(or This Blog’s ‘Why?’)
Earthrise on a lockdown world.
Deserted streets. Silent factories. Self-isolation. Panic buying. Contagion anxiety. Borders closed. Uncertainty. Dread.
No need to say more. We all know the problem.
And it’s going to be like this for quite some time to come.
“When we are dry and scattered, undivided and alone, we long for connection, we long for community.” — Janet Morley
This is now increasingly true in most areas of society, not least in church and faith communities.
This blog is about creating connection, community and belonging for those most isolated.
It has been set up in particular to help some of the leaders of groups in UK churches connect with those to whom they have a degree of pastoral responsibility and to provide a vehicle for sharing words they would otherwise say, but which is now impossible because of social isolation.
And for these to be shared further afield.
Churches are now in lockdown
So, how do we carry out the great commission and great commandment without immediate face-to-face contact?
How do we help the elderly and vulnerable if we can’t physically contact them?
How do we do church adequately if we can’t actually be present with one another?
How do we support those with long-term mental health needs?
Or those who are going through agonising solitary grief from the sudden death of loved ones?
How do we worship in isolation?
How can we set aside and empower those among us who have essential tech skills to enable us to best support each other remotely?
How can we shepherd the flock if we are absent from them and can’t see them?
What are the opportunities in an unexpected and unwished-for internal diaspora?
And … and … and …
A first iteration
This blog is a small response aimed at giving a partial help to some of these issues. Those who share the writing will speak (more or less anonymously) to their groups. We feel this will encourage openness and respect confidentiality.
But we hope the themes will extend from the micro to the macro level and be helpful to the wider church.
Styles will differ, depending on the readership.
A Medium blog has been chosen for its simplicity and elegance.
And although a lot of content on the Medium platform is tucked behind a paywall for good commercial reasons, this blog won’t be. We want it to be as open and useful as possible.
We’ve already recruited a small team of writers: Ed. (myself, the editor), Rodders will share his thoughts for today (T42D), Pip will blog on ‘It’s a dog’s life’, Cal will write on a theology of lockdown, HH has agreed to submit her poems and Mr Amazing (aka Mr A) will enthuse about music and art generally. And, as I write, Fred has just agreed to tackle wellbeing and mental health; Fred’s a therapist.
And the response is in the spirit of giving away something for nothing. We have received freely. So we give freely.
And it’s in the spirit of Barnabas, a ‘son of encouragement’.
And as ‘little paracletes’. The Holy Spirit is described by Jesus as the ‘paraclete’. Literally, ‘one who comes alongside to help’. This too is a Christian’s incarnational calling.
“The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” — Annie Dillard
Or, as Bruce Cockburn sang, ‘It only lives when you give it away’.
Plato is credited with saying, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. Seems he was misquoted, but he said something similar.
To paraphrase him: Need breeds deeds.
In the past the church has responded courageously to epidemics and pandemics. Now it’s our turn. Lyman Stone has written an excellent piece on this (although the comments on not cancelling gatherings has now been superseded by public health advice).
MannaMañana? … eh?
It means ‘bread tomorrow’. Fresh manna day by day on a difficult journey. Well articulated in Janet Morley’s poem. It means there’s a promise of a hope and a future and provision, despite empty supermarket shelves. Despite unemployment. Despite almost unbearable loss. ‘Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’.
It means daily bread, the living Bread which came down from heaven. Broken bread, a sacrifice; and an implied call for us to respond as living sacrifices. A call from a Servant for us to serve.
Fresh bread. Stale bread will do for toast, but nothing beats fresh bread warm from the oven. Bread to be eaten before it gets tough.
God’s ‘now’ word to sustain us one day at a time. Necessary food to nourish us today and tomorrow.
And, as the sun rises tomorrow on a locked down world:
“Breath of God, breathe on us. When we are dry and scattered, when we are divided and alone, when we are cut off from the source of our life, open our graves, O God, that all your people may be free to breathe, strong to move, and joyful to stand together to celebrate your name.” — Janet Morley