connect with our loved ones and our communities, but to connect to something even deeper.
As Spiritualists we are blessed to not have to search too far to recognise that the deeper connection we seek is to our Spirit, to God and that of eternal life.
I am not going to pretend for one moment that Spiritualism and our knowledge of the afterlife, of the Fatherhood of God, of the eternal nature of our very existence protects us from the harsh realities of our human experience.
Some of you will be aware that a week before Christmas, my darling dad transitioned to the world of Spirit. Fewer of you would also be aware that I spent the second half of 2020 assisting my mum care for my dad and lived with them for his final 3 months so that he could die at home.
Quite often there is an assumption that Spiritualists and, in particular, mediums - by the very nature of their beliefs and faculties will somehow be spared the depths of grief of loss. That they, in some way, will not feel their losses as keenly as others do. Nearly 8 weeks since Dad embarked on his journey to the world of Spirit - I have not yet managed a day where tears haven’t fallen.
Due to COVID - one of my brothers was unable to return from overseas to visit with my dad before he transitioned, nor could he come back for the funeral. Infact, he was but one of hundreds who could not attend due to restrictions. We were by no means the exception. Yet, through the magic of technology, my trusty laptop and Zoom my brother got to say everything he wanted to say to Dad, he could see him regularly even as his health declined and words became stifled, yet only by chance, has dad’s last words to him recorded forever. Connection. It comes in different ways and yes, sometimes it’s not perfect.
Sometimes we need to see the things that don’t look perfect from our perspective may just be a shining light to another. I have over the last 10 months been provided with the feedback from a handful of people that our online services just don’t cut it, that they just aren’t the same as our face to face services. I agree that they are different but I also receive messages that those online services are the only connection someone has in rural Victoria to the Divine, to a sense of community, to belonging. That those online services meet a need for those who are unable to leave their homes - whether bound by Covid or other restrictions. The very same services provide an opportunity for others to experience the wonders of Spiritualism who may never take the first brave step of walking into a community hall or Spiritualist church where a service is being conducted.
How fortunate we are that the message of Spiritualism of the truth - that we are all eternal, each of us animated by the spark of the divine, each spirit experiencing the great highs and lows of a transient physical existence and that we can shout our knowledge from the rooftops or through the computer screens.
And there is so much to our message - in our time of loneliness and isolation and distance - we exclaim there really is no separation.
That when we each face our death - that there will be great reunions on the other side of the veil with those we love who have gone before us.
And we owe this knowledge to the mediums and investigators who went before us for there were many in our Spiritualist history who were prepared to risk reputation and standing in order to share their knowledge and findings. Prepared to be ridiculed and cast out by their own communities. Mediums prepared to submit to some of the most offensive tests and investigators prepared to report the findings.
Mediumship and Spiritualism brought comfort to whole generations caught up in the tide of loss, of grief and of war. One well known case is that of Mary Todd Lincoln who, grieving the loss of her son, organized séances in the White House which were attended by her husband, President Abraham Lincoln.
Spiritualism surges when individuals and generations grieve. For something within calls us to seek the answers.
Spiritualism is not fluffy bunnies, love and light and the excuse to wear a Spiritual overcoat that suggests we are somehow more advanced than those with other beliefs or no belief.
Modern Day Spiritualism is rational, thinking and evidential. It rests on the shoulders of the giants like reformer Robert Owen who converted to Spiritualism in 1854 after sittings with Maria. B Hayden - the American medium credited for introducing Spiritualism to England.
Scientists who became converts to Spiritualism included chemist William Crookes, and Sir Oliver Lodge. The mediumship of Eusapia Palladino so impressed Pierre Curie that he advocated scientific study. Those familiar with Spiritualist history know Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes for our younger congregants) sought out his own answers and was further inspired after the death of his son Kingsley in World War I and became a staunch supporter.
There are so many who played a part in the rich tapestry of Spiritualism and mediumship including Thomas Edison who wanted to develop a spirit phone to be able to hear the voices of the dead.
Great minds and brave hearts are the foundation of Spiritualism.
My dad had a great well of faith, he did not fear death and if there was anything he was worried about - it was wanting to reassure us that we would all be ok, to get on with living and to live well.
We spoke often of the Spirit World - the Anglican and the Spiritualist, and dad would jokingly refer to my friends ‘the Spirates’. Dad was a deep thinker, rational, and considered - he was also a servant of his community, country and the world.
I have no doubt that he is now meeting with ‘the Spirates’ and trying to figure out how to save the world from the other side. I hope he gets to meet Mr Lincoln or even our own second Prime Minister, Alfred Deakin (another Spiritualist and one time President of the Victorian Association of Spiritualists) to discuss further this wonderful religion of ours. I know he set quickly to the task of letting the family know he had ‘arrived home’ and within 3 weeks of his passing had confirmed his humour remained intact with a very deliberate message and plenty of evidence through another medium. Good on you Dad.
Even in our devastation we are consoled by the knowledge that he lives on in our memory, in our very cells and most importantly within the world of Spirit. How we will each face our own death, if given the advance warning, will be as individual as we each are. For me, the reassurance of life after death is further strengthened knowing that when it comes time for me to reach to the world of Spirit - my dad will take my hand.
Ladies and gentlemen there is no other connection more significant than knowing life and love are eternal and for that we owe Spiritualism a great debt.
Let us pay it forward through sharing it.