What’s this new normal thing all about?
As I’m sure many of you are already aware, last Saturday night the Government announced that churches could re-open for private prayer only with effect from Monday 15th June 2020. I have to confess that while I know this is something that I know many of us have been praying for, I did feel some level of concern about how best we progress. Yes, it is important that we are once more able to open the doors of our sacred buildings and enable people to seek solace through prayer there but it is of equal if not more importance that we do everything we can to ensure the protection and safety of all those who wish to find peace and consolation there.
As we have discovered over the lockdown period, church is more than just a collection of buildings. Church is caring for our communities. Church is being mindful that our needs vary dependant on our context and being respectful of our differences. Church is reaching out to those who we know are struggling in this time, those who are lonely, overwhelmed, anxious. Church is proclaiming the Good News of Jesus and assuring everyone that they are loved and cherished by God, regardless of who they are, what they look like and how they live their lives. Church is standing in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are oppressed be that on the grounds of ethnicity, gender, sexuality or the myriad of other reasons we use to discriminate against those we fear simply because we don’t know them. We can have the finest buildings in the world but if those buildings aren’t filled with people who have open hearts and a desire to become ever more Christlike then we are lost as an institution.
Sometimes I find myself reminiscing about the “good old days” when we were all able to meet together for worship, to sing, pray, hug each other and of course eat together. I pray that those days will one day return but in the meantime, we need to find a way of creating a “new normal” that will also us not only to connect with each other but also with God, in a deeper, more fulfilling way.
Because among all the challenges of the past few weeks, there have been extraordinary moments – moments of joy as people have seen their loved ones albeit on a screen or socially distanced several meters away, moments of generosity where we have been blessed by God’s unexpected provision, moments of thankfulness when communities have stood together cheering, clapping and generally making a joyful noise to show their appreciation of the many key workers who are enabling us to have some semblance of “normality” in our daily lives.
I think the word “normal” is a bit over rated and certainly very subjective! My normal is not necessarily your normal and vice versa and that doesn’t make either of us wrong. What it does requires though is tolerance and respect, inclusivity and acceptance. That is the post lockdown world we strive for, that is and always has been God’s intention for creation, that it be a place that is built on kingdom values.
I leave you today with a poem by Andy Raine, one of the founders of the Northumbria Community. Andy’s words are worth reflecting on as we move into this next phase not only of post lockdown life but also into a world where we are truly united in the fight against injustice and inequality in all its forms.
“I am not here to pass judgement
or point the finger at anyone.
My name was written in the sand
as one who is forgiven.
Strengthened with hope, impervious to shame,
I will walk freely like the freshness
of the dry lands after rain.
Let light spill out of heaven
through my life,
dispelling mediocrity and silent blame.
Too many people, guilt-stricken, wounded,
walk in regret,
feeling bad about failing,
apologise even for breathing.
Raw belief, a passion for others
grows in me,
encircling each moment
with instinctive prayer.
I will carry the freshness”
of the dry lands after rain.
Compassion lives in me again.