Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message translation)
Many years ago I read a book by Clive Calver which suggested that churches should stop all their incessant busy-ness. It even proposed that it would be good every once in a while to stop all their meetings except the prayer meeting. The point being was that some times we get so busy that we stop listening to God whilst doing what we think we should be doing. We then often complain that other people aren’t helping. I think that the title of the book was “With a church like this who needs Satan?” He loves to cause us to grumble and get distracted.
We had our first lockdown PCC this week via Zoom. We spent some time sharing about how we were finding lockdown. It was very apparent that whilst some had rather enjoyed the tranquillity and having time to look at parts of the Bible that they have never read before others were finding the current situation very difficult. A new report studying the result of the lockdown on churches and their online presence has been written. Our experience echoes that seen across the country that people are looking and watching and it is easier to drop in to an online church. The report Every Welcome to the Future tells us that lockdown has given the church a unique opportunity to re-think and re-grow our congregations but acknowledges that it isn’t good for everybody; we need to do both in the future.
When we stopped everything I don’t think that any of us expected it to be for so long and there is still much uncertainty about what we will be able to do in the future or when we will be able to do it. We still don’t know what the future holds but we should use this opportunity to prayerfully reflect on what God might be calling us to in our community.
The PCC are extremely grateful to everyone who is doing their best to look after others. To those of you who are making sending cards and making phone calls and caring for one another. The buildings may be open for private prayer sometime soon. If this does happen we hope that we can use it as an opportunity to ask younger able-bodied volunteers from the community at lower risk from the virus to help
What we do know is that it will still be sometime before we can return to anything like the old normal for corporate worship though. Recently Bishop Paul led our LLM studies in thinking about relationships. We were reminded that we are designed to be in relationship with God and with one another, it is not surprising that many are finding it difficult that we cannot meet together.
In the end, though the only relationship that really sustains us is our relationship with God and nothing helps us more than finding a place to be quiet with Him. You don’t have to say anything just be quiet. Some find simple liturgy like “Lord have mercy” helps. The psalms of lament teach us that it is quite Ok to pour out your sorrows and frustration to God. The recent Thy Kingdom Come campaign reminded us that we have a pattern we can use for prayer in The Lords Prayer
John Sentamu has just retired as the Archbishop of York as he celebrated his 71st birthday. In later years he has done several solo walking pilgrimages praying as he went along. He said that he had found that the Lords prayer was sufficient and that KISS was a good reminder-Keep It Simple Stupid! Pete Greig in the first session of the prayer course encourages us to Keep it simple, keep it real, keep it up!