It’s good to be exiting Lock-down, although for how long we remain unsure. During the lock-down, here are some lessons that we as a church have learnt:
1 We can be and do church differently.
The church on the whole – in the West – has been in decline for a number of generations now. Churches that have gone against the tide and continued to grow have learned to be and do church differently. It is true that prior to lock-down in many ways we already were already doing this and growing too – but over the last five months we’ve proven to ourselves that our churches can adapt when we really have to and quickly too. This is a success story worth celebrating.
2 We’re now to be church in a second new way.
We’re not back to normal yet. The Chief of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, recently said he expects it to be two years before the world overcomes this virus. Whilst we’re no longer in full lock-down and glad for that – it’s really good to be able to see some of you again – and we look forward to Hope Church reopening for worship from 6 September – and we’re working towards 20 September for St John’s – but we now have a new task – to learn to be church in a new way again.
The biggest culture shift for me as your local vicar is that our mission as a church is no longer to get as many people into church as possible! Personally I find this really hard to accept – there is something special about out Christmas, Easter and Harvest services!
When we reopen for Sunday worship this month in Hope if you intend to come along, to help us ensure social distancing, then please ensure you book with Liz (for 11am) or Adam Taylor (for Hope.4.All). Contact details for Liz and Adam can be found inside the magazine or you can direct message the website or the church Facebook page. This is important because at this new ‘trial’ stage of restarting worship it is difficult for us to know how many will come to church.
Our challenge now is to find ways to continue to help you and others to explore questions of faith and meet with Jesus Christ – without filling our buildings to full capacity. We can do this by facilitating opportunities for worship and prayer and fellowship, by using a mix of on-line, at-home and in-church resources. So we are learning now to be a ‘mixed-economy’ or ‘hybrid’ church. As well as our physical ‘in-church’ services, our online Facebook Sunday Worship will continue weekly throughout September.
3 Lockdown brought us to standstill and taught us new things about ourselves and our communities
Lockdown has been different for all of us. For some of us it has been an incredibly quiet time. You have learned to be still and tune into God’s voice better as you pray and read the Scriptures. For some of us life has got busier! You have learned to care for family members and neighbours in need, we have home schooled children – whilst continuing to work from home. Anxiety or worry has at times got to us – as family members become ill, hospital appointments have been cancelled, you have been furloughed, made redundant or unemployed, or relationships have become strained. Lockdown has been different for all us.
Equally so much good has been happening. In the Hope area, for five months a group of 19 volunteers – four of whom from within our own church congregation – carried out 311 food deliveries, 578 medication deliveries and 42 dog walks! The Penyffordd and Penymynydd community has been equally supportive – a socially distanced VE Day Celebration, volunteers supporting local food businesses with take away deliveries et al. Some of us have got to know our neighbours far better than we have ever known each other before.
4 The world is a new place.
In learning to live with Covid-19, we are learning to live through another recession, love our neighbours better (in light of the BLM movement), care for God’s creation better and not to mention finalise Brexit too!
5 As a church we are not perfect but we have become more confident.
We recognise that we can’t do everything and that we don’t get everything right. I’ve not called you as often as I would have liked. Our online worship hasn’t been particularly professional and likely hasn’t pleased everyone but we have had a go. This we can celebrate and this we can be pleased with. In many ways during we have shown ourselves to be servants – to our families, our communities and our God. This we should celebrate. As Jesus said to his first disciples:
“A new command I give you… everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-45
Rev Adam Pawley