“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 This is what God asks of us both during lockdown and as we look towards the future mission priorities of the church.
Since the restrictions on assemblies and public worship were introduced, the URC has produced some excellent material both by way of guidance on the requirements to re-open premises and in challenging congregations and elders meetings to think positively about the future.
First we had a very helpful leaflet Ready for the new ‘normal’ produced by the Synod Moderators and more recently a paper entitled New Reality, same Mission which has been produced by the URC’s Church Related Community Work, Mission and Discipleship teams along with Church Action on Poverty to enable local churches to explore questions of community presence and engagement – something which I know is dear to the heart of Emmanuel URC. Both these papers can be found on the URC website.
I was very struck by a quote in the latter document attributed to Pope Francis. We are not living through an era of change but a change of era. We are entering a new chapter in the history of the world, and of the church. The scale of the challenge before us demands a careful response.
To continue with the idea of chapters, I often doze off when reading a book and then have to turn back the pages until I find the page I was at before I lost concentration and then resume reading as before. But that’s not how it’s going to be this time. We are familiar with the concept of different eras – we talk about pre-war and post-war, pre-industrial revolution and post-industrial revolution, BC and AD. Is this going to be such another such pivotal moment?
If we believe we can slip back into how we were before (which is quite possible given time) then I believe we have missed an opportunity and not appreciated the many revelations which have come out of the last few months and the possibilities which have opened up. The restrictions have brought home to us the things which really matter – serving the needs of our local community, communication, keeping in touch whether by phone, Zoom, newsletter or any other means, the ability to hear God’s word, praise him and pray together without actually physically assembling in one place at a particular time. We can offer pastoral support and care for our membership and crucially also engage with our communities and serve them in many different ways which do not involve a building or Sunday worship. To have access to a building which can be used for this purpose will be an additional bonus. This is the challenge for your Elders and Church Meetings.
I am mindful of the sermon preached by our Moderator Elect, Bridget Banks, in the Southern Synod Service on 7th June* in which she exhorted us not to look back to the past but be open to change in the future. So as we emerge from this strange time, and with the possibility of new ministry ahead of us, let’s be like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis – different and more beautiful than ever!
*You can find this service on the Southern Synod website under News.