As we move into the autumn and winter seasons there is an inevitable feeling of weariness living with the huge impact of the pandemic and the likelihood of it being many months before its grip begins to be loosened. At the moment virtually every aspect of our lives, including how we run our churches and chaplaincies, is profoundly disrupted. So a vital practical and spiritual question is how we are to set ourselves to live well through this period. There are three particular approaches which may be of some help.
The first is a realistic recognition that we are in this for the long haul and therefore we need to try to build patterns of living which are genuinely sustainable. Many people, including clergy, have been working extraordinarily hard since the beginning of the pandemic and enter this autumn period, knowing that the fuel tank is fairly low. So we need to ensure that we do not simply respond with even more activism. Times of prayer waiting on God, and a proper reflection on how our Christian faith can sustain and resource us in times of crisis will be more essential than ever. And we will need to build in the obvious need for times of rest and recreation. Instead of being frustrated at what we cannot do, we can build these things into our lives in a very intentional way in the next few months. It may help to think about elements needed in a ‘rule of life’ which can shape us at this time.
The second is to develop a very strong sense that we are all in this together. Our Christian faith tells us that all humankind is made in the image of God, and even more that all creation is cared for and loved by God. We need to be praying for and engage with our sisters and brothers across the world, such as our link dioceses in Zimbabwe, and remember those living in places where healthcare and economic structures are nowhere near as robust as in the UK. And we need a strong sense of our connectedness with all creation. The pandemic, in part, is a result of humankind’s abuse of creation.
The third is to pray and reflect as to what God is calling us and our world to be and to do as we move into the future. There is very serious thinking going on about reimagining our world and especially seizing this opportunity to work for a world in which environmental justice, economic justice, and racial justice are paramount in our systems and structures and the way we live. We have hit the buffers of rampant economic expansion and inequality. We have been living in unsustainable and deeply unfair ways. The Christian gospel brings real hope and vision to a fallen world, and it speaks powerfully to our current situation, especially through the big ideas of salvation and redemption. Central to this is how the love of God in Christ’s death and resurrection can bring us into a right relationship with God, each other and all creation.
There has been recently very considerable thinking going on in the Church of England about how we are to proclaim the gospel effectively in our time. One central theme in this is having an expression of, in both word and action, all five of the Anglican marks of mission. These speak of the importance of individuals faith in God, of deepening that faith and then working in our world in lives of loving action to challenge unjust structures and inequalities and to care for all God’s creation. All of these need to be intertwined in a holistic way. Colossians chapter 1 speaks of all things being reconciled in Christ. Perhaps part of our living in the next few months could be a deep reflection on what this means for how we live and how we try to shape both our Church and our world in the years to come.