I’ve been thinking about the phrase “sufficient unto the day” from Matthew 6:24.
As someone who loves to plan and to look forward, only existing in a timeframe of a couple of weeks has been challenging. I found I was getting quite stressed at the “not knowing” and when people asked about when churches would be opening again and what church will look like when they do, I felt like a person with a blindfold on, leading 50 people tied to my waist climbing up a steep waterfall. Sharing the conversation, inviting others to “dream the dream” about future church, opening up the discussion, has been challenging, invigorating and calming. It now feels like a shared journey and a walking together (albeit still blindfolded)…
We have been able to find positives in the current crisis for our life as a church, but we have also found challenges both for the now and for the future. While it has been wonderful gathering as a larger congregation than ever on Zoom, there is a challenge around mission and relationship building in a context of social distancing. At the moment we have been working hard at getting our current congregation onto Zoom, but this must never become an exclusive place, one only for insiders. This perception issue was real enough when we were in our buildings – it is still a very real issue that church is never seen as “club”.
If, as we move into the future, we hold a dual model of both virtual and physical, how will that be worked out? And how is that best served by the clergy? How do we combine church which has been bound to place and church which is not bound by place? We have seen that benefices have traditionally struggled to overcome parochial mindsets. Does loyalty to a virtual church community trump loyalty to a parish building?
I’ve spoken before about the encouragement that worshipping in greater numbers has brought. As a rural incumbent I have never had the luxury of a settled place – I am always on the move, often rushing from parish to parish on a Sunday morning. The sense of stability, of stillness, of being present to church on a Sunday has been a profound revelation after years of multi parish movement.
So I find myself more content not to rush, not to plan, but to exist in the “now” – rejoicing in what is growing, holding in prayer that which is lacking – physical gathering, Holy Communion, singing in a group etc, praying for a merciful end to lockdown, and being present to possibility.