A Moment of Bravery

I was feeling brave this morning.  So brave, in fact, that I tackled a job I have been putting off for a very long while – my filing tray!

I was shocked just how much rubbish I was holding on to.  I found minutes of meetings, sets of accounts, budget plans and proposals.  Schedules for work and targets to be achieved.  What did I do with all this valuable information? 

I shredded the lot!!!

The reason why I took such a drastic step is quite simple.  Due to recent events, none of it applies any more.  It is all out of date and irrelevant now. 

Budgets will have to be reset.  Accounts will now look very different.  Proposals and targets will have to be thought through afresh.  Schedules for work, have long since passed. 

But, not everything in my filing tray got shredded. 

I found some publications that contained information that I now need.  At the time I received them, I couldn’t see the point and just put them out of the way to be filed.  Now their usefulness is apparent.

I found a “thank you” card.  A mark of appreciation from somebody who I had been able to help.  I always hold onto them.  At low moments, I often flick through them to help me find perspective.

One interesting thing I found was a copy of our Church values.  We had been considering these as a fellowship and looking at how we could embody them more fully.  Then, the situation had forced them to be put on hold. 

WELCOME

  Worship God ‘Worship in spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24)
Encourage each other ‘Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Love everyone ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God’ (1 John 4:7) ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you’ (John 15:12) ’Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8)
Continue to grow ‘But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 3:18)
Openness with God and each other ‘Love must be sincere’ (Romans 12:9) ‘Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbour, for we are all members of one body’ (Ephesians 4:25) ‘Do not lie. Do not deceive one another’ (Leviticus 19:11b)
Message of hope to share ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16) ‘I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ’ (Philemon v6)
Enable and equip to serve God ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men’ (Colossians 3:23) ‘May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen’ (Hebrews 13:20-21)

As lockdown eases further, as “new normal” is revealed, it strikes me that, we have the perfect opportunity to begin again. 

To start afresh

To revisit what God’s agenda is for His Church.  Some things, perhaps, are no longer relevant to where we find ourselves now.  Somethings, however, need to be re-visited and undergird where we are heading in this new day.

I Cannot Take Any More!

There was a meme I spotted on a social media platform recently that said;

Let’s just put up the Christmas tree now forget about the rest of this year

I know the feeling. 

I think 2020 will be a year that will be remembered more for the challenges and difficulties it has presented, than for anything else. Covid 19, trouble on the streets and heartache throughout the world have made news broadcasts difficult to watch.  Like many others, I have found the guidance to be confusing and contradictory.  Often, when I think I have understood what is happening, changes are brought in. 

We are still only half way through the year!!!!

From a Church point of view, I am worried. 

There are the obvious things like finances that are a worry but, there are the hidden worries too.  The “what if’s”.  There are the dangers of comparing ourselves with others.  “Church X is doing Y, should we be doing Y?”  If they open on that date, should we?  Are the hand sanitizers where they should be?  Is the risk assessment in place?

Then, to make my joy complete, there have been a number of discussions between Church leaders about “what the new normal will look like.”  There are some interesting ideas out there as to what Church could look like as we emerge from Coronavirus.  I am trying hard to be enthusiastic, I really am, but I am finding it all a little overwhelming.

To be absolutely honest I am scared.  How do you navigate through this new world where the roadmaps of the past are well and truly obsolete? 

So, I reached the point, the other day, when I felt physically, emotionally and spiritually drained and just found myself thinking “I cannot take much more of this.”  As I cried out to God, I felt that God planted an image and a passage from the Bible into my heart.

The picture was of a storm at sea.  Threatening dark clouds.  Foaming and powerful waves took up most of the picture, it was a huge storm.  At the very bottom of the picture was a small boat battling against the waves but, looking as though it could sink at any second.

As I saw that picture in my mind, I thought about the passage in Mark 5 vs. 35 – 41 when the disciples were caught in a storm.  They woke Jesus and said “don’t you care?”  This is how Jesus responded;

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 

(Mark 5 vs. 39 – NRSV)

I sat for moment with these words.

Peace, be still

As the worries and thoughts popped into my mind, I repeated

Peace, be still

As the stress and anxiety reared its head

Peace, be still

As the list of all that had to be done, nagged at me

Peace, be still

And there was calm

I Am ANGRY

I am angry

I said as much to my Spiritual Director yesterday.  I feel a deep sense of anger at the moment.

I am angry at the chaos, confusion and fear I see around me in our nation at the moment.  I am angry with the lack of compassion, humanity and understanding shown by many in authority.  I am angry that members of the Black community, across the world, face systematic injustice.  I am angry at scenes of violence and frustration have erupted on our streets.  I am angry because there are people being hurt on all sides.

I am angry with myself because, I do not and cannot fully understand.  I am a white heterosexual male.  I have always sought to treat all people as equal but, I have never faced prejudice because of my skin colour, sexuality or gender.

I am angry with myself because, I feel powerless and helpless.

I am angry.

Deeply angry

Anger, of course, can be a good.  It produces the energy to create change.  It can be a force for good.  It can get things done.  Equally, anger can be bad when it produces more heat than light.  Anger can be a blaze that can, so easily, get out of control.  It can become destructive and consuming.

It was into my email inbox this morning that one of my daily devotionals dropped that provided me with a “aha!” moment.  Richard Rohr offered a piece entitled “Contemplation and Racism” and it focussed on Contemplating Anger.  In the piece Barbara Holmes suggests that we need to have a “theology of anger” and, she writes;

First, a theology of anger invites us to wake up from the hypnotic influences of unrelenting oppression so that individuals and communities can shake off the shackles of denial, resignation, and nihilism. . . . Second, a theology of anger can help us to construct healthy boundaries. Finally, the healthy expression of righteous anger can translate communal despair into compassionate action and justice-seeking. . . . The question is whether or not we will recognize our wounds and the source of our anger so that we can heal ourselves and others, and awaken to our potential to embody the beloved community. . . .

(Barbara Holmes – Richard Rohr Meditation: Contemplating Anger 9/6/2020)

Just reading this, helped to defuse some of my anger.  It helped me to start to think of some constructive ways that I can commit myself to work for God’s justice within the community where I have been called to serve.

It reminded me of a song I haven’t sung for many years, written by John Bell;

Jesus Christ is raging
Raging in the streets
Where injustice spirals
And real hope retreats
Listen Lord Jesus
I am angry too
In the Kingdom’s causes
Let me rage with You

(John Bell and Graham Maule)

Don’t let anger consume you instead, seek to allow righteous anger to be a force for change and for good in our world

May your kingdom come, O Lord

May your will be done

Disruption – welcome or not?

I don’t know about you but, I certainly didn’t see it coming.

I was looking forward to 2020.  I had big plans for the year. I had holiday, work and study plans in place. We had plans to celebrate my better half’s “special” birthday. 2019 had not been the best of years for us as a family and, I figured, that 2020 would have made up for it.

If only I had known!

Now, my plans are out of the window.  Holidays have been cancelled, my 3 month Sabbatical is postponed and, somehow, a Zoom birthday party just isn’t the same.  I am not moaning.  I know there are many more people who have lost far more than we have. I know there are people who are mourning the loss of loved ones.

Coronavirus has created massive disruption to our way of life. 

The mess that this disruption has caused, will take a long time and lot more heartache to sort out.  It will be sometime before we can get back to some sort of normality.

The disruption of Coronavirus has been very unwelcome. 

During this time of lockdown, I have frequently, turned to the words of Psalm 46.  They paint a picture of a world that is in turmoil;

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. (Psalm 46 vs. 2 – 3)

I turned to these words again this morning as I came to a time of prayer.  As I did so, I began to think that whilst disruption may be unsettling and unwelcome it is sometimes necessary in order to create something new.

Yesterday, I watched the news as the statue of Edward Colston was toppled from its plinth and dumped in water at Bristol docks.  Colston had been a controversial figure in Bristol and British history.  In his home city, the statue was erected to celebrate his generosity.  The inscription stated that the statue was

Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city 

Behind this philanthropic face lay something that was and is absolutely abhorrent, the slave trade.  His wealth came from the slave trade.

I know there are some who view this act as one of vandalism (the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, described the action as “utterly disgraceful).  Others see this as an act that highlights the injustices that continue to be faced by members of the Black community.

I will leave you to decide which side of the fence you sit upon, please do not state your opinions – I don’t want my thoughts turned into political ping pong!  You will have, also, missed the point of what I am trying to say.

Maybe out of the disruption of Covid 19 and the disruption on our streets yesterday, something good can come.

Maybe our eyes will be opened to the imbalance of our society and we can do something to address it.

Maybe we will see, what is described as, “modern day slavery” and work for freedom – yes, it is still happening in this country and throughout the world

Maybe we will appreciate those who we now see are the key workers

Maybe we will work on the relationship we have with the planet we live on

Maybe……

Just maybe, we will give God the room to speak into our world and let His values, His love and His justice speak

Be still, and know that I am God (Psalm 46 vs. 10)

New Normal

Politicians. Media. Business leaders. Even Church leaders have used a phrase I do not understand.

The New Normal.

Surely, it is an oxymoron.  Something cannot be both “new” and “normal” at the same time?

Some use it as a phrase of aspiration.  They dream of a kinder, compassionate, better world emerging post coronavirus.  Others see an opportunity to bring change, whether we want it or not.  This change can be justified by being “the new normal.”

Change is inevitable.  It happens. Sometimes, change can be exciting;

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 vs. 19)

Sometimes, change feels unwelcome and terrifying.

Yesterday, I attended a Zoom meeting with other Church leaders and the phrase “the new normal” was one that appeared regularly.  To be honest, I am no wiser as to what “new normal” looks like. 

I do, however, have a greater understanding of some of the issues that we are facing as the country makes it tentative steps back from isolation.

For many people, the push to get back to work and end the lockdown makes the new normal appear to be, suspiciously, like the “normal normal”.  I think this is dangerous.  Not only from a health point of view but, from an emotional point of view too.  This push denies the reality of what we have all been through over the past few months.

I may not be able to tell you what the “new normal” will be, I can tell you how I think we need to engage with it.

What do we need?

  • Compassion

We need to understand that Coronavirus has been costly for everyone.  Some have faced the loss of loved ones.  Some have lost jobs.  Others have faced multiple disappointments.  We have all paid in some way.

We need to not only celebrate coming together but, there also needs to be space to mourn for what we have lost.

  • Resistance

Remember those old sci-fi movies where the aliens always declared “resistance is useless”?

My biggest worry, there will be such a push to get things “back to normal” that we will fail to grasp the opportunity to reflect and assess.  We must resist the urge to rush back.  We must take the take the chance this has given us to reflect and assess “is this really what God wants of us now”?

  • Acceptance

Hard, though it is, we will all have to accept that this is going to take a while. 

We do not know, at this stage, what things will be like when we eventually open again.  We do not what social distancing will be required.  What hygiene requirements will be.  Will we have coffee and chat?  We do not know if we will be able to sing or not.

When we re-start, you may even feel disappointed that this “isn’t Church”. 

We need to accept that we are all learning and finding our way through something none of us has faced before.  Recovery takes time and, if you rush recovery you can do immense damage.

What Do We Do?

  • Pray

Obvious.  But necessary.

Pray for Church leadership that we may have wisdom, knowledge and compassion as we navigate through difficult waters.

Pray for those who are struggling with loss and fear.  Pray that they would experience the love of God as they seek to cope with what they are going through.

Pray for yourself that, God would open your heart to what He is doing and how He is moving at this time.

  • Encourage

Take any and every opportunity to be an encourager.  Encourage the Church leadership, encourage each other.  If something has not been to your taste or liking, look for the good that God is saying to you and share it rather than the negatives.

  • Be Gracious

Something we are all going to need is graciousness. 

Fuming!

Have you found yourself fuming over somebody else’s opinion?

It happened to me yesterday. It was an article in the Church Times written by Angela Tilby. In it, she used some very unpleasant phrases. In one, she accuses clergy of “moral cowardice”. She says, whilst many key workers take risks, Churches remain closed. She also questions how Churches have sought to engage with people in the current climate;

It is absurd to be spending hours creating novel acts of worship from homes while Churches are locked and silent

(Angela Tilby – Church Times 8th May 2020)

I appreciate, the piece has an Anglican audience in mind and their views will be different to mine. But, I had the distinct feeling that, the writer had missed the point.

I have sought, through many blogs, to ask the question “what is God saying to me through coronavirus?” It was my fuming over Angela Tilby’s article, that caused me to reflect further on this question.

My next “fume” came when Angela Tilby wrote;

How trite has been the little trope that “The Church is people, not buildings” which totally misses the point about the public and institutional nature of the Church

(Angela Tilby – The Church Times 8th May 2020)

It may be a “trite little trope” but, that does not make it any less true. The Church is people and not buildings!

Do not get me wrong, I love a beautiful Church building or a magnificent cathedral as much as anybody. I find them awe inspiring, I find the history and stories behind them fascinating. There are some Church buildings that have a special “thin place” feel about them.  We have a building.  I love the fact that we have an adaptable and useful space in which to gather. But, I do not need to be in a building, to worship God.

Buildings carry with them a significant problem (and I do not mean maintenance). They create a barrier between those inside and those outside. For some people, Church is a forbidding place. How do you behave in such a place? When do I stand up, when do I sit down? What if I do something wrong?

I am encouraged by stories of how people are connecting with faith. Because of the ease of access and the anonymity of online Church, the barrier of building is gone.

Is God saying something to us through this?

What needs to change so that we continue to connect, beyond the walls?

As I read Angela Tilby’s comments, I saw them as reducing Church to the event that we put on. Putting on a worship event is only part of the role that any church has within the community. We are to serve our community for the sake of Christ.

I have seen Churches running food bank and food delivery schemes. Churches have become hubs within the community. I know of Church folk who are supporting the vulnerable by doing tasks to help them. I have seen Churches providing avenues to live out the words of Teresa of Avila;

“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world.

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.

Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

The danger, as I see it, is when this is over, we will go back to doing Church rather than being Church.

If the Christian Church is to make a difference with the message of Christ in the 21st Century, we cannot go back.

What is God saying through Coronavirus vi?

Recently, I have shared some thoughts on what, I have learnt, about God, through coronavirus. My hope is, they may spark some discussions as you explore this important issue.

Here is my latest reflection.

I have friends who have amazing artistic abilities.  As we faced Easter under lockdown, one friend, David Senior, sent me a card with one of his paintings;

(Resurrection 2020 – Used with permission of the artist)

In February, David was inspired by the image of a green shoot from a bushfire ravaged tree. In speaking with him, I discovered that he was really moved by the bushfires in Australia and the verses in the Bible in which Jesus talks about the vine and the branches, you can read it in John 15.

As I looked at the picture, and read John 15, I wrote a blog. 

Following extensive editing, I prepared to hit the publish button but, for some reason I cannot explain, I did not.  I decided to hold fire for 24 hours and just see if I had understood.

I spent some time gazing at the painting.  There is nothing new in that, I have returned to the picture many times over the recent weeks. It speaks to me of hope, which has felt in short supply, in the face of coronavirus. Amongst my favourite Bible verses can be found in the Book of Job, which says;

“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.

Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.

(Job 14 vs. 7 – 9)


It was the phrase, “at the scent of water” that caught my eye.  Of course, the writer is using poetic language to express himself here.  Plants cannot smell.  But, there is something here we need to grasp;

We must learn to scent water

Too often, as Christians, in our desire to help, in our desire to be useful and relevant we have grasped every opportunity that comes our way.  As a result, we have exhausted ourselves.  Once physical exhaustion takes root, spiritual exhaustion follows soon after.  There is a poem (I know not the source) that runs

Mary had a little lamb

She also had a sheep

They joined the local Baptist Church

And died through lack of sleep

I am also reminded of something David Watson used to say;

Not every need, necessarily, represents a calling

I am going to be controversial here. 

We needed lockdown. 

We needed to stop. 

Too many of us have been so busy we are in danger of dying through lack of sleep!

There are plenty of rumors circulating, at the moment, that lockdown is about to be eased.  I want to say, I do not want to go back to everything as it was.  But, if that is to become a reality for us

We must learn to scent water

This is what Jesus said;

but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

(John 4 vs. 14)

What is God saying through Coronvirus v

I have been writing a series of blogs on what I believe God has been saying to me during this time of lockdown. This is the fifth part. It happened during my quiet time today.

My quiet times consist of prayer, Bible reading and a little music. I like to read the passage a few times and see if God draws my attention to a particular word or phrase from His word.

My passage today came from Acts 8.

The Apostle Philip is having a successful and really busy ministry in Samaria.  His preaching is well received, there are miracles taking place and people are coming into a new living relationship with God.  It is at the height of this success, God does something really strange.  He puts Philip in isolation.  That is where my quiet time began; 

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south[a] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.)

(Acts 8 vs. 26 – NRSV)

To me, this is a very familiar passage and I have preached on this a number of times, particularly in a baptism service. As I looked at the words, I felt my mind heading in a particular direction, however, I felt that God was drawing me to the piece in brackets.  It was here that God was speaking to me.

This is a wilderness road

As the lockdown began, the Church was in the season of Lent.  I was speaking in and around a number of wilderness encounters. I spoke about Jesus being in the wilderness for 40 days and nights. I spoke about Hagar meeting the “God who sees me” (Genesis 16 vs.13). There were references to the people of Israel wandering in the wilderness through the Exodus and returning through the wilderness as the Exile came to an end. 

When I write the word “wilderness”, I wonder what comes to your mind? 

A dry, arid place. 

A place without life.

A place you would not like to go

Maybe, you even think of a Spiritual Desert.  A place where God seems absent.

Then today, as I looked at my quiet time reading, I found myself back in the wilderness again!

As I have spoken to people, over these past few weeks, some have said that they have felt like they are in an emotional and physical wilderness. Normal life, suspended. Plans, hopes and dreams on hold. Family and friends separated. The wilderness, they are experiencing, is a place of separation and isolation.

Perhaps, however, we can think of the wilderness in a slightly different light.  Instead of thinking of it as a barren place, let us try thinking about it as a place where there are no distractions.  When I look in the Bible I see that, the wilderness can also be a place of encounter with God. I think, that is why Luke (who wrote the book of Acts) draws our attention to Philip being on a wilderness road.

This got me thinking. What if our separation and isolation, our wilderness, is really a place of encounter with God?  What if we really need this time without distraction in order to re-connect with God. Are we making the most of this opportunity or, are we trying to keep ourselves busy, to avoid God?

At our recent Housegroup@home, I quoted some words from St Augustine of Hippo, who said;

“God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.”

(St. Augustine, City of God)

One of the positive sides of being in the wilderness is, our hands have been emptied.

As the story of Philip in Acts 8 unfolds, he meets the Ethiopian Eunuch. It is a God given meeting which leads to a conversation and a baptism. Two things that struck me. Firstly, the encounter would not have happened had Philip not been in the wilderness. Secondly, with everything else gone, the wilderness gave Philip the space to see the person that God actually wanted Him to see.

That is what I believe God is saying to me through Coronavirus;

When you are in the wilderness, God can really get your attention!

So, here is something that really worries me.  Soon enough, lockdown will be released. I am sure, as soon as it is over, there will be a lot of pressure to get life “back to normal” as soon as possible. This means we will get busy. Get activity back into the Church.  There will be a lot of catching up to do and I can imagine the stress and strain that will put on me and on others too.  Experience tells me, the busier I become, the less I will notice what God wants me to see.

Perhaps when “normal” resumes I need, from time from time to time, to purposefully, take the occasional walk down a wilderness road.

Perhaps when “normal” resumes you need, from time to time, to purposefully, take the occasional walk down a wilderness road.

Some words of hope to finish with

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God.

(Isaiah 35 vs. 1 – 2)

What is God saying through Coronavirus iv

Like many people, my plans for 2020 went “out of the window” when coronavirus and the lock down happened here in the UK.  As I have wrestled with this new way of life, I have been asking the question “what is God saying to me through coronavirus?” 

This is the fourth blog in this series.  I do not pretend to have the answers, nor do I claim to have thought these things fully through.  The whole purpose of writing these is that they spark a discussion in the fellowship to which I belong.  If they go wider and cause further discussion; Great!

In the early days of lockdown, I struggled with trying to know what I was to do now.  My normal routines and patterns of work and life were no longer going to fit with this new situation.

It was amazing how quickly my wife reminded me of all those irritating little jobs that I either avoided, or just never found time to get round to.

The garden needed clearing

Our document filing boxes needed a good sort out

I rediscovered clothes I had forgotten that I even owned, shoved at the back of the wardrobe.

Our garage now is teaming with black sacks full of rubbish that await the re-opening of the local rubbish tip. As I stacked the sacks, I found myself wondering “how long will it take before we replace all this with yet more stuff?”  Sean’s first law of sorting out says;

Rubbish always expands to fill the space available to it

This law, I have found, is true not only with “stuff” but, also with life in general too.  Everything expands to fill the space available to it.

One of the biggest struggles I have faced in lockdown, is handling the guilt that is attached to “I am not working in the same way that I always work”.  I should be doing more.  Ministry is one of those callings where each day is different but, there are anchor points.  Without the anchor points, how could I justify my working life?

It was amazing how soon I discovered that there were webinars, meetings, discussions to be had, endless paperwork, filming, preparation and people to organize.  I could fill every second from dawn to dusk and never complete the amount that was suddenly available to me. As I started to fill my diary, I felt God say to me;

Just breathe

As I breathed, I realised that the only person putting pressure on me during lockdown was, me.  It is a sobering realisation in life, we are our biggest critic and we are our biggest problem.  The only person who was demanding production, usefulness and justification of me, was me.

Just breathe

I think there is something here for all of us and for our Churches too.  We all need a season when we can Just breathe and take stock of where we are and what we are about.

Sometimes, in an effort to justify ourselves and our churches, ministers have been guilty of becoming competitive and driven.  We have painted a false picture of what success looks like, in our desire to be successful.  I know I have been guilty of this

Mea culpa,

Mea culpa,

Mea Maxima culpa.

Yes, there have been things to do during lockdown.  There have been services to plan, prepare and film.  There have been phone calls to make and meetings to attend but, there has also been time to breathe

Just breathe

What is God saying through Coronavirus iii?

This is the third part of my series of blogs of what I believe God is saying to me during this time of coronavirus.  I hope these blogs will spark some discussion in the fellowship to which I belong.  If they spark wider discussion, Great!

This is one of the hardest blogs in this series that I have had to write.  I had to face one of my “demons”.  What made this hard was, it was something I had never fully appreciated about myself before. Resistance to change.

Here is how it happened.

It was on the evening when the Prime Minister announced the lock down.  As the press conference was taking place, my phone was ringing and text messages were coming through from church people asking “what are you going to do?” 

In truth, I didn’t know.

As I listened, my immediate reaction was “oh good, at least he didn’t say Churches had to close, I can still do my Sunday service!”  As further details emerged, it became clearer that I was entering uncharted territory. 

Sundays cancelled. 

Weddings cancelled. 

Visiting cancelled. 

Hospital and chaplaincy involvement cancelled. 

Gatherings cancelled. 

Conferences and training events, cancelled. 

Funerals completely different.

How was I going to be a minister if, I had no congregation and no Church? I struggled to understand my personal significance in a world that had changed beyond all recognition.

Our usually busy Church building, fell into silence.  All activities ceased and we were closed.

As I wrestled with all of my emotions and the issues I was now facing, I felt God was saying to me;

You cannot keep doing, what you have always done.

In my head, I knew the truth of those words. I would have said, and have taught, that I believe that the Church needs to accept change.  A church that doesn’t change, is a church that dies. The change we were now facing, however, was not one that I had time to prepare for, or opt into.  This is change is one that was forced upon me.  There is a line in the Book of Psalms that keeps floating around my mind;

How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land? 

(Psalm 137 vs. 4 – KJV)

This has been a question that I have been constantly asking of myself.

My default position was to do what I knew.  In the early days of lock down, I concentrated on learning to use Zoom so that we could “do Church” as normally as possible.  I looked at ways to keep the Church community together, now we were forced apart.

As time has progressed, however, I have found myself wondering what will life be like when we get back together? 

In the silence of the building, I have wondered what activities will I be overjoyed to see restored but equally, which ones will I find myself saying “oh dear”? 

I have wondered how to refocus the missional engagement of our fellowship.  Do we need to drop some of our project work in order to focus more of our resource on others?

A more challenging question is, what have we learnt in lock down that we need to keep on with?

I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions but, what I do know is

We cannot keep doing, what we have always done.