Being Community in a Liminal Space
One of the biggest gifts my Christian faith has given me over the years has been its ability to enable me to hold together the most opposite of emotions. At the heart of the Christian faith are a cross and an empty tomb, crucifixion and resurrection, the depths of sorrow and the heights of joy, absence and presence, despair and hope.
“Discovering” Holy Saturday, the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Day was, for me, discovering a space where the whole of human experience could have its being: a confused and uncertain space, but a holy space.
The readings set for Morning Prayer recently have been from 2 Corinthians and I’ve been reminded afresh of the example of Paul and the Bible’s wisdom on holding things in tension, even as I struggle for certainty, clarity and stability.
‘But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.’ (NIV)
I’ve seen headlines referring to the 19th July as “freedom day” and others as “fear day”. It has been confirmed the legal restrictions are being lifted and yet with this certainty, there is so much uncertainty.
We are waiting for updated guidance from the government and Church of England, but in the meantime I wanted to share what we do know (not that much), what decisions have been taken (not that many) and just a few thoughts that I hope will help us as we seek to love Jesus, to serve and tell others, to be community in this next season.
We do not need to react as quickly to the easing of restrictions as when they were first introduced. Even when the legal restrictions change, we can take time to breathe, pray and reflect. As a team we are committed to not making panic decisions, but instead seeking to discern the right next step for our whole church community. We need to be realistic that we won’t have everything worked out by Sunday 25th July and I suspect there will be a lot of unanswered questions for some time yet.
We’re in a very wide variety of different places and have all had different experiences of the pandemic so far. We’re trying to listen and hear everyone’s voice and take decisions keeping in mind how we can be as together as we can be at this unsettling time, whilst recognising it’s likely some of us will want to be further ahead and some of us will feel left behind. This will be an uncomfortable time, I suspect, for each of us and we will each need to prioritise showing grace and walking slowly with one another.
We are going forward to somewhere new and it will take time for us to find our way. We don’t need to be afraid of not knowing exactly where we’re going and we need to acknowledge we are not picking up where we left off in March 2020.
We are committed to returning to two services, but we do not have the resources to do this before the end of September at the earliest and we would usually have a combined 10.30am service during August anyway. There will continue to be an 8am BCP Holy Communion service on the first Sunday of each month, including August, and a pre-recorded Holy Communion service is available here on each of the other Sundays.
Even with the lifting of legal restrictions, we will still need to listen to any guidance and we do not necessarily have the volunteers to restart ministries exactly as they were pre-pandemic. We will also need to be mindful of track and trace, where any volunteer or member of staff could suddenly be required to self-isolate.
Many of us were greatly blessed by the live songs we had during last Sunday’s service and we will continue to gradually introduce live music over the next couple of months. We do not yet know what the guidance will be on returning to singing. If this does become possible, we will be taking a cautious approach.
We will be asking that, unless exempt, even after 19th July, you continue to wear a mask in the church building and to have conversations outside as much as possible.
We are waiting for the guidance from the Church of England, but we are anticipating we will increase the number of chairs in the worship area from the beginning of August. Any changes to the layout of seating will be accompanied by the introduction of “please leave space” cards to help us to let others know whether we would like to sit distanced or whether we would welcome someone sitting next to us. At this point, we envisage that booking will no longer be required, but, as with any decision at this time, we may need to revisit this if the situation changes.
Please do get in touch with any member of the team if you have any concerns or questions. As a colleague helpfully commented last week, our “social muscle” has weakened and so we will all need to be looking out for, helping, and supporting one another at this time.
But let’s remember that we, every single one of us, have ‘treasure in jars of clay’ and ask for the help of the ‘all-surpassing power of God’ to enable us to live well in this liminal space. It may be a confused and uncertain space, but it can also be a holy space.