Archive for June, 2020

What’s Next?

Posted: June 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

This week has been a bit of a throwback to my old journalism days. I’ve been out and about meeting people and in the process putting together a video of my experiences. You see, I was curious about how churches have handled the COVID-19 situation, but more than that, I was curious about how the closure of places of worship would change the future of the church. 

So I’ve been meeting church leaders from a variety of different denominations, styles and formats to simply ask what have been the best things to have come out of COVID-19, and how will these things affect their future. I even had a fascinating conversations this morning with my Jewish ophthalmologist who described how the synagogue coped with the closure of places of worship. I have to say that holding “Zoom prayers”, morning and night, every day during lockdown seemed to show a greater degree of commitment than I saw from most Christian churches. 

But what’s next? In my last post, I asked the question was this just a case of pressing the pause button or should we press the reset button that may take us back to the manufacturer’s settings. I’ve been delighted to see that church leaders are asking the question, about whether they should continue with everything as it was, or if this is the time to think carefully about why we do the things we do. 

Hamo’s post yesterday reminded his readers of Phyllis Tickle’s idea (The Great Emergence: 2008) that every 500 years the church holds a giant jumble sale and throws out some of the rubbish of the past. I’ve thought about that a lot and when church doors were closed by a pandemic it made me wonder if this was the time. 

Just before Jesus began his earthly ministry and started a train of events that would change history for ever, he went into isolation for 40 days and 40 nights. 

I’m hopeful that this period of forced isolation will be the start of something momentous in the ongoing history of the Kingdom of God. 

I’ve been putting together a video of the conversations I have had with church leaders this week so watch out for it in the next couple of weeks and be a part of the conversation. 

Which Button?

Posted: June 8, 2020 in Uncategorized

I was in  a LinkedIn conversation with someone in the UK the other day about what the church might look like post-COVID-19. I used the word “pause” as something that may be relevant to where we are at the moment. I was thinking that this period of lockdown was like a “pause” button for the church, a time for us to stop and reflect on what we are doing and decide if that is what we want to continue to do in the future.

The person with whom I was corresponding threw the question back at me about the pause button and asked if it was actually the reset button we needed to be pressing, and added: “Are we being asked to discover the factory default settings of the church?”

Just before everything closed down I concluded my ministry at a church that I had grown to love over many years. Since then I have been visiting many churches online and have appreciated the fact that in many ways church is easier to access now than it was before. As I have reflected on what I have observed and as I reflected on what I have personally experienced in church life over the last 40 years I believe we are at a unique time in history. 

It’s a while now since I read Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence, but the coronavirus reminded me of her assertion from about eight years ago. Tickle used the analogy of “The 500-Year Rummage Sale” to describe religious change over the years. She said that historically, the church “cleans house” roughly every 500 years, holding what she calls a “giant rummage sale,” deciding what to dispose  and what to keep, making room for new things. 

We are now 500 years on from the Reformation and I’m wondering if COVID-19 has provided us with the impetus to begin that 500-year rummage sale; a time when we have been forced to stop everything we normally do, and perhaps, to think about a future that is somewhat different from the past. 

Brian Sanders, the author of “A Smaller Way” made the observation: “It is time we stopped imagining the church as something we have to invite people into and see it as something that is blessed to be broken and given to the world.” This resonates with me as I think about a world where churches got very busy with all sorts of things and some of the heart of mission may have been lost. 

Rather than rushing back to life as we know it, I wonder if we need to take the time to reflect on the best bits of our COVID “pause” and tentatively reach for the “reset” button. And perhaps as our finger hovers over the reset button we need to ask the question: What do the factory default settings really look like?   

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.