God is good! It is a privilege and an honour for me to be serving God, in this time, in this place. Recently having been called to consider ministry elsewhere, I undertook a process of discernment in which I learned much, both about myself and from wise and experienced stewards of our faith. Wisdom arrives, sometimes when sought, from many places – and an abundance has come my way in these past months. As we look at the bigger picture of what God is up to in our lives, our churches and our neighbourhoods during this global pandemic, I thought I’d share some of the gems and insights gleaned, that we might be encouraged in our larger discernments together.
Testing, trusting, being open to the Spirit of Life who calls us forward with a mission and a promise, the words from the Prophet Jeremiah rest solidly in my heart: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for a future with a hope.” While what that hope looks like varies, we can rest assured that God remains faithful to us. The process of perceiving, detecting and recognizing our path ahead can be disconcerting, as it upsets routines and increases our levels of anxiousness. This is already happening with our human responses to the pandemic, so adding extra layers of exploration and decision-making can unsettle more. Do not be afraid! Instead of becoming swamped and divided, we can learn to live gently with ourselves and each other in this change, these pains, this uncertainty.
There is hard work to be done, and being present to listen and respond builds relationships. “The kinship of God is where everyone matters,” from Gregory Boyle. Listen to God’s call in your life and learn everything you can. God knows you and loves you already (really!). Be bold in faith and see with the eyes of your heart. We need to learn how to adequately resource our ministries, especially in this time of contracting. How can we collectively discern new ways of doing ministry together that will reflect our current context, rather than cling to models that have become dangerously unsustainable? Are we being invited to consider helping our local church to be responsive to community needs through sharing space in social enterprise endeavours? In the olden days, many monasteries and churches were the hub of the community, with honeybees, gardens, markets, community partnerships – sacred space interacting with the secular. How can we reimagine the contexts of our sacred spaces to include the diversity of the communities in which we live?
Both as humans and ecologically, we are in a planetary time of great disruption and deep grief. Raise up your head, look, listen. How do we find ways to re-connect deeply with one another, find space to breathe, see the joy and the beauty of our Christianity? How do we learn from other Anglican traditions around the globe, including differing models of clerical ministry, raising up and equipping lay leaders, resource-sharing and shifting into right-sized budgets and programs? What connections do we have, and what innovations can we bring about? What were we “not ready for” in March, that now needs our flexibility, intentionality and faith-filled creativity?
Coming out of COVID-19, we will need to re-discover what it is to live, worship and work in the neighbourhood. What will be our new identities as disciples, as Church? We need to constantly renew ourselves to be responsive and to thrive. Who are the unexpected new leaders being raised up in our congregations, amongst our young people, in our larger communities? Where are the margins, and how have they moved? How can we widen the circles of cooperation and vision together, reflect, and pray? Good sense for figuring out who we are from poet/writer Nuar Alsadir: “Move towards what you believe in, and the person you are steps through.” And pure wisdom from poet and one of my favourite authors, Alice Walker: “Hard times require furious dancing.”
We are physical beings, so take care of your physical self. Be well. God is love, and our aim is to establish a culture of working things out together in our lifelong practice of being present to the reign of God and Jesus in our lives. Face the future with gratitude, courage and honesty. Pray. Pray some more. Be inspired by St. Francis, who prays to the Holy One of Blessing: make me an instrument of your peace. Amen.