My dear brothers and sisters in Christ
How are you? I wonder if you could just take a moment to pause and reflect on that question. In our weekly chat this week, Laura and I commented that the answer to this question should never be a short one, and yet so often we answer with a quick 'fine thanks'!
So how are you? As we continue to emerge, I know that so many people I'm encountering are afraid, anxious, feeling somewhere between trapped and safe in their homes, and yet when they do emerge, whether to return to work, or school, or even go for a walk, they realise that all is well. Some are even saying "it's beginning to feel normal".
We still have a journey ahead of us as a society, and as a church, and I pray that this journey won't be driven by fear. We are told countless times in scripture "do not be afraid" (there's even a myth that this is written 365 times in the bible, one for each day of the year, not true but a great thought!)
The truth is that 'normal', as we knew it, is gone. You will see from the survey responses, that there is a liberation for some people from what had become normal, pre lockdown, in a pace of life that was too busy, too stressful, too many meetings, not enough time to be. We also know that God is the creator who continues to create, and even during lock down, we have been experiencing ways of being with each other that we long to become part of the normal going forward - attentiveness to our neighbours and community, awareness of social injustice and inequality, respect and thanks for those who provide service, who have so often been considered lower, or less important, than those with power and authority. And we also know that there is a desire for familiarity, for connection in ways that we know, and for some a desire not to return to gathered worship until we can all be together in the way that is 'normal'.
I have said repeatedly, and I still believe it to be true, that God is calling us to be His church in a new way. We may have been people who have resisted change in the past: coronavirus has taken that option from us! I am in awe and am amazed by the creative and resilient way you have responded to the change imposed on your lives - parents who have had to try to home school;families trying to create different work spaces in the home; young families trying to play and be creative in restricted space; meetings taking place in a digital environment; learning the niceties of how to 'zoom'; embracing technology to stay connected with families and friends; learning to shop differently; having to stretch finances to go further, learning to rely on others for support (not easy for many of us!); learning new rhythms of prayer and reflection; finding ways to connect with worship whilst in isolation and so much more. I also continue to pray for relief from the unwelcome consequences of this change - the loneliness, the mental ill health, the frustration, the grief and more. Coronavirus has taken away the option to resist all of this. Normal as we knew it is gone, and God is calling us to be His church in a new way.
I believe this is a season of listening to God, and this comes through prayerfully listening to each other's experience. Our young people are in the process of responding to their own survey - watch this space for their reflections! In the meantime, please get in touch to tell me how you are, how this experience has been, how you are feeling about reconnecting physically as the body of Christ.
All of this reflection, the survey results, feedback and conversation will be recognising, shaping and forming the ways in which we will connect together going forward.
I continue to pray for you, and for this beautiful parish.
With love in Christ
Rev Becky Waring
Vicar St Martins Knowle
Area Dean Bristol South