It was wonderful to have a break over the last two weeks; to have time away as a family at Culburra Beach relaxing and reading books and celebrating Grace’s 18th birthday!
It was also good to hear John preach on the 5th July on those very apt words for us, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…” (Matthew 11: 28) Or, in the words of The Message that John also read from, “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…” And to return on Sunday, 12th July, to Jeanette’s wonderful sermon on birth stories (Julie-ann’s was the stand out!) and to think how relevant the metaphor of birth is as we, at the present time, “groan in labour pains” along with the whole creation (Romans 8:22-23) while we wait for what God is bringing to birth in us and our world.
Hands up those of you who had a look at the article John referred to last week, “My Church is tired! How do we overcome missional paralysis?” by Michael Beck, with its 5 key learnings on how we can reconsider ministry and mission during these uncertain times. https://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/10400/my-church-is-tired-how-do-we-overcome-missional-paralysis
I did and I must confess it lost me a little at point 5 which, as John said, “is the longest and most technical section (with talk of reframing, mind-mapping, prototyping)” etc. etc. but points 1 to 4 resonated strongly with our priorities at this point in the pandemic, as well as our church goals that we adopted long before Covid 19.
I would, however, rearrange the order Michael Beck uses – to bring them in line with our goals!
- (#2 in Beck’s article) Self-care. Beck asks, “Are we taking time to encounter the risen Jesus daily?” This sounds to me like our first church goal – ‘Exploring what it means to follow Jesus today’. We need to be asking ourselves this question as a church and as individuals, and to keep in mind that because we are human, we have a range of needs that feed our interaction with God; spiritual, physical, psychological and social. Beck speaks of “spending time in prayer, meditation and searching the Scriptures”, but he also speaks of “going outside on a scavenger hunt for beauty, goodness and truth…. eating well, exercising our bodies, finding a way to stink and sweat every day….taking time for Sabbath, family, play and fun.” All of these contribute to our wellbeing and our discovery of where God is and what God is doing in our lives and our world.
I would love to hear from people (simply email a response back to this email!) about practices or activities that you or your family have found that are growing your minds and bodies and spirits and hearts. I would also encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to join in with the Community Prayer time that happens every weekday at 8am for just half an hour. It is not an scary group! You are very welcome to just sit and listen and there is no expectation that you have to attend regularly. I was encouraged to learn, while speaking to Ann Lock, my spiritual director, recently that other churches have also started regular prayer times over Zoom during Covid and also found them nurturing. Simply zoom in any weekday morning at 8am – https://zoom.us/j/961173086?pwd=T1ZPVkIzU09SRWNDT0RyMmJ1WlhuUT09
- (#1 in Beck’s article) The health of our congregants is the top priority. Now, more than ever, though perhaps this is always a top priority, we need to be ‘building inclusive and caring community’. We need to be, as Beck says, finding innovative ways to ‘love our neighbours’.
Many of you will know that, as part of our Covid response, the deacons have been calling members of the church to see how they are going, alongside the pastoral care work John and I continue to do. At Monday night’s deacons meeting, we reaffirmed the need for this interim care structure at a time when we cannot fall-back on traditional pastoral care models. I know, too, that many in our church are also looking out for others, especially those who are struggling. It is wonderful to see Paul’s instruction “to bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) being fleshed out in real ways in our church in 2020.
This Sunday, however, we are creating a specific opportunity to encourage others – specifically to encourage our ‘neighbour’ city church, Collins Street Baptist Church, as they cope with the renewed lockdown in Victoria. I have chosen Collins Street because many of us have close links with that community (Simon Carey Holt and I, for example, are part of the same pastoral retreat group). Again, respond to this email if you would like to be part of this! At the conclusion of our worship time this Sunday 19th July we will invite people to speak their message of encouragement, from home by Zoom, or from the lectern, if they are in the A to H congregation in the church. Steve and Simon will record these messages and turn them into a YouTube link to be sent to Collins Street for their members.
- (#3 & #4 in Beck’s article) Grow the centre, experiment on the edge/To default or pivot? That is the question. As we move into a stage of emerging from lockdown or coping with new cycles of living with Covid, we need to find new ways of gathering for worship, new ways of building community and innovative ways of loving our neighbours, as Beck mentioned. We need to continue to ‘sharing God’s love and justice in our words and actions’.
This is what is often referred to as the ‘recovery’ phase in the cycle of response that organisations and communities go through in responding to a crisis. In this stage we have largely adapted to the changes that have forced upon us, but we have not yet designed, developed or articulated new ways of being. We need to give ourselves time. Time to think. Time to recover; to think about what we have lost and, perhaps, what we have gained during this crisis, to assess the assets and strengths we possess as a community, and to reflect on the bigger shifts taking place in our society. And we need to pray. And after all this, we need to encourage discovery and experimentation. We need to be willing to try new things, to – and I love this expression – to be willing to ‘fail forward’ and to provide an environment where we can experiment and fail forward and learn together.
Next Wednesday night, 22nd July, 7:30-9pm, I will be hosting a Zoom conversation to begin exploring what the recovery stage might ‘uncover’ for our church worship, community and/or mission life. If you would like to be part of this, please register through the office (firstname.lastname@example.org) or respond to this email.
If you can’t join us on Wednesday, but would like to start thinking along these lines, there’s a great exercise called ‘5 buckets’ on the Association website that you can work through. https://nswactbaptists.org.au/project/cycle-of-discovery-5-post-covid-baskets/ Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts for each of the ‘buckets’ and we’ll add that into our discussion on Wednesday.
As Beck reminds us, when he quotes Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…” the church of Jesus Christ has faced times of great challenge and cross-carrying in the past. We are not alone. We are not the first Christians to experience a crisis. We are not the first Christians to work our way through a crisis. And we will emerge from this crisis in ways that are strong and creative and resilient. Others have done so before this – “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen!
PS Three reminders!
- You are welcome to join us for prayer each weekday at 8am. Its free! ?https://zoom.us/j/961173086
- If you would like to send a short message of encouragement to Collins Street Baptist this Sunday, 19th July, at the end of our service, please email me by 10am Saturday, so we know who to cross to for Zoom – or who to invite to the lectern.
- Our Zoom discussion on the Recovery stage for our church is next Wednesday night, 7:30-9pm. Please register by emailing me or the office (email@example.com) TODAY!
Rev Belinda Groves