Coronavirus – Church response
Suspension of services and other meetings …. but Church life continues
The Government issued revised Corona virus advice on 17th March – in essence to avoid gatherings, crowded places and non-essential travel. The Church of England at national level has since taken the decision to suspend public worship until further notice.
That means there will be no Sunday services at KPC until we are given the go ahead to resume by the national church. We are also postponing all church organised meetings and activities for the time being, including the APCM scheduled for 25th March, home groups and other events whether on church premises or otherwise. Separate advice has been issued to education establishments and therefore the exception for us is Stepping Stones Pre-school.
Message from Geoff Lanham, our Vicar on 6th May
I’ve been taking great pleasure from a beautiful cherry tree in our garden. Its blossom has been magnificent, but recently I noticed myself feeling quite anxious as I looked at it. When weather forecasts came on the TV, I’d be scanning for the windspeed to see if there was a likelihood the blossom would be blown off. I realised that I was wanting to cling on to the glory of the tree. I wasn’t ready to let the cherry tree do what cherry trees do, which is shed their blossom and grow their leaves fully. As I reflected, I realised that the tree stood as a bit of a metaphor for how we might be feeling about church in a post-lockdown era. Maybe there’s a part of us that will be wanting things as they were; to hang on to former glories. But as politicians begin to ponder how to ease some of the restrictions, it’s probably true to say that all of us are going to have to get used to a “new normal” that includes a “new normal” for church life as well. Things are unlikely to be able to be as they were. Perhaps this is a source of worry for some, as not everyone likes change.
Rather than seeing the new normal as a threat, we could see it as an opportunity. I’m not in the habit of quoting Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, but I recently read her saying,
“When things come apart – when the kaleidoscope of our lives is shaken – there is an opportunity to see them put back together differently, and see a new way of doing things.”
This is true for us as Christians in Knowle. We have an opportunity to think creatively about how to respond to the new landscape. Perhaps this time of enforced separation has reminded us that church is about more than fuelling myriad services on a Sunday. At its core, church is really about personal devotion to God, community, service and compassion; about receiving from God as much as giving out. We’ve had our memory jogged that it’s possible to grow in love for God and in self-knowledge through times when all our props are taken away. I don’t know yet what the “new normal” will be for church, but like the leaves of the cherry tree, there will be a glory in the new stage. Actually, I’m now really rather enjoying the beauty of the next stage of the tree’s life.
Please join me and your PCC in praying that God would reveal more of what he wants us to be as a church. While at a retreat house in February, I had a picture in prayer of tending a forest. Some of the trees needed felling to create space for new growth. This process wasn’t about destruction, but rather the creation of healthy space for the flourishing of the trees. I sensed God possibly speaking about what the trees represented. I’ll offer my thoughts for your testing. I felt they perhaps represented some of our cherished traditions and ways of doing things, our overbusyness, the age structure of our wider church leadership and the fear of judgment that some people experience. It could, of course, be the result of fevered imaginings, so I’ll leave this with you.
Let me mention one other aspect of the “new normal”. Last weekend I noticed in the newspaper an article entitled “Where to go after the lockdown”. People have started fantasising about what they’ll do and where they’ll visit after the easing of restrictions. I’d like to suggest that for Christians, as important as where we’ll go and who we’ll see, is the question “Who will I be?” What will the post-lockdown me be like? What will I have learnt about myself and who God wants me to be? In Galatians 4: 19, Paul talks about being “again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you”. If we are God’s project, how is he re-making us in these desert times? No doubt all of us have been honed and developed by the experience of social distancing. The challenge will be to ensure that the fruit of kindness, compassion, empathy and love for neighbour continues to flower as our sense of existential threat lessens. The point of discipleship, after all, is not to cram our heads with information and internet talks so we remain at the level of thinking. Disciples are those who are changed many times over as Jesus is formed in our character. We’ve been reminded forcefully over recent weeks that Christians do not have the monopoly of kindness. This crisis has evoked lovely qualities in so many people. The challenge for us is not to slip back once this is all over into an “old normal” but to ensure the qualities that have been forged in us continue to flourish and become established. In Ephesians 5: 2, Paul urges us as dearly loved children to “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” So may his life and love flow through us as a sweet aroma in our community.