When the music stops where will we all be? It’s an interesting question and I have to admit I’m curious to see how it all plays out for our churches when some level of normality is restored.
This week Corona concern levels have ramped right up to ‘crikey’ (or if you’re English ‘well I never…’) and we are all having to explore other ways of ‘doing church’. The last few days saw those of us in church leadership all scrambling to some degree, whether it was to create stay at home ‘livefeeds’, digital ‘zoom’ gatherings or simply devolving into smaller (and then even smaller still) communities.
We met as leaders on Thursday evening when gatherings of over 100 indoors were prohibited. There was no question that just because we were 80 or 90 we were ok to press on. We agreed to create house groups for people to meet in and to move ahead with our focus on the gospel of Mark led by our local people. Pretty easy really.
By Friday evening Scomo had declared a limit of 1 person per 4sqm making house groups trickier still. Men in the shed… women in the lounge-room, kids… umm.. on the verandah?… Or just go outside together and enjoy the autumn weather?…
It’s still doable.
But… being Corona compliant keeps getting trickier and with each new measure those prone to fear and anxiety felt their levels raise a notch. If we continue to follow suit then within a fortnight we will all be in lockdown and communicating online rather than in person. And I know there are some who advocating that we don’t leave home at all even now.
I’m not sure how long we will be in this new mode, but it seems we are being told to think of 6 months. That’s a long time for the world to be changed so radically. I realise those who die are the real victims of this virus, but I am really curious as to what impact it will have on the church landscape.
When the music stops will people want to come back to church? Is Naked Pastor’s cartoon too close to the bone?
Or maybe they will realise that they actually never left and their imagination of what church is will have been stretched and reshaped?
Will we pastors survive with our paid roles still intact. The Facebook video of Kevin Copeland crowing to his audience not to stop tithing feels obscene – as if this were the first thought on most people’s minds… I doubt anyone is thinking ‘I might lose my job – how are we going to tithe?’ (If you are then you’re in the wrong church.)
Many of us as pastors will be less visible than we normally are and those who see church as ‘fee for service’ will drop their ‘fee’ to accomodate the drop in service. I doubt we will all come thru this with our jobs intact.
Do we simply gather up those who have returned and soldier on? If we have 4 full time staff do we sack 2 or do we all drop to half time? Who can afford to do that?
We all know that once a habit gets broken its harder to re-start it. We have just planted a church in Yanchep – when I say ‘just’ its over 18 months old – but the bonds formed there aren’t as tough and fibrous as those we have after 10 years at Quinns. What will 6 months of disconnectedness mean for our people here?
Then there’s the question of what we pastors do with our time during this period. Do we keep crafting sermons to deliver online, do we call each person to see how they are going? Do we somehow ‘look busy’ because we can’t afford to be seen to be on a Netflix binge?
How do we as churches not become consumed with meetings and gatherings but instead ask how do we love, bless and serve the world we are a part of? Surely that has to form the centrepiece of whatever we do during this time?
I don’t have many answers to these questions, but I’m actually (apart from the death bit) a little excited to see how it all unfolds.
My only sense of what to do is that it starts with stillness and a quiet confidence that the church has been doing this stuff a long time. We don’t need to panic – not even a little. If lockdown hits us then perhaps we thank God for it and we use the experience to learn stillness and contemplation and perhaps in those moments, that evolve into hours we may encounter God in ways we never have before.