I wonder for Mother’s Day how many mums get the gift of some ‘me’ time or maybe even some pampering, such as a sanctuary spa voucher!
Last Saturday, some 21 of us enjoyed a Benefice Sanctuary Day. Much in the same way that a spa day allows you to retreat and treat yourself, so this spiritual detox gave us space to retreat from the frustrations of the pandemic. We entered into God’s sanctuary, a space of prayer and contemplation with God. Kevin and Anne Roberts from ReSource led us gently, following Jesus’ example, as he sought time to be with his Father.
To begin we considered when Jesus entered into the home of Peter’s mother in law, took her by the hand and healed her of her fever. We considered how Jesus extends to us his same intimate, personal and powerful touch. Jesus wants to heal us from our dis-ease of body, mind or spirit. What ever has been taken away Jesus longs to restore, filling us with the fullness of the presence of God.
The day of reflection was interspersed with silence, music, images and short homilies on different Bible passages. We made space to welcome. God’s Holy Spirit and we listened. Through the words of the living Lord to Ezekiel we then surveyed our metaphorical dry bones, those things we had lost and the dried up experiences of many in the valley of the shadow of Covid-19. As the day progressed we left our private thoughts and engaged more in shared discussion about our churches in relation to the pandemic. We lamented those in our church family who we have missed. We called out our loss of sharing Holy Communion.
After a time of lament we turned our attention to the early church that also underwent sudden change due to its pandemic of persecution. It helped us frame our discussions around how God redeems us and loss is often won over by considerable gain. God can take something old and renew and transform it in such way as to endue it with a new purpose and direction. The early church lost its settled way of being, broke out of Jerusalem and became an itinerant church. Kevin shared a startling photo of a young ash tree growing within the split carcass of a dead oak tree. This was a metaphor for something new growing in place of something less dynamic and falling away.
Towards the end of our time we thought about how when we resume worship in churches this won’t be ‘going back’ to what was over a year ago. We recognised that Jesus invites us to travel into new ways of being church. We spent time with two questions:
What do you think your own church may need to learn from this enforced suspension of ‘normal’ church life?
Is this an opportunity to think of changing things? If so, what might this include?
Answers were wide ranging. We delighted in the fact that we were church with no walls. People outside the church have been able to engage with what we do online and in fact studies show that 40% of people are much more favourable towards the positive role that church can play in society. We were thankful for the online experience that has enabled a mix of old and new worship styles and has allowed people who couldn’t come to church for health reasons to still engage. We wondered about a hybrid way of worshipping that encompasses physical in person worship alongside some online presence.
Perhaps you can ponder the same questions? These are interesting times. Let’s wonder and pray into where God is leading us.