May 2020

Making all things new

Well, this certainly is an Easter like no other. I am writing this on the Wednesday of Easter week with a memory of having walked up on to the side of Black Hill for a solitary - apart from two spaniels - vigil at dawn and then down for the Deanery Service on YouTube. 

The absence of all the surrounding jollities at the very least enabled me - and many others - to focus on what Easter is actually about. Which is a helpful thing, as, when you look back to that first Easter, there were many reactions - shock, puzzlement, disbelief, excitement, fear, awe - but simple joy or jollity were not there. And that is for obvious and understandable reasons. For Jesus’s followers, the resurrection changed everything, and it takes a while for that realisation to be taken on board.

And life really had changed for them. they might revert to their old occupations, but, as those fishermen disciples discovered in that wonderful story at the end of John’s gospel - the knowledge and understanding of the presence of the risen Christ in their lives even transformed their work.

That message of transformation is vital. It is - let’s face it - all too easy for us to go through all the rituals of Holy Week and Easter without it necessarily changing anything. This year, however, the world around us has changed unimaginably, and that allows us to look at how it has changed, and how that will change us, both individually,and collectively.

There are obvious things: many people have discovered it is perfectly possible to work from home; many people have shown active care and concern for the people around them; many people, apparently, have discovered the importance of washing hands; many people have discovered how important, and how easy it is, to keep in touch with those they love; and many, I hope, in the church and elsewhere have discovered that meetings are not necessarily all they are cracked up to be.

And many in the church have discovered new ways of spreading the good news of God’s love. The headlines may say ‘Churches are shut’, and that reveals a sad and prevalent attitude to what ‘churches’ actually are. They are not buildings: they are groups of people, and, while church buildings provide a wonderful numinous presence where people can feel themselves at peace with God, you cannot have church without people, while you can have church without buildings. And that is something which has been so apparent this Holy Week and Easter. Having to find new ways of connecting has been a really good challenge. There has been much communication both on paper and online, a huge sharing of ideas for prayer, for worship, for discovery and for fun on the Abbeydore Deanery Facebook page and, as I write this, over twenty videos of homegrown worship on the Abbeydore Deanery YouTube channel, which will obviously remain there and which will equally obviously grow. And what has been really wonderful is the fact - clearly attested by people’s responses - that this is drawing more new people into the community of the church.

What is absolutely obvious is that, when all of the current horrors are over, we cannot simply go back to what life was like before. We have new people to feed along with all those who have been faithful members of the body of Christ for years. How we do that is something for which your views will be more than welcome. And if you have time to think of any, do let me know. Christ came to take all things new: here is a wonderful opportunity for us to bring that about.