Introduction – Temporary publishing
Introduction – I was asked by Derby Diocese to write a micro-module on Mission at this time – Unfortunately this has not yet been published – so I have published it here as a temporary post
This is a part of a series of topics under the title – Sustaining Spiritual Health in Isolation. This covers Prayer, Discipleship, Worship and this one on Mission.
These can be found here – https://www.discipleship-training.org/sustaining-spiritual-health-in-isol
- To Learn to listen to our rapidly changing contexts
- To reflect on and choose appropriate missional responses
- To discover God at work (in the chaos) & join in
‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers’.
How, Lord, when our homes are shut up and we inside them?
Help us to see that to give each other space,
is to embrace one another with safety.
Help us to welcome one another in love
even while we keep our distance,
Prayer by Revd Bill Bravnier
God’s hope in our connections – Introductory Video
Anxiety arising out of Chaos
The Chaos of this pandemic are causing lots of people to become more and more anxious. I have personal experience of anxiety, both in my own life and in other people I have worked closely with. Anxious people tend to act in certain ways of which, 3 of which are;
- We will go down a rabbit hole of ‘What if’s’ that often give energy to take the worst possible outcome going forward
- Because of this feeling of things happening to us beyond our control we will try to micro-manage anything we can
- If people try to release that control from us (even if it is because they are anxious) we will be very brittle and very easily hurt
A good way to work amongst people who are anxious is to reflect on the generosity of God and the fact we work with the capacity a relationship with him gives. That is why in my introductory video I have emphasised the need to release control and to listen to him in the voices of others. This will build a relationship of trust through this time of trial that will still be there as we move into the new normal of life beyond it
A worked Example – #windowontheworld
I first met Gemma at a local gala. She and her family were running the security at the event, and we got on well. She and her family got baptised a few years ago at our local church, and we stayed connected on facebook and through some of the fresh expressions of Church I have led over the past few years. Several her family have underlying health conditions which mean that they have been self-isolating from day one and will be for a long time to come! She had an idea to brighten up the lives of people who needed to travel around the area by decorating windows.
I felt that this was a brilliant idea as it would help families by giving them something to do, so I encouraged her to do it and offered her £160 from our local community group ‘Hope Bank’. I set this up 5 years ago to resource and support people locally who had good ideas, but who might struggle to go through the processes to setup formal groups. Advised by Gemma I bought some craft materials and put them in bags – over the past couple of weeks I have dropped them off (like santa on a mobility scooter) to houses locally. At the same time #windowontheworld has grown on facebook and is brightening the windows and lives of people both locally and even in Australlia.
Gemma’s idea came from her context. It spoke to other people, who were isolated with children and brought brightness, and a whole lot of rainbows, to the local estate. It is a sign of God’s hope in a difficult time and has helped people be connected.
Listening to our rapidly changing contexts –
One of my colleagues, Rev Hilary Moore, often reminds me ‘You are the expert in your own context’. Others may have good techniques and ways of being church which are developing during the crisis. They may come across great ideas that work brilliantly in their lives and world, but only we can make the call if they will work in our network. We need to borrow the ‘how’ they connect but understand the who and why we connect are individually ours.
If you have a group of people who don’t have internet access, use the phone. If someone else is developing a network in something you enjoy, join theirs! Also don’t forget the importance of enabling others to develop the networks we are in, the value of leading from the second seat. We don’t have to be in control!
Stay connected to the Body of Christ –
As you follow your own line of intentionally being amongst others in your network it is important to realise that things may be just for this time or may grow into the future. We don’t need to value these things differently. One consequence of our anxiety may be that If we come with simple answers or dismiss the fear others may feel as unimportant or unfaithful, we will damage future relationships. Mission in a time of Chaos needs to be gentle and wise, generous in a time of scarcity and sometimes radically different but we also need to work with others and let others know what we are doing.
We are the experts in our own contacts, but as members of the body of Christ we must not go out independently – Wherever God meets with us through the Chaos of this time we need to make sure others are able to support and challenge us as we go. Otherwise we will be in grave danger of building up mission that hurts others and is not connected to the rest of the body. In parishes we need vicars to be permission givers who act with generosity, but we also need to respect their concerns as they lead us
Finding Appropriate missional responses
Deciding what I can do?
You are your own context and you know your own capacity. Some people cannot go outside their door because of their health or the health of others. Others can volunteer time and resources to be able to directly help people in needs. Before we do anything, we need to be realistic and prayerful about our actual capacity.
‘God knows what is done in secret’ rules here. We are not in competition; we are the body of Christ and as we meet people now they will know that God’s kingdom has come near.
Looking at my connections
As the chaos is beginning to settle into a new and different norm, who am I connected to and how can I enhance those relationships? Am I hearing about Zoom meetings and mourning the fact I haven’t spoken to anyone for ages? Do I have children, grandchildren that I am spending time with or unable to spend time with? What are people doing to improve the experience of isolation. Be intentionally aware of your connections and how God may be speaking to you through them.
God at work – How should I join in?
What should my goals be? Who should I go to?
Do things that make a difference to 5 or 10 people – Some things, like phoning neighbours, will not leave a record but will be more important to those 10 people than big newsworthy events. Other things like streamed services or reflections will have an ‘attendance’ and will be calculatable (Usually on the high side) and will be spoken of highly. When I worked to support Gemma in developing #windowontheworld neither of us thought that 2,500 people would connect to it. How many is not as important as who. If you are the only person who can offer someone support then that is vital, that you do so. Many people who are online, competent with social media will be OK, they will be contacted. Others in hard to reach groups won’t be, so if in doubt serve them!
My prayer, as a disabled disciple of Christ, is that some of the things that we learn during this time of isolation may become part of the new normal of how we do church – So that disabled and elderly people stop being isolated by the usual patterns of church life.
Spotlight on doctrine
We are the body of Christ
The body of Christ, as described in 1 Corinthians 12, is diverse and interrelated. It is not, and should not, be only one way for everyone.
‘God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body’ (Verse 18-20)1 Corinthians 12:18-20
You are a part of the body and wherever or however your are reaching out as part of that body, it enables ‘The kingdom of God to come near’. In this time of chaos, when physical connections are stretched, it is worth remembering that the freedom of working in your own context does not take you out of the support and challenge of still being a part of the body. We need each other and we need to free each other.
The importance of the outsider showing us God
From Zacchaeus to the woman at the well, from the soldier at the cross to the boy with his loaves and fishes, Jesus received from others in both word and actions. He didn’t draw a distinction between the saved and the unsaved, the faithful and the occasional. Our buildings and meetings and our ‘come to Church’ evangelism have subtly reprogrammed our minds to seeing God at work in us and our churches and not in the world around us.
So, let us meet with others and allow ourselves to be encouraged, blessed and challenged by them, so that we all can know God’s kingdom has come near. Let us listen to the outcast, to the kindness of strangers to those who provide what we cannot and hear God speak to us
Spotlight on spirituality
Meeting with God
For many Christians in Derbyshire, the closure of the church, and the closure of the peak district will limit their ability to meet with God in their two favourite ways. It seems, from many conversations I have that those are two of the places where they usually connect with God. I get that this is a bereavement of sorts, but I would like to encourage you to be creative as you meet God in new ways in the chaos.
As a disabled Christian the peak district is almost entirely off limits for me, as are many of our Church Buildings. I also find meeting God in the silence impossible as the constant pain in my legs distracts me and breaks my focus. So I have to look elsewhere
I find my rest in music, both listening and creating it, and in meeting with others for prayer and conversation online. Whilst you find new ways to meet with God here are some of mine that I have found useful
Music – This song by Travis Cotterill helps me connect with God Just as I am https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=460vFWX3ccs
Biblical reflection – I run a bible reflection discussion on Twitter at 7.30pm each Wednesday @Strgl_St_Bible – This community only started in February, but is providing myself and other isolated Christians with support and encouragement as we look at the bible through the eyes of disabled people. For more information about our work – https://holdingspaceuk.wordpress.com/
Daily Office – My friends at Disability and Jesus run the ordinary office and other services at http://anordinaryoffice.org.uk/
Jesus in the boat – Asleep
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?Mark 4:35-41 (NRSV) – Jesus Stills a Storm
Jesus’ disciples were fishermen – they were used to being out on the water. They would have had routines and a built-in hierarchy; they would have known how to work together on the boat. What might be scary and unsettling to you and I would have been very normal to them. They would have known far more about being on the water that the teacher Jesus.
We have become church wardens, readers, treasurers, parish safeguarding officers, pioneers, clergy and flower arrangers – We are used to running all aspects of the church. We have routines and built-in hierarchies; we know how to work together and what things should look like. It may look odd and perplexing to outsiders, but it is very normal to us. We know far more about running churches than that first century teacher Jesus does.
The great windstorm broke and the disciples panicked. The bible infers that this was a rapid scaling up of the weather, but it could have come gradually too. The sailors amongst the disciples would not have struggled with normal weather, they would have relied on their skills when things got rough, but they ended up at a last resort calling on Jesus to help them – and he had the power to calm the storm.
We are in a storm – and none of our usual processes are going to work, we will flounder and get mouthfuls of water, we will find solutions that work for a minute that fail soon after. I am not going to guess why or how it has come; in my experience of disability, bad things do happen and looking for God in them or blaming humanity does not help, but in the storm we need to turn to Jesus afresh. He was asleep, but he was right there with them and he is right here with us too
Something Practical to do this week
Think about these questions.
How are you today – What is bringing you strength? What realistically is your capacity?
Who are you connected to – How can you develop that? What can you join in with?
Who can you encourage and support today? Who can support you?
A report into St Mark’s Brampton – Staying Connected offline
Cas Pinder – Evangelism down your street – Blackburn Diocese
Introductory Video Text – Tim Rourke