It was a throw-away remark from a friend last week, which somehow stuck in the mind. At that point we were still in the middle of the forty days of Christmas (which draw to a close on the feast of Candlemas, which we celebrated on February 2nd); and this particularly bleak midwinter was evidenced by the snow on the ground as I looked out of my study window. The idea of <em>anyone</em> planting <em>anything</em> at such a time seemed absurd. But my friend knows a thing or two about gardening, and I had no reason to doubt him. Now is the time to be sowing onions.
It was the Area Deans who gave me some idea of what that might look like as we met together on a zoom call yesterday morning. No-one was minimising the challenges of this season in the life of our church and wider communities (not to mention the personal challenges it’s throwing up). No-one was unrealistic about the complexities of a gradual return to some kind of normality. But as we began to address the question, ‘What might a post-pandemic church look like, and how should we prepare for it?’ there was a real energy to our discussions, and a sense of renewed hope. True, things won’t be the same, everyone agreed that. But do we want them to be the same? Does God? Or may this prolonged crisis give us the opportunity for new vision, fresh thinking, based on all we’ve been learning along the way? Is now the time to be sowing onions?
It’s a theme we will be exploring further as we look towards the season of Lent; and it’s prompted a prayer that I’m finding myself praying most days, based on the words of Isaiah 43:19:
<em>‘Lord, you are doing a new thing. Help us to perceive it’. </em>