This message was delivered at the Annual Church meeting this week, as a final thought. The meeting was dedicated to Ted Bowden, who many of us knew and loved, and who always asked a question about the church roof space at every APCM! May he rest in peace, and rise in glory,
There are many people to offer a personal thanks to as we reflect on 2019 and beyond. I am grateful for the support from those stepping down from their roles, to Steve, Becky, Clare and Eileen. I am also so grateful to those “stepping up” – for our church wardens Andrew and Roger, for continuing and new PCC members and for the support of the Ministry team.
There are huge numbers of teams of people involved in the life of the church, inside and outside of the building, in the safety and well being of people, in engaging with the hall and wider community, in managing our physical and financial resources, in administration, paperwork, social media, worship, and in sharing ministry for all ages – thank you.
Dr Aisha Ahmad, a researcher and professor in Canada, has conducted field work in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Mali, Iraq and Lebanon, and has advised both government and international organisations on global security policies.
She has recently written about what it’s like to hit a 6 month mark in a crisis.
She says that it is a very normal time to struggle or slump. The desire to get away or make it stop is intense and there is nowhere to run. That’s OK, there will be life on the other side. Right now it feels like we’re looking at a long dark wintery tunnel, but it’s not going to be like that.
Rather this is our next major adaptation phase. We’ve already re-learned how to do shopping, host meetings, even teach classes. And we have found new ways to be happy and have fun. But as the days get colder and shorter, we need to be ready to innovate again.
First, the 6 month wall is real and normal. And frankly, she says, it’s not productive to try and ram our head through it! Of course there are things we have to do – work, teach, cook, exercise. But just don’t expect to be sparklingly happy or wildly creative in the middle of your wall. Right now if we can meet your obligations and be kind to loved ones we’re doing more than OK.
Also, don’t be afraid that your happiness and creativity are gone. Clear away less challenging projects. Read a novel. Download a meditation app. I might add, be still, pray, rest in God’s presence. Take some mental “leave” until you clear the wall, to try to support our mental and emotional health.
Take heart, we have navigated a harrowing global disaster for 6 months with resourcefulness and courage. We have already found new ways to live, love and be happy under these rough conditions. A miracle and a marvel. This is hard proof that we have what it takes to keep going.
So dear friends, do not despair of the 6 month wall. It’s not permanent, nor will it define you in this period of adversity. Trust that all that helped you through the first phase is still there. Take a breath and a pause. You’ll be on the other side in no time.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s not to plan too far in advance. The 2019 report feels like a lifetime ago, yet it is all true: the hopes expectations and vision may still be appropriate. We know God will never leave or forsake us – even in our darkest moments it is a truth, although may not be able to see it.
I believe it is also true that God is in the working out. We’ve already experienced incredible acts of worship. Some have been online, some streamed live, some gathered and not recorded or shown on social media.
We’ve experienced wonderful conversations, some on the telephone, some on zoom, some face to face, some on a doorstep, or across a pavement in roads where neighbours have got to know each other for the first time.
We’ve experienced moments of stillness, beauty, peace, and moments of frenzy with new regulations coming out at the 11th hour, risk assessments and paperwork, decisions and reactions.
We’ve experienced death and we’ve experienced life. Lament as well as joy.
We’ve experienced church – not as we’ve known it entirely in the past, but we’ve learned that sacred spaces can be found in many places, we learned to find community that looks like the body of Christ when we’re reaching out to another, or even accepting a helping hand ourselves. We’ve found confession when we’ve struggled to understand where God is, we’ve found sacrament in those glimpses of the invisible God in the ordinary and everyday. We’ve known sacrifice and exile in the Eucharistic fast – those 153 days of not receiving communion.
And we will continue to evolve as church. Those biblical images of pruning, preparing soil, sewing seeds feel real as we explore how to be in this strangest of times. God’s generosity is scandalous, outrageous, exuberant and we’re invited to inhabit a frame of heart mind soul and strength that is equally generous.
We don’t yet know what the rest of 2020 will hold – we’ll find out at next years APCM! But for now, thank you sisters and brothers – we’re 6 months in, and our PM says it’s likely to be another 6 months. Together we can do this.
We’re church. Forming, shaping, evolving, growing in new ways, a new church warden, a new PCC, new rules and regulations, we’re church within a story of love that was, is and is to come.
With every blessing