I am very aware that as I write this, as a resident in the city of Leicester, I and the people of Leicester continue to be in a state of lockdown. I have been reflecting on how we have changed during lockdown – more specifically how have our lives and priorities changed.
I’ve been so moved by this photograph essay titled‘Keeping the Faith’ which has beautifully captured how people of faith have adapted in the face of the pandemic. Whilst it is clear that this has been at great cost, there is something beautiful threading through this around a deepening of belief, a strengthening of relationships, and a realisation of the importance of faith for many people.
So, what have we learned about ourselves? What have we learned about community? Priorities? What have we learned about faith? How can we ensure that some of these revelations continue to be with us as we begin to emerge from lockdown?
I’ve read and watched with interest as so many have grappled with, or tried to make sense of, this season of lockdown, where we are absent from our churches. I’ve very much felt the presence of pray-ers in the walls in some churches, and have loved the sense of God’s presence that that has brought. I’ve also been really encouraged by the inventive ways that the people of God have found to be ‘church’ or the ‘body of Christ’ in their communities over these last weeks. I’ve loved the ‘shop window’ opportunity that has come from an internet/social media presence, and I’m encouraged by the ways in which people have engaged. I’ve even been surprised by how energising I have found ‘creating’ worship, or God encounter opportunities.
I’ve also heard snippets of dialogue about how much easier and cheaper it would be to have more people work from home, even after the lockdown is lifted. Some people would welcome the idea and some would really not. I’ve been working from home since I became a curate, but I currently miss getting out of the house, and away from the screen, and having people to bounce ideas off. I was sent an article this week by Roger Cohen, who was musing on what moving away from the ‘old dispensation’ might begin to look like. He refreshingly called for ‘balance’ in the ‘something new’…how do we get more balance as Church so that the ‘shop window’ approach continues, as do worship possibilities for those who are housebound?
The Old Testament reading for Morning Prayer today was about God providing manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. We are also going to be thinking about the road to Emmaus on Sunday. These two pieces of scripture originally sparked me to write this, but I’ve put some photographs round it now…a bit of a sneak preview of something I will be thinking about more on Sunday. What are we doing when we break bread together?
This is the week of the year dedicated to Christian unity,
a time to join together to pray for the possibility
that one day we will be a whole body or community
which celebrates and commemorates catholicity.
A week where each of us align our intentionality
to that of God our maker our creator, and the reality
of the body of Christ which draws such responsibility
from each believer regardless of individual sensitivity.
It is so much easier to focus on matters of disparity
rather than actively seek those areas of commonality.
How happily we slip into ‘them’ and ‘us’ in our humanity
and quickly identify those points requiring conformity.
We fail to remain awake to worldly ways of destructibility,
instead straying like sheep, we are allured by animosity.
Previously indistinct notes become matters of legality
further severing bonds which bind with fierce brutality
What if one week became two, three or four of generosity
of spirit to our fellow believers? If we espoused the ambiguity
of the mysteries surrounding people and God’s interactivity,
and perhaps laid aside the centrality of certainty or clarity
on issues often known to divide like gender or sexuality?
Intent on establishing a universal and obligatory morality
which ignores God’s upside-down justice for austerity,
with the God of surprises does it not all lack reliability?
I pray for unity which extends beyond human probability,
one which disciples to favour quality over quantity
and places Jesus’ example and gospel of inclusivity
at its heart – Jesus of the marginality not the majority!
I pray for unity of the body of Christ where vulnerability
is held and cherished, with division hidden by invisibility.
A unity which recognizes Christ Jesus as superiority
and all who make up the body as existing in equality.