Venturing further in recent weeks has been a strange and rather unsettling experience. Like crossing a landscape that seems familiar but strangely altered. The world has changed in both subtle and significant ways.
Things don’t work the way they used to. As Shakespeare might say, “times are uneven”. While trying to take my first train to London for two years, I arrived at the station to find that there was no train, the schedules had been changed in the short term due to a shortage of drivers. I receive another and see that there was no mention of a functioning buffet car… no one seems to check tickets on trains or at stations anymore…
With amazing speed, we seem to have become a cashless society. Maybe that is why it seems there are so few beggars on the streets now or is it that they did not survive the pandemic? What will happen to Big Issue sellers?
It no longer seems possible to see a general practitioner, a dentist only after weeks of waiting.
My body doesn’t work like it used to. Nine months after Covid I still have little taste or smell. The form of my ministry has changed a lot. So much more screen time, so much less time spent traveling.
Reflecting changes in society, the Church is also recognizable but changed. Also shaken by forces beyond our control. Bruised and beaten by loss of limbs and loss of income. Yet still there, praying, singing and serving. Buffet cars not always operational, but a warm welcome offered.
And I am brought back to this strange new reality ushered in on the first morning of Easter. The disciples’ reaction to the resurrection was initially a reaction of fear. Their difficulty understanding the meaning of the empty tomb, compounded by their overwhelming sense of loss and grief over the death of Jesus and the knowledge that their world would never be the same again. The story of the early church is the story of the disciples of Jesus learning to live by faith and not by sight; deprived of the physical presence of Jesus and the security of living in his wake, they courageously went out to create a new world of missionary communities; spiritually alive, adaptive, dynamic.
The pandemic has taken much of our security, within the Church and within society at large. There is a lot of fear and anxiety about the future, for understandable reasons. But Jesus taught us, and then illustrated it with his death and resurrection, that death is the necessary catalyst for rebirth and renewal. The most successful era of evangelism in Church history came after its greatest trauma. As we examine a transformed world, the most imperative qualities required of us as Christian disciples will be vision, faith, and courage. There will be many things that we must let go in order to reshape the church for its mission in a changed landscape. But if we stand firmly with God in prayer and in our commitment to be a daily disciple, then our future will be aligned with God’s purposes and all will be well.
+ Clive Wulfrun