This isn’t a long blog post you will be relieved to know. I just wanted to mention three areas I think are worth thinking about as we come out of lock-down and try to do a bunch of “re’s” – Recover, reimagine, reinvigorate our life together as the people of God.
What will it look like now?
However, before we rush on to what is next – what have we been learning? In particular, what have we been learning about these three things – liturgy, tradition and sacrament?
Liturgy – The Work of the People.
That is pretty much what liturgy means : the work of the people. Isn’t that wonderful. I would imagine if your church is anything like mine it has been stretched and challenged for the last three months in considering the what and the how and who when it comes to creating services and enabling people to meet together via zoom, Facebook or Youtube.
Many more people have been involved in making church happen online. Yes, the usual suspects are in there – but we have had a more diverse range of preachers, contributors, editors and guests – children and families have been more engaged in helping make things happen by hosting services, sharing craft they have made and bringing their energy to our “all age” experience of weekly church.
How, when we start returning to church buildings, will we keep this diverse range of voices engaged and involved in shaping our worship? The work of the people has come to the fore, let’s keep it there.
Tradition – What we pass on?
Another word, like liturgy, we might be familiar with, but forget it’s root meaning. Basically it means “to pass on” or “cross over”. I’ve referred to Psalm 78 a number of times in previous posts and, as I’m keeping this short, I’m not going to bang on about it here – other than to say it is all about what we need to tell the next generation.
What have we passed on during this time? Gone is the 40 minute preach – our teaching has been distilled to a few minutes. Has it been a surprise how rich a ten minute sermon can be when compared to 40? We’ve had to strip things back to what really matters – what do I need to say? How will I say that clearly in the next 10 minutes? I’m not saying that every 40 minutes sermon dilutes the Word of God, but we have perhaps needed to be more intentional about ensuring what we set out to say and do in our online activity is what happens!
In youth and children’s work, what has been a sacred cow group meeting or an activity we just couldn’t imagine not having has gone out the window for three months. Yes, we might be sensing the loss of being in the same space together – but what have we gained?
Sustaining relationships have become more important than sustaining the programme or set of activities that constitute the “external” marks of children’s and youth work. Connection over content. People over programmes. Passion over perfection.
How, when we start returning to church buildings, will we keep that focus on relationships mattering more than what we do when we are together? Simple and essential things need to not be lost amidst trying to “do” more now that we can.
Sacrament – Grace Gift Stories?
The word means a holy mystery. We most often associate the word sacrament with the Eucharist or communion. We’ve had a challenging time in the church – some have found it too hard or contentious an issue to have communion remotely where those watching can’t join in. Others have kept the practice of breaking bread and encouraging others to do similar but not call it communion. I don’t want to get in to how we’ve done that – but simply want to ask what are the gifts of grace we’ve received during this time?
Are there digital stories of grace that seem to us a holy mystery? We’ve had more people attending worship remotely than we would have if we were still meeting in the building. There are, apparently, more people praying during this time – an upsurge of interest in the spiritual and reaching out towards God in prayer and petition. There have been fantastic examples of collaboration across the church in the UK. It has been wonderful watching Spring Harvest and New Wine seek to bless each other and what they are trying to do in the midst of the sadness at not being able to run their events as normal this year.
What grace gift stories can you tell from your experience of these past months? What has God been doing in your street, church community, school or town? How might you hold those stories and continue to share them – How might they become a way of remembering the goodness and grace of God in the midst of the tough times we have had? Each of us is a story of grace! How might we allow that to shape our direction and our values as we move forward together?