I am not a natural swimmer: I was late to learning and while I quite enjoy sedate progress up and down a pool, I’m not an out and out front crawler. It will come as no surprise then to learn that even the thought of diving fills me with horror….
I so admire those who can climb up dizzying heights and walk confidently out on a frankly ridiculously narrow walkway/board. They stand poised, confident, ready to hurl their bodies into the air, turning, spinning, until shooting down perfectly upright into the deep water beneath them.
I would so love to think that coming out of lockdown I resemble a diver. How I wish that I could stand on the edge of the board, looking poised and ready, not fearing the twists and turns to come and ready to embrace to deep refreshing waters beneath.
Sadly I think I more represent how I would be in real life: a bit of a honking wreck by the time I’ve reached the top of the steps, not so much poised as teetering, looking longingly at the steps hoping by some miracle I’ll be allowed to climb back down them, but realising that actually I do have to commit to leaping off this board. I ask myself do I have the core strength to arrive at the water upright or will I bellyflop drastically into the pool, causing an enormous splash and gaining “nul points”…
Thankfully having had some honest conversations with clergy colleagues I know I’m not alone in this feeling. It does seem a “teetering” time. Here we are, so close to the end of lockdowns and restrictions with everything before us. But yet we can’t simply climb back down to how life was before: we have to face the new waters. Some may feel poised and prepared for that, but others may feel rather more anxious and ill-prepared.
As a church it would be so tempting to say – lets just go back. Let’s resume everything just as it was before, and all breathe a sigh of relief: coronavirus was a blip after all, nothing to see here, and all that. We don’t have to dive off the board, we don’t have to worry about how we will manage the double back flip, nor indeed how we will land. We could – couldn’t we stop teetering and just go back, nice and easy?
We know in our hearts though that the virus merely brought forward some of the hard decisions we were facing anyway. We do have to take the dive and make the leap. But is this teetering time all bad? Even in fear there can also be excitement. What new thing is God asking us to do? Indeed what trust he is placing in us to be the architects of the new church that will emerge. What an amazing responsibility and privilege.
And actually when it comes to church, my diver analogy breaks down. Because it is not about some lone vicar standing shivering at the top of the diving platform. It is about a group, a community of believers standing together. Some may be indeed poised and ready to dive. Others may be hanging back a little more. But we can all hold each other’s hands. We can all encourage one another, and we can all take that leap of faith together. Olympic synchronised diving eat your heart out – just you watch what the church can do.