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Little, Local and Ordinary Post-Coronavirus?10 months ago
ReSource Trustee Kate King warns against simple generalisations about the impact of the coronavirus crisis, and asks what the Spirit may be saying to the churches about life after "the adrenaline of this fast changing drama has dissipated".
It is hard to know where to begin reflecting on these strangest of times. Everywhere I look and listen, there are vastly different experiences. Some are really suffering, financially, emotionally, physically where others are finding this a time of great refreshment and renewal.
I saw an article recently trouncing the idea that Coronvarus is the ultimate ‘leveller’ since no-one is immune. Yet, if you’re a supermarket assistant living on minimum wage your chances of contracting the virus are far greater than an affluent person able to self-isolate with deliveries. If you are a single parent with several children in a flat on the top floor of a high rise, the command #stayathome is far more torturous than for those of us living in the countryside or with a garden. Some of my colleagues are working 90 hours a week running foodbanks and aid, others are completely isolated caring for vulnerable loved ones.
It is clear, generalisations about the cost and the opportunity of this pandemic are not helpful. We must be prepared and ready to respond in the aftermath to very, very differing needs both as individuals and as churches.
The same is true of the radical (and undeniably exciting!) shift to online church. There are some who are overjoyed, many of whom have never experienced church before (allelulia!). There are others, though, who are overwhelmed, or worse, feel unconnected. There are also churches that have been building online communities for decades who feel hurt and devalued by the new race to ‘share best practice’ when they have struggled to make their voices heard – and ironically, still do.
I had the privilege of attending a ReSource Trustees Retreat at Scargill House just as the world came to a shuddering halt. It was the most extraordinary bubble of prayer, and felt highly prophetic as we shared where we see the Holy Spirit at work today.
I found myself reflecting on how I see Holy Spirit in the everyday (outside of ‘the building’) in the most extraordinary conversations with teaching staff in our schools and with our young people. There was a thirst to know God, even before the current crisis – and now it feels to be even more so.
Interestingly, it is these really fruitful of conversations and relationships that have been difficult to sustain online. School staff are overwhelmed and communication with under 13s online has to go through parents who are also overwhelmed. Where communication and connection is difficult now, we can only guess at the support that will be needed to address trauma and bereavement right across our communities, across all ages.
What does this all mean for little, local and ordinary churches post-coronavirus?
Firstly, I think we must all be equipping ourselves spiritually to have the wisdom and capacity to respond in the example of Christ when all of the adrenaline of this fast changing drama has dissipated. My sister reflected for me that this is not a sprint or a marathon but a relay race. Different gifts will be needed at different times. We must be patient and not waste our opportunity to grow closer to God and equip ourselves with his word.
Then secondly, we need to be careful not to try and ‘church the world’ but to find opportunities to draw close to those immediately around us. We must not allow our value to result from ‘busy-ness’ when, largely, this is what we’ve been called out of. We must re-discover what Jesus intended his bride, The Church, to be. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave the gift of tongues – what language must we equip ourselves with? How will we reach newly engaged people in their context and begin to respond to possibly unanswerable questions?
Jesus himself did not host meals but was the guest. How do we come alongside others without imposing ourselves or an agenda especially when people are already overwhelmed – digitally and in person, when such a time returns? How do we honour existing digital communities and support them to ensure churches are always accessible?
And then thirdly, and maybe most importantly, how will we use this time to discern the very things that we have had to lay down that God wishes us to leave behind? Conversely, how do we discern what needs to develop and grow?
I am seeing the most wonderful movement of prayer. How do we continue to be obedient, to encourage others? Perhaps as a practical step, we could ask ourselves how we will use the opportunity of the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ initiatives between Ascension and Pentecost.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Heavenly Father, grant us wisdom and send your Holy Spirit upon us that all our works would be to your glory. Thy Kingdom Come we pray, Amen.