20 Nov Alumni Interview: Helen Murdoch
Helen Murdoch and her husband Jude completed the Vocational Programme Wellington in 2018. Since then, they have welcomed a daughter, Kezia, into the world, and Helen is just returning to a part-time policy role in Wellington. They worship at Lifepoint Church. Here, Helen shares some reflections from the year past and what she’s looking forward to as we prepare to enter the new year.
What are some opportunities you’ve encountered this year and what are some of the challenges?
Lockdown and being a new mum have made 2020 a much more domestic year for me. I went into both events anticipating challenges but discovered lots of unexpected opportunities. My husband, daughter, and I moved in with some friends from our church (pictured in our “bubble” photo, seen above) at the start of lockdown—and then we never left. It’s been so good for all of us. The move was a spur-of-the-moment thing and might not have happened in other circumstances. l enjoy the daily routine with Kezia so much more when there are other people to share it with, and I love seeing how Kezia connects in different ways with each person in the house. As we moved in with friends who’d seen us through some tough times in 2019, we found 2020 full of laughter. I need someone else to laugh at what is happening in order to step out of the frustration with the little things that aren’t working and enjoy the silliness that I can’t control.
I remain grateful for the stories other people have shared of the challenges they’ve encountered in motherhood and the many offers of help that came as well because I’ve never been very good at asking for help. Events like having a baby or going through lockdown create an opportunity to more easily name for each other that big things are happening.
What have been your reflections on this past year?
At the start of this year I would not have imagined living where we are now. It just hadn’t occurred to me as an option until we’d made a quick decision to give something different a go for the lockdown period. As lockdown loomed, I was nervous about being housebound with a baby. When the opportunity came to move in with friends for lockdown, it felt like a good fit. I’ve benefited from it so much more than I’d expected—it’s a good reminder to me of how much I benefit from accepting help from others, even in the little things that I could have done on my own but are better for being done with others.
Another area where my imagination was stretched this year was the Venn Short Course with Revd Dr Murray Rae where he talked about images and metaphors to explain the mystery of the cross. He introduced us to the idea of Jesus’s death as the travail of God, and of Jesus himself acting like a mother who dies in childbirth. This is an image I’ve kept coming back to as a picture of how far God will go to bring us life.
What passages of Scripture have you found helpful and encouraging, and why?
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
I’ve been coming back to this verse since the start of 2019 when we found out I was pregnant and just as Jude started having a tough year. At that point I’d have said no, I don’t see what is happening. 2019 was a year of waiting expectantly for a new baby and for other changes that were outside our control. It’s a kind of waiting that requires active work to remind yourself of the hope of what is ahead. I find it encouraging now to look back and see how good and unexpected things for our living situation in 2020 have come out of that hard season.
How are you praying as the year comes to an end?
Over the last two years, I’ve had a few seasons with a regular lunchtime prayer pod—it’s a few people taking time to stop in the middle of the day, read a few scriptures, leave space for silence and gaps, and, most importantly, set aside questions of ‘what should I do’ and instead ask who is God for us here and now.
With a gap in a prayer group at the moment I’m a bit more haphazard, but I hear there are some good Advent resources in Common Ground so I’ll be looking out for those!
As I think about Advent, I’ve been looking at some modern icon paintings from Kelly Latimore that remind us that Mary, Jesus, and Joseph were homeless at the point Jesus was born and the young family were soon refugees travelling to another country. The Advent story is full of things I would not have expected, and if I was there at the time I wonder how much I would have noticed or understood.
I find the gift of shared, quiet prayer spaces is to have the time to notice what is important to our God of love, because I’d often be too quick to rush past.
What’s your favourite podcast, movie, and book?
I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts that look at how we tell stories about significant events and what shapes the people who are part of them. I recommend 1619 (New York Times podcast on the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved people arriving in the Americas), White Silence (RNZ podcast on the response to the Erebus disaster), and Confessions with Giles Fraser (interviews with people in the public sphere about the beliefs that shape who they are).
Instead of a movie, I recommend the art of Mata Aho–a collaboration of four Māori women who come together in a wānanga to produce large-scale fibre works which provide a different way for visual storytelling. As objects, the works are pretty attention grabbing, too.
Reality, Grief, Hope: Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks by Walter Brueggemann
Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit
Both these books are on hope and I’ve found them encouraging as I think about small individual actions and attitudes in the face of big challenges.