The word NORMAL has had a lot of air play lately. Do we yearn for the old normal or are we eagerly expectant of whatever the heck a new normal might look like? One thing is certain; the future will not look the same as we might have expected twelve months ago.
Are we ready for change? Whether we like it or not, like the old game of Hide and Seek, the future is crying out: ‘Ready or not, here I come.’
One clinical defintion of death is a body that does not change. Change means life while stagnation means death. So, if you think about and put it in plain English, if you don’t change you die!
A number of congregations are now edging their way back to meeting again in worship. Of course for many this is of high priority, but my hope is that we do not, or have not simply picked up where we left off. My hope is that we are at least considering things we have learnt on the journey through this extraordinary time. It does seem a waste if, having gone through this time, we just go back to ‘normal’.
I have been using ZOOM technology for a couple of years now for Executive meetings of the Synod Placement Committee and so it has not been a new experience for me. However, meeting via this medium each Sunday morning for worship has been a new thing. The immediate difference for me is that you get to see people’s faces! Most Sunday mornings you only get a view of one face and a whole bunch of backs of heads.
I am aware that my worship leading style causes some people discomfort because I do not use the pulpit and I tend to move around a bit. My little hang up is that I am a people person and to properly connect within the context of worship I need to feel connected. Standing above and back from a group is not comfortable for me. As I say, it’s my hang up.
Even though people tuning in to Online Church are scattered across the region – and the country – I feel more connected sometimes than I do going to a ‘real’ church service. Seeing people’s faces makes a huge difference. When I think about our being created in the image of God I do not think of backs, but fronts.
Will our returning to a physical worship space make us feel more connected? Probably the answer for many will be yes. But there are some weirdos around – a bit like me - who do not find that worship space necessarily a connective place. Indeed, statistics show that increasingly people outside the life of the church, generally speaking, have little interest in what happens there on a Sunday morning anyway. Yet blindly we keep on keeping on.
I have told the story many times but it perhaps speaks to the situation. I turned up to lead a service on one occasion and found that my arrival increased the attendance by 30%. I was told that ‘we keep our lights on and doors open for those who might come.’ My highly pastoral advice was that we might be better off closing the doors and turning off the lights, as that way they can at least save on the power bill.
At the end of a game of golf the tradition is to remove your cap or hat (it’s easier to recognise people in the bar afterwards if they see what you look like sans cap), and shake hands all round. Of course that tradition no longer applies. Yesterday I played with a couple of people that I had not played with for quite a while. On the 18th green when we had all holed out, caps came off and we had a pantomime of greetings. Without hand shakes new traditions are being tested. Some will simply tap putter to putter with a ‘well played’ or ‘thanks for the game.’ Yesterday we had putter taps, elbow knocking and fist pumps. It was a humorous little circus, as we tried to sort out what the new normal is.
Perhaps we all need to take time in sorting out just what our new normal might be and be surprised and hopefully amused as we discover that there is a whole bunch of options.
A couple or three questions:
For some it has been a lonely period with feelings of disorientation and separation from friends and family. The need to gather again is natural. After all, we operate better in community … usually.
My hope is that if nothing else our time of enforced isolation will make us value even more highly our freedom to gather. I hope that we will become more sensitive and more caring for the vulnerable and the lonely. I hope that if we are gathering again in our places of worship, that we are deeply gratefully for the privilege of doing so.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity. Psalm 133:1
Following the theme of this newsletter, several weeks back I came home with a bunch of seedlings as we are seeking to establish a new garden. Now I am guessing that the lady gardener knows what these little babies are, but old John T has no idea! It is going to be a revelation when these so and so’s begin to flower.
Right now, it just looks like a bare patch of dirt with some green stuff poking through. I guess we must trust that come the spring we might be given a few clues.
Perhaps we are all looking for new shoots as we navigate our way through this time, and while not at all sure what we are growing, we have enough faith that the Master Gardener understands how this all works and is still in the growing business.
Readings: Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 13, Romans 6:12-23 and Matthew 10:40-42
How long, O Lord? These are the opening words of Psalm 13. How long? How long will injustice seemingly win? How long will the haves keep winning and the have nots keep losing? How long?
How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
The psalmist pours out his lament and, in the end, I imagine, falls to his knees, and prays:
But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord. Because he has dealt bountifully with me.
In the meantime, we continue to be the people of God in the place where we are planted. Sometimes with no idea why we are here and what we are to do while we are! But God is faithful, and we will prevail with the amazing promise of Jesus echoing within us:
“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”