Wednesday, 21 April 2021
IN these times of daily bulletins and instant change like localised lockdowns or new government initiatives to meet the social and economic costs of the pandemic, what sort of thought is worthy of a week’s reflection?
Considering the breadth of our experiences and expectations, how can a thought be relevant?
I would like to suggest that we revisit a word that has been tossed liberally at many situations since covid-19 dominated our world view — virtual.
Dictionaries point us in the direction of something that is not real, lacks authenticity, is some sort of simulation for the genuine article, it is almost but not quite...
I now focus on how churches of all denominations, and people of other faiths, have responded to the challenges of worship and service within the community while accepting social separation and closed buildings.
I have seen worship relocate to the sacred spaces of homes or wherever one can get a reliable wi-fi signal. I have seen new networks of shared commitment to pray together, albeit apart, and study scripture, to catch up with each other through a variety of internet platforms and to care.
I have seen those, who are able, give time and energy to meet the needs of loving their neighbours, neighbours who had previously been strangers. I have seen numbers logging on to online Christian offerings that bear little relationship to the numbers we might expect to see in church on a Sunday, let alone at midweek services.
That has been particularly true for the Christ the Healer services we host as the Order of Jacob’s Well when, often, those who seek the touch of God’s grace are too unwell to come to a service at the time and place of our choosing. The convenience and freedom of being at home has enabled more to join in. What is virtual about that? How far do we have to be from one another for a ministry of blessings to be real? What a ridiculous question when it is God who blesses and ministers faith, hope, love and healing grace.
There is nothing virtual or not quite genuine about these experiences. Real people made real decisions, no robot or algorithm logging in on automatic.
For me this has been a profound recognition that loving and caring is authentic even if we are connected by technology. God is not seen as being in lockdown or shielded. Jesus is not considered to be socially distanced. No mask blocks the breath of God’s Holy Spirit, Ruach.
The church of God’s people has been challenged to be consciously present with, to and for Him and, if they had the know-how and equipment for 2020 technology, with, to and for one another.
The thought that follows is how we continue to enable each other to grow as disciples, both where wi-fi is a preferred access and for those who have been excluded.
As we give thanks for the increased use of our religious buildings, I am mindful that they come back to us in a new context. We bring new experiences of worship, sharing faith and connecting with the wider community. Those unprecedented opportunities have been a gift in some dark times. Light has shone and we must not let it go out. Shalom.
13 July 2020
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