I’m hoping that we don’t go back to ‘normal’
In this reflection I’m not addressing the virus and people becoming ill etc, I’ll leave that for another time. This is personal, thinking about my own experience; forgive me for this indulgence, however I do hope you find it helpful, with is why I share it.
For many people this time of lockdown has been a struggle and I really understand that. I hear people talk about the pressures of teaching children, the need to hug someone and to talk with and see the faces of familiar friends and colleagues. Of course I share these feelings but I have to admit, or confess maybe, that for me it has been a different experience, that I am positively enjoying this time. Before you throw a brick at the computer, read on and let me explain! You see, I lead a busy life. There are so many demands of a church leader, leading three churches (I don’t want you to feel sorry for me it is a position that I have created, perhaps with a little of God nudging me into a direction or place). God called me to be a Priest and I embrace that fully and enjoy the responsibility, challenges and blessings. My ‘mantra’ is to love God and love neighbour and to live life in Jesus, to its fullest. There are also three PCCs, three sets of accounts, three or four buildings, two hundred people affiliated directly with the churches, countless others more loosely attached and a community of 15,000 people for whom I share the ‘cure of souls’ with the Bishop. I then have a vision, I believe given by God, to develop these churches and in Saint Stephen’s case, develop a whole new building in which the vision will flourish. Whilst funding is a huge problem, our people are a great resource but they are busy too, shaped by our 21st Century life. What this amounts to is a busy life. For years I’ve tried to say, or convince myself that I’m not busy, but one task after another on the ‘to do’ list tells me otherwise. The danger is burnout. Many clergy go down that route. Whilst this is a danger I am very aware of it and am careful to take days off and holidays and retreats. But eh tasks pile up. Emails don’t get read for a few days and if they slip down off the screen they are put aside until the deadline looms. OK. So lockdown has meant that for this period I have been confined to the home…and garden, the usual programme of meetings and dashing around has been forcefully curtailed.
That’s my context.
Over the last three months my focus has turned to worship and prayer! Pretty much everything else has temporarily been put on hold. This has meant learning about how to stream online, create films and montages, sound and lighting, devise something for all ages and incorporate different styles of worship. People connect with God in many different ways and I hope that you connect with God through our collective efforts. For me it feels like I’m doing the ‘job’ that God originally called me to do, ie lead the people in worship and prayer but the thing that has made the most difference, I think has been……time. I may be nearly as busy as before, juggling many things but time is being spent more efficiently, thanks in a big way to ‘Zoom’ video conferencing and I have more time to reflect. I have found time to read and finished off a couple of books that I’ve had on the go for a long time. I’ve found time to work in the garden…..alongside a bit of relaxing. I’ve sat down without doing anything for a while. I’ve wandered around the garden, appreciated the birds and the peace. I’ve found more time to just……be. My rushing around time has been replaced by times of stillness. And do you know what? I feel closer to God, more in touch with the divine! I’ve been making time to listen to John or Chuks or Liz to participate in regular worship as we offer services four hourly during the day, with a nod to a monastic life. The regularity is important, providing anchor points during the day and the week. Night prayer has been particularly relevant for me personally.
Busyness is a distraction from God, rushing around from one appointment to another detracts from the relationship with God. And if my relationship with God ebbs away then there’s no hope for me leading the churches. So I’m hoping that we don’t go back to ‘normal’. I’m hoping that I will learn, the church will adapt and we can reach more people who may discover a way of life that is more fulfilling than the empty promises of consumerism, rush, busyness and hurry. And then at this time Matt Key recommends via Twitter a book by John Mark Comer, entitled ‘The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry.’ I was in two minds whether to get it or not but for 99p it’s a real bargain! Do you think God might just be reinforcing this message to me? I am now about to read this book.
Sorry, this reflection became much longer than I set out originally (there are quite a few more lessons I’ve learnt, maybe I’ll share them on another post) but that’s the way it goes when you start thinking and writing. I think there are many and much wider lessons to learn from all of this situation for everyone, not just me. Let me invite you to post some of your thoughts? (send your contributions to firstname.lastname@example.org, together with a picture if possible)