Church of England Diocese of Bristol St. Martin Knowle

A message from Rev Becky Waring... 25th April

4 Mar 2021, 4:15 p.m.

Dear Friends 

Has anyone else found themselves saying "it almost feels normal" recently? I had a couple of days off this week, and had afternoon tea in the garden with my two daughters, mum and mum in law. It was beautiful weather and other than not giving everyone a hug at the end we found ourselves saying "it almost feels normal".

The dictionary defines normal as "conforming to a type, standard or regular pattern" - which might suggest that the last year has been the very definition of 'normal' given the regulations and restrictions we've been living under! I don't know about you but although we've normalised so much of these bizarre times we've lived through, I need the second part of the definition for it to truly make sense "characterized by that which is considered usual, typical or routine".

So 'normal' may be more of a sense, or a feeling, as opposed to something we can pin down .. whose normal is it anyway!

Normal doesn't mean stable, and in fact it's said that 'normal' is always changing, even without a global pandemic, because what is considered normal today will be replaced by a new normal in the future, whether we seek it or not, because it's people who determine what normal is - societal values, family circumstances, what "works" in relationships.

God doesn't ask us to follow what society says is "normal" - God invites us to be holy, which could be understood as normal according to God's values. Jesus invites us to follow a simple command - Love God with all your heart, soul and mind; love your neighbour as yourself. This is the 'normal' characteristic of following Him, to be concerned about God and other people, as well as ourselves. Paul's letter to the Ephesians invites us to "be humble and gentle, bear with one another in love", perhaps reminding us of the pattern of extending grace to each other, particularly as we navigate the relaxing of rules. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says "keep on doing the things you have learned, received and heard ... by which he means those things that are true, honourable, pleasing, worthy of praise etc. In other words, bring the good with you. In John's first letter he reminds us that "perfect love drives out fear" - ie that we're not called to live in fear but to trust God, so we can approach anything that brings us anxiety or uncertainty with prayer and Godly wisdom.

So perhaps if our new normal is going to be conforming to a type, standard or pattern, I wonder if these characteristics might be a starting point:

Be concerned about God and other people

Extend grace to each other

Bring the good with you

Approach uncertainty or anxiety in prayer

I'm sure there are lots more indicators of "normal" in God's economy - let me know of others that come to your mind, I would love to hear from you.

We will discover our new normal together, in our values, and in our behaviour, as individuals, as families, as community and as Church. In the meantime, I pray you catch those glimpses, in hope and expectation that we can get through this together.

With every blessing