Dear friends I’ve avoided the subject so far as I fear many are getting fed up of it and I think that for some its creating a greater degree of anxiety.Of course Im talking about the Coronavirus, Covid-19 and the lockdown.
Its certainly a season of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, loneliness and none of us really know what to do as we’ve never been in this situation before.
Many have said to me that when we get back to normal it’ll be great; there’ll be celebrations and reunions, much rejoicing and sadly an extension of the grief that has arisen already in this time as folk have lost loved ones.
But what will be ‘normal’ ? A different pace to life, I hope so. .. A greater desire to help one another, I hope so .. A better appreciation of creation/nature, I hope so
I really do hope that all of the above come true, but I suspect that human nature being what it is will revert to type and carry on as if the virus had never happened. I know thats negative but I look at human history and its always been the way. Yes there will be some who will learn the lessons of care, support, community, less dependence on technology and an increase in love. However, sadly there will still be the opportunists looking for the fast buck, there will be those who seek protection for their future at the expense of others and there will be many others who will seek out the material over the spiritual. Sadly because we are a Church which encompasses all of society there will be some of these folk in our Churches as well.
We too will forget to go out and applaud our key workers, we too will start grumbling at the supermarket queues and at the things we haven’t got and so on.
No in order to assess what will be normal we need to be aware of the change that is occurring in so many places and in so many people. Although many will return to their sense of normal, the pursuit of money, promotion, better houses to live in, for others this is an opportunity to look at our own values, ethics, morals, lifestyles and to create a new and better normal.
Within Church it is the same; for years we have sought to get people into our buildings, but now that we can’t enter them we’re having to reassess what Church might be. When Jesus said to Peter “upon this rock I will build my Church…….” I don’t think he was referring to buildings but to communities; communities of believers seeking his way and his life.
And now here we are in that same place, having to decide what is the new normal for Church itself ? If we return simply to the same liturgies and to the same 5 hymn sandwich then we’re just rehashing that which has turned people away for the last 50/60 years +. I did an online Facebook reflection one Sunday and got over 180 people viewing it, far more than I would’ve got on a ‘normal’ Sunday. Now I’m not saying that we all have to rush out and join FaceBook but I am saying that there is a whole body of people out there just waiting to hear the Good News we have, but not necessarily in the way that we have known it and shared it.
Perhaps the new normal can be seen already in the way that some are caring and sharing, looking after the elderly praying for the key workers and we in the Ministry need to rethink and be allowed to rethink our Ministry. My son-in-law, Mark, asked our granddaughter this morning “what do Grandma and Grandad do ?” to which she replied “to stay at home” When he asked what were our actual jobs when we’re not at home, her answer was “to be good and then stay at home”. The wisdom of a four year old carries so much truth. Perhaps the Church has robbed many of us of our real calling, because we have to spend time on structures and on maintaining that which much of structure seems to be rejecting, when God is saying “NO, this is the way I want Church to go”
When I first felt called to Burton I was asked to spend time in the town centre building a church ‘without walls’. I spent a lot of time walking the streets, sitting on benches, drinking coffee, and simply talking to people about who I was and what I was doing. Sadly that was lost for a variety of reasons but the main one was because Church demanded so much of my time that conversation about Jesus, which we should all be engaged in, was lost. I’d love to regain the time for that thinking outside of the box when our new Circuit (East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire) begins but in order to achieve that folk will have to let go of the old normal and begin to embrace a new normal which will be multi-shaped, have a whole different ways of doing things but at its heart will have the unbeatable combination of ‘other people’ and Jesus.
To put it another way, a community which cherishes people more than the building, which seeks to promote the gifts of all people rather than just the privileged minority, which seeks to see the best in everyone from the Priest and preacher to the prostitute and drunkard
Now when the Church becomes like that it is truly a place where Jesus is at its heart and for me thats as it should be.
Thats the normal I find myself praying for at a time such as this.
May God keep you and your loved ones safe as you too seek the new normal