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Raising our sights for 20201 year ago
This week's blog is a valedictory message from James Lazarus, who has served ReSource as its Development Manager for the last two years. He gives us a lay perspective on the covid-realities, and explores how 2020 can be a year in which we up our game in kingdom-living, not see it as a disappointment.
I have had the honour of working with ReSource over the last couple of years as Development Manager. I will be leaving this role very soon, and Kevin has asked me to do this week’s blog - perhaps as a passing gift.
I believe I am only the second blogger from the laity and so I wanted to take the opportunity to provide a lay perspective on Covid – and seeing how we might do better.
I am trying to raise our sights – so that just possibly 2020 can be seen a year when we learned to live our lives in His Spirit, advanced the Kingdom and saw lives transformed, rather than being the year of disappointment driven by Covid restrictions.
Firstly, what should our objectives be? I believe that our spiritual life under Covid should be consistent with, if not better than life before Covid. We should still be seeking to lead our lives, both individually and collectively, under the sovereignty of our Lord Jesus, immersed in His Spirit and guided by Him in all that we think, say and do.
And as we live in our church families, lets set the objective of devoting ourselves afresh to the Acts 2 template listening to the Word, enjoying fellowship, breaking bread together and in prayer, open at every moment to living under the guidance of the Spirit. We should come together with glad and sincere hearts, and actively aiming to increase our numbers.
So how can we do better?
Firstly, lets grasp this crisis as it really is. The reality of Covid today is that it is not a short-term temporary interruption, albeit nor is it a permanent scar but let’s be candid – it’s not going to be magicked away anytime soon. I believe opportunity arises from staring this reality in the face.
a. So, let’s take it on the chin we will be doing socially distanced church for the next six months and very possibly all through next year. A miracle remains possible, but it will be more helpful to assume these conditions are going to run for many more months.
b. So, let’s invest and plan for the situation as it is – enabling us to make the most of what we can do, rather than wasting effort yearning for what we can’t. Many Churches are struggling financially – perhaps this is a moment for wealthy churches to support their neighbours who may be struggling – and lets invest wisely to make what we do as good as we can – be it flowers for the lonely member, or perhaps a better camera or recording equipment for our virtual services.
c. And as we design our weekly services, whether on Zoom, socially distanced, or via tape, lets have a focus on providing real food rather than the superficial.
Secondly, let us Spend more Time in Prayer and Listening to God
My sense is that the prayer life of many communities is suffering greatly. Zoom can make corporate prayer even more accessible than the traditional prayer meeting – but it can be hard to listen to God online, so let’s be bold and imaginative in how we do that.
And let’s not lose sight of the need for one to one prayer. It is so much harder to do this whilst social distancing, but the need is greater than it’s ever been, so we should be more imaginative about doorstep, online and telephone prayer support. And when we ring up a lonely parishioner, let’s make it the norm that we pray together as well as chat.
Thirdly lets Share leadership rather than expecting our Clergy to have all the answers:
As we look briefly into how churches should be led through this period, lets add into the mix several factors:
a. No politician, business head, corporate executive and certainly no church leader has been trained or experienced in how to cope with Covid.
b. We know most of our clergy are feeling exhausted and under great stress – they need less not more work!
c. Yet most lay leaders have more time and flexibility to help lead than ever before
d. Some lay leaders even have professional training for crisis management, which could be deployed for our communities.
e. The needs of the Church for good leadership are greater than ever before.
f. Add all this together, and I believe there is the most overwhelming case for clergy and lay leaders to work together, to pool knowledge and experience and to share leadership responsibility.
g. I would love to encourage incumbents to come to PCCs and other gatherings, released from the burden of having to have all the answers, and much more willing to ask others to help them steer their way through.
h. All this should lead to better decisions, more unity, more engagement, and the easing of the burdens of leadership.
Fourth , lets keep Pastoral Care to the fore
Jesus surely taught that for a church leader – as the Shepherd, the care of their flock is the highest priority, but even in the best of times, if we are candid we find it hard to provide pastoral support, particularly to those who need it most – the old, the sick, the feeble, the damaged, the lonely – the irritable, those on the margins of society.
a. Having argued for shared, leadership, all lay leaders, and clergy must rise to this challenge, better than ever before, noting that Covid and its restrictions places an even stronger imperative that we care for everyone.
b. A reasonable objective is surely that every leadership team should speak with every member of their Church perhaps every month.
c. In a zoom led, socially distanced world, many crave for intimacy, and some are falling by the way – will we ever see them in church again? We must identify who is slipping away and let them know they are valued and core to our family
Finally, let us keep our aim to be a beacon for the Community.
a. It may be a bit contentious to say it out loud, but to some extent the Church at every level – national, area and local has been rather invisible in this crisis.
To be candid, we are struggling at times to support our own, in our church families, but we must set our sights on being a real beacon, providing real hope in a time of genuine despair.
b. We want to have a good war – we want people to look back and say that the church stood up to be counted – we met many needs, we fed the hungry provided drink for the thirsty, we welcomed strangers, clothed them and looked after the sick and visited the prisoners. Let’s be bold and meet that challenge.
Just one example from many, would not it be a good idea for every single church to support their local foodbank in some way.
All this is far too much for any single leader working on their own. But I believe with a genuine shared leadership, and under the power of the Spirit, we can dare to dream that 2020 will be known for a time of real revival, not just a year of missed opportunities. That is my prayer and hope for us all.