As we begin to contemplate what life post pandemic lockdown looks like various images come to mind: will we be like moles blinking in sunlight or prisoners released from captivity? I was chatting to a friend who works as a management consultant in the far East. Restrictions there have been lifted and so he was able to hold training sessions in person rather than on Zoom. After the first full day of training the participants begged to be let back onto Zoom as they were exhausted from the sensory overload of being physically present to whole people with all their body language on show, in a unknown room, with travel either end.
I suspect once lockdown ends there will an initial euphoria of being able to be with each other, shake hands, hug (almost unimaginable I know) and then maybe things will be a bit scratchy for a while. People we found irritating or grating before lockdown will be just the same and our senses may be heightened to their habits and annoyances after a year off from them. Without the day-to-day social interactions we are all used to, our skins may have got a little thinner, life might feel a bit bruising, and we may find we have a heightened sensitivity in our social interactions.
Re-integrating as social units – be that at work, at school, even as families will take a bit of time. Perhaps we had dreams of a better society post pandemic and find those dreams disappointed. We will certainly have to face up to the economic impact of the virus, the changes to our high streets, the educational cost to our young people, the mental toll on more fragile and less resilient members of society. None of these are quick fixes – there is no vaccine or one shot pill to overcome these tremendous hurdles. We are once more going to be asked to run a marathon not a sprint.
Our church life as a response to this takes on a greater importance. It is in church that we express a radical at-one-ness with each other and God. We confess our faults publicly in each other’s presence. We share the peace with each other – not an easy peace, not a cheap peace, but God’s peace, that deep shalom, which is so much more than just being nice to each other. We break bread together – a symbol of unity, inclusion and hospitality with love at its heart. We know as churches we are not perfect. We often struggle with irritation and internal dis-ease with each other – but by and large we stick it out together, and work out how we live in this community we have come to be.
To be a sign of unity in a world that might struggle with that is what is driving my feelings that we should continue post end of lockdown to come together across the benefice for our main act of worship on a Sunday. If we go back to purely parish/village based worship we are not making a very strong case that the kingdom of God has nothing to do with human geography or village boundaries. With social distancing we run the almost delicious problem of our churches being too small. With the end of social distancing wouldn’t it be amazing if that were still a “problem” we had to face….