What are your post April 12th plans? A haircut? A workout in the gym? Yorkshire Wildlife Park? Drive in cinema? Outdoor hospitality with your bubble? Some non-essential retail even?
And your church? Some of us are worshipping in buildings already, others not yet. Some of us are desperate to gather in the same room whatever the restrictions, others would rather wait. But where we are today is not the question of the moment. Where we are travelling from and our destination are the more important questions of our roadmap for being church in a post pandemic world.
Stage One – Get Listening
How did you get on with Stage One? What is the mood on your street? What does your community need? Is your neighbourhood Facebook group hopeful or despairing? Have you had chance to prayerfully pad the pavements?
Have you, your church, or your small group noticed any patterns or discords? Did any scriptures or hymns seem relevant? Don't worry if you haven't had chance for all this yet. Stage two can wait for you to do stage one – keep listening beyond your church and reflecting on your hearing together as a church.
When you have listened and reflected, it is time for stage two – what is essential anyway?As you start to talk about what your church might do next, it is essential that this listening infuses and informs your conversations. Is there a group your church used to run that would meet a deep need of some of the people you listened to? Might this be something to prioritise? Were there things your church did out of habit that seem completely disconnected from your neighbourhood? Perhaps give these a rest?
Is there something new for your church but essential for your locality? A local summer festival to re-unite people? A group of people who have had things especially bad over the last year to support? Start dreaming dreams and building partnerships now so you don't miss the vital moment to show practical love when it arrives in the coming months.
There used to be so much that we had to do at church. All the rotas, jobs, preparations and busyness. Before we get sucked back into these, now is the time to remember what we have heard from listening beyond our chapel walls. What are the essential non-essentials for your church in its unique context in a post pandemic world? These are not easy or quickly answered questions, but perhaps right now you and your church have a once in a generation opportunity to ask what is most important? What is essential anyway?
In our District worship Bob Bartindale so powerfully challenged us that we face a choice between harping back to an idealised past, or listening afresh to what the Spirit of God has taught us over the last year and reaching out to those beyond our walls who long to taste living water. Well worth watch a watch on YouTube if you haven't already.
And the non-essential retail you want to indulge in? Christ needs ambassadors in Meadowhall. Prayers said in beer gardens are heard. Whilst Covid-19 has cruelly spread through social interaction, our life-giving gospel is spread through relationships. Perhaps the most essential thing your church could do is equip its people for dispersed salt and light discipleship?
"try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything you can to save some" 1 Cor 9:22