Walking on shifting sands
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
by Jane Silk
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Matthew 6 25-27
There was a sense that come the Autumn things might be starting to settle after the upheavals of the past 18 months or so. The vaccine had reduced hospitalisations and deaths; restrictions were removed at the end of July and many activities were permissible again. But with the disruption and tragedy so many have endured, it is clearly not a return to life as we knew it before March 2020.
We are told that the eye of the storm may has passed, but with cases so rapidly increasing do we really feel that this is true? Many of us feel battered, weary, anxious, isolated, and fearful after what we’re going through. Have the requirements to socially distance, to wear face masks, and be confined to our homes left us with a sense of powerlessness and enduring fear? How do we look ahead when we can’t envision the future? Will people increasingly return to church as we knew it, or will our experience of online church have changed things for some time to come, if not permanently? What are people doing differently as a result of the pandemic – and how is their thinking being shaped and changed as a result?
In a month that raised the profile of mental health we all need to be mindful of what all of us have been through and how each one of us have our individual challenges in coming back into our churches and the community.
Looking back at the unfolding events of March 2020 I remember just how much, in those early weeks, I found very stressful. Now we find ourselves in the midst of a different quality of anxiety and uncertainty. Then it was all about fear, having to stop most of our familiar patterns of life and not having any idea when restrictions would be over.
Now it seems so much harder in ways we hadn’t anticipated. Even the relative certainty of rules and restrictions has been removed.
We have exchanged a frustration of ‘being told what to do’ with all the complexities of having to make many more decisions for ourselves without sufficient information and knowledge.
Acts 8 tells us about a pivotal moment in the life of the Early Church.
‘On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.’ Acts 8:1
The external realities of persecution scattered the church and, like the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, so much that was familiar went out of the window and so many of us felt isolated as the freedom to attend church was taken from us. In Acts we read that those who were scattered preached the word wherever they went.
I think that we can identify with some of the emotions those early disciples must have gone through. But the Lord’s hand was with them and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. It was interesting to note that during the pandemic a record number of people Googled ‘God’ and ‘faith’. Now as we find ourselves in uncharted territory today, as disciples, I want us to keep sight of the fact that the body of Christ are still the ones entrusted with the good news of Jesus. Buildings, services, programmes, and plans can all help, but they can never be as vital as each one of us being a witness wherever we find ourselves. Today our church wants to focus on being out in our community as of disciples who worship, witness and love.
Remember it’s all about people. Be a disciple, and be part of a discipling community and let church discover new expressions through that. Be thankful for our roots and the ways they help to orientate us in these uncertain times. Graciously perceive and encourage new ways of flourishing and try to not focus on your fears. Bless one another and remember to have a heart for God’s Kingdom above all else.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We’ve all experienced the pandemic in many different ways and it’s affected us all very differently. We’d love you to share what you found helpful during the last eighteen months and any blessings that have stood out for you by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.