Getting the thumbs up
'Ready for the new 'normal': a discussion paper for a pandemic recovery and resumption plan' is, according to Jenny Bond, Principal Officer for Resources at Churches Together in England (CTE) a 'document from the URC, prepared by the URC Moderators and URC Communications, to help churches as they contemplate the long process of emerging from lockdown (whichever form that might take).'
Helpful to all churches
'I can't commend it to you enthusiastically enough,' she says, 'as something which will be helpful to all churches and do hope that you are able to circulate it widely. The Scottish government and the Muslim Council of Great Britain are just two other bodies which are also finding it helpful.'
The paper is divided in to several sections dealing with 'Resuming activities', 'Taking stock', 'Reviewing principles' and 'Doing things differently', and all introduced by a biblical reflection warning of the implications of coronavirus given that older people make up a large proportion of church congregations. Read an excerpt below:
Facing an uncertain future
What seemed like a distant threat at the beginning of 2020 has become a present reality, changing lives and the way we live indefinitely. Some adapted easily to life under lockdown, others have found the experience hugely traumatic and damaging to their mental health. Many have had to navigate the tricky waters of grief – hard enough in 'ordinary' times.
Coronavirus restrictions have made this even harder, and we must be aware of those who have not begun to grieve properly, or grieve well. Coronavirus restrictions and social distancing are inevitably going to be part of our life for many months to come until an effective vaccine is developed and deployed to the majority of the population (if that proves to be possible at all). The most vulnerable, including those over the age of 70, are likely to be the last to be able to fully reintegrate into society, and given the demographic of our churches that means that our common life together is not likely to get to a recognisable 'normal' until, probably, the middle of 2021 at the earliest, and perhaps for much, much longer.
This presents a huge challenge to our churches, one with spiritual, emotional, physical and financial – even existential – dimensions. Yes, we are, as individuals, secure in God’s love. Yes, the xhurch of Jesus Christ will continue –even, 'the gates of Hades will not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:16, NRSV).
However, church life as we know it will be different for a long time, perhaps forever, and rather than being fearful of this, we have an opportunity to shape how we will live well through the pandemic and emerge stronger – yes, stronger – on the other side.