I am physically at home more at the moment. My brain is not. People I drive to see now ‘come to me’ via Zoom or phone. Whatever demarcation that existed between work and home – often geography – has been blurred (irrevocably?). I am concerned about the ‘digital divide’ and rely on Royal Mail to help. Meetings still happen – in fact, more so. Will ‘zoom’ become a verb as ‘google’ has become? I wonder what things would have been like if COVID-19 had happened in my first parish (with 5 children between baby to 9 years old) in a rather small manse? The events of the world affects us differently as per our life circumstances. Who didn’t cheer and smile at Captain Tom on Thursday? Who didn’t sigh or cry at a baby’s birth but her mother’s death? Chaplaincies are also different. The concept of a ‘ministry of presence’ seems stretched to almost breaking. What more should be done? Maybe we should do less? “Be still and know that I am God” after all. It has been lovely zooming with the family. Little screens on a big screen all talking; the family around the table but where is all the food? One day. And that’s a point to remember – in fact a key point – one day, people will be together around the table – in homes – and in churches. But for now, there is Zoom worship or YouTube and Facetime worship and services on Lutheran Radio UK – the same technology but different paths – one is performative and participation and the other is performance and viewing and listening. I’ve heard the suggestion that people should watch the service on YouTube and then have a Zoom fellowship time when everyone brings their cup of tea or coffee! How creative, we are becoming! And that is something to acknowledge, that the ELCE moved in 9 days (!) to many alternative ways to worship when the ‘lockdown’ was announced. Amazing. No, amazing is always the people, those we know on the ‘front line’, any of the front lines – medical, law and order, retail, electricity, transport, communication, emptying the bins – whom have I forgotten? It’s horrible to be forgotten. But the Church isn’t so much forgotten as irrelevant, or relevant only to some, no that’s not it … that’s not the right word. What is it? I know … ‘essential’. That’s what I’ve discovered – that the Church isn’t essential here in the UK. I don’t have a problem with people and society saying I’m stupid or deluded or that the Church is irrelevant or superstitious, that can be expected but to have the churches completely closed in some denominations seems, to me, to be colluding in our own non-essential-ness. I’m not talking about public worship – let’s stop the spread, I know, I agree – but having a place open with social distancing in place for people to come and pray can’t be a problem. Maybe it can. If the supermarkets can do it, why can’t the churches? Is it because there is a default position that we don’t have to go anywhere to be with God; God comes to us? The world knows that, I suppose, and thinks of God almost as air or radio waves but Christianity teaches that the Holy Spirit uses means – channels – words, water, bread and wine – so that we can know it is Jesus and not another spirit. I do wonder how these weeks will shape the Church. Thank you, Jesus, that you are with your people!
I’d better get round to writing this bulletin blurb! Stop day dreaming! Oh, there’s no space left. Well, just enough for ’Christ is risen!’. GS